WMMS: Where Merchandising Meant Something
Having a cool logo and the Buzzard mascot allowed us the opportunity to promote and market WMMS like a sports team instead of a radio station. The parallels were there. We had a team – not athletes – but on-air talent who were highly visible; each with their own distinctive personality.
Radio stations were not known for innovative merchandising. In the sixties and seventies, some stations would tie-in with labels for special “greatest hits” album packages and occasional promotional giveaway items.
We started with T-shirts, but swiftly evolved into roach clips, long-sleeve jerseys, sweatshirts, hats, belt buckles, drinking glasses, thermoses, coolers, jackets, Malley’s chocolate bars, and even blue jeans.
In 1976, a group of MBA students at Case Western Reserve University did a market study, which verified that the Buzzard was the most recognizable logo in Greater Cleveland. The Buzzard beat out both the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo and Coca-Cola.
We rarely did an exclusive marketing deal, limiting the sale of a Buzzard merchandise item to one store. Our promotion director in the 70s, Dan Garfinkel, set up a distribution network that covered both large, multi-location chains and department stores as well as independent stand-alone shops and mom and pop-style stores. We had a set price for all merchandise, regardless of the location they were being sold at.
Profits from sales went to charities. The Free Clinic was our initial recipient, and as our merhandising grew we added the Cleveland Ballet, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and a music scholarship at Cleveland State University. A Buzzard wool-style hat and scarf were chosen by the XIII Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid, NY committee.
In 1977, three years before ZZ Top recorded “Cheap Sunglasses,” we introduced our own Buzzard sunglasses. Revo’s they weren’t – but at $4.99 – and available in all shapes and sizes – they served the basic purpose of sunglasses.
Then we had the now legendary WMMS Buzzard halter tops. It was no accident that we chose the smallest, skimpiest style we could find. They came in three sizes – though medium fit like a small and large was closer to medium. That’s what happens when guys choose the style for women to wear.
Despite the size concerns, they sold very well – and we kept had an extra stash on hand for promotional giveaways at Buzzard events. This self-explanatory photo on the left is from a promotional event at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo where we gave away some Buzzard halter tops.
Some of us also recall a rock festival near Youngstown where Murray Saul, dirty old man that he was is, took the giveaways one step further. He went on stage with a handful of halters and proclaimed, “You can have one if you need one.” Close to a dozen women obliged. The 70s…what more can one say?
Click on photos and Buzzard ad to enlarge
Ed “Flash” Ferenc will be doing afternoon drive this afternoon (12) from 3-7 PM on WTAM 1100/Cleveland. Listen on line here.