Buttonholed

On 14 August 1939, about 200 influential businessmen in Perth received in the post a daffodil surrounded by ferns. Attached to the flower was a card with the words “Heralding the Spring and Happy Days” written on it. Each man embraced the gesture and assumed that a woman sent it.

Men who were not known for wearing flowers “sallied forth with daffodils in their lapels and a new light in their eyes.” Questions and theories arose as to who sent the flowers, and in some offices, where more than one man received a flower, there was banter.

Several days later, the mystery was solved with the receipt of a letter. Clara Behrend, advertising executive of Sydney Atkinson Motors, had embarked on an elaborate advertising gimmick. In the letter, the company expressed hope that each man appreciated the flower and then invited them to come to the showroom to view and drive the latest Chevrolet ‘Spring Carnival’ series.

Many men, whose imaginations had run away with them, had their minds put at ease. In acknowledgement of the clever gimmick, the sales manager “received an avalanche of letters congratulating him on the novelty of the scheme.” One letter, however, expressed disappointment, while another simply said, “So you were the lovely damsel who sent me the daffodil.

Clara Behrend

Clara Behrend became an advertising manager in Victoria at the age of 19. She moved to Western Australia in the early 1930s to work for Economic Stores before becoming employed with Sydney Atkinson Motors in 1938. She was the first woman in Western Australia to become an accredited fellow of the Advertising Institute of Australia and eventually established her business as an advertising consultant.

Only one small article recorded the moment in 1939, and it was not until 1953 (when a similar gimmick emerged from Paris) that a little more detail was added to the story. Her aim at the time was to focus attention on Chevrolet’s new spring model and she devised the daffodil plan to do so. Clara nervously approached a florist and ordered 200 buttonholes featuring a daffodil (a quintessential spring flower) costing three-pence each. She generated enough interest by using the flowers and, once the letter was sent, Sydney Atkinson Motors no doubt became the primary topic of conversation.

Sydney Atkinson Motors Spring Carnival circa 1939. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (019869PD).

Sources:

Share your story...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s