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Top Dog: Pedigree Marketing

Margaret Walsh tracks down an attempt to link the appeal of the greyhound with the brand values of a famous American company.

In the late 1950s and 1960s the Greyhound Corporation, the largest provider of long-distance bus travel in North America, publicized its services by using a pedigree dog, believing that a campaign emphasizing breeding and class would identify bus travel as being a high-quality, attractive activity. This novel campaign became more of a Madison Avenue gimmick than a realistic approach to selling bus travel, yet Greyhound executives were perhaps ahead of their time in getting in touch with the emotional cares and desires of Americans.

The dog in question was a pedigree white and gold greyhound, born in Clay Center, Kansas, on January 28th, 1957. As a three-month puppy she made her television debut in a Greyhound commercial on the Sunday-night Steve Allen show, and soon ‘Steverino’ captivated a huge television audience.

A lean greyhound symbol had been painted on the sides of the corporation’s fleet since the late 1920s to epitomize the speed, sleekness and directness of Greyhound buses. In the affluent post-war years the industry was facing a challenge from rising car ownership, and a new publicity angle was needed. The company wanted to be identified with the ‘typical American who loved dogs and was warm and friendly’, and this human touch was to be buttressed by a humane touch. Following Steverino’s television appearances, the Dog Welfare Guild chose her as ‘Queen of National Dogweek’ in 1957, naming her ‘the canine most exemplifying dogdom’. By the end of the year she had been interviewed by syndicate newswriters, had  fan clubs with more than 500,000 members, had been adopted as the symbol of a Philadelphia safety campaign and was insured by Lloyds of London for $300,000.

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