Advertising a Duesenberg

With the astronomical initial investment needed to buy a Model J, the Duesenberg Motor Company decided that they were going to need to attract a very specific type of car buyer. When the Model J launched, it came with an advertisement strategy that targeted the type of people that would buy a racecar to go to the opera, wealthy young people.

Duesenberg J advertisement, 1935<br />

"She Drives a Duesenberg" Duesenberg J advertisement published in the magazine Vanity Fair, 1935. From Wikimedia Commons.

The “He/She drives a Duesenberg” marketing campaign depicted the average Duesenberg customer as bold, adventurous, and successful. The campaign implied that if you wanted to prove yourself to be just as bold, adventurous, and successful then you needed to buy the car to prove it.

The first publicity for the Duesenberg Model J came in December of 1928 when it was displayed at an automotive salon in New York. The car was displayed without any distinguishing brand or mark. An accompanying advertisement stated, “The superlatively fine has no need to be boastful…So confident is Duesenberg that a nameplate is considered superfluous.”

While the technical prowess of the Model J was sure to impress car enthusiasts, the initial marketing focused on the high degree of artistic finishing and its glamourous looks. E.L. Cord hired the marketing agency of P.P. and Willis to market what their ads would call “the World’s finest motorcar.” The Model J was advertised in lifestyle magazines for social elites like Time and Vanity Fair.

Duesenberg J advertisement, 1935<br />

"He Drives a Duesenberg" Duesenberg J advertisement published in the magazine Country Life, 1935. From Wikimedia Commons.

The Duesenberg was the status symbol for industrialists such as the business magnate Howard Hughes, the Mars family that created the Mars chocolate bar, and Cincinnati Reds Owner Powel Crosley. Royalty like the Maharaja of Indore, Queen Maria of Yugoslavia, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and the Duke of Windsor all owned Model J Duesenbergs.

It was this image of bold success and raw strength that the Duesenberg Motor Company projected onto the Model J that would attract another very influential and wealthy demographic - gangsters.