For my entire life, and even after starting to work in the promotional products industry, I just thought of these toy trucks as just that – toys. My brother had Hess trucks as a kid and now my own son enjoys collecting and playing with them. It wasn’t until I started to think about the origins of these entertaining and interactive toys that I thought, “Wow, these trucks started out as brand promotion for Hess gas stations.”
The story of these small brand-awareness vehicles starts out with a humble beginning. Owner Leon Hess wanted to offer families a fun, high-quality and affordable toy for the holidays as a goodwill gesture. The first Hess truck was created in 1964 as the Hess Tanker Trailer – a replica of the company’s first B61 Mack truck and trailer. The toy was rare for its time and featured working headlights and taillights, as well as a cargo tank that could be filled and emptied. It even came with batteries included (something unheard of even now)! These unique features pushed this toy to stand out among competitors at the time, helping to spread awareness.
The most unique aspect of these trucks is the fact that traditional advertising didn’t start until the 1980s. Until then the only forms of marketing were signs at individual stations and the actual trucks, packaged in clear boxes stacked in the station windows.
Over the years Hess trucks have become a staple during the holidays for children, and honestly for adults as well, looking to create nostalgia and keep the memories of their own childhood alive. While there are very few Hess gas stations in operation, the brand lives on through the trucks. When someone mentions Hess, what’s the first thing you think of? Hess trucks! At least I do.
Hess knew what he was doing when he created these toys imprinted with the Hess brand. While he might not have consciously created them as promotional products, his brand is seen over and over again while children play with the trucks, and during the holidays when new trucks are released and the familiar “The Hess Truck’s Here” jingle plays in commercials.
Let this be a story of the power of promotional products. Any product can be a promo product as long as it fits the needs of the consumer (children love toys, adults buy toys for children) and creates a positive association with the product and the brand logo imprinted on it.
Never underestimate your product and its power in the promotional products industry!