About Martin Richard Richard Himmel
Martin R. Himmel, Who Marketed Dull Brands Into Gold, Dies at 66
By ALISON LEIGH COWAN
Published: November 26, 1991
Martin Richard Himmel, a marketer who made a tidy fortune turning cast-off brands like Doan's backache pills and Lavoris mouthwash into household names, died yesterday in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. He was 66 years old.
Mr. Himmel died of prostate cancer, said his son, Jeffrey.
Mr. Himmel, who lived in Pompano Beach, Fla., and Manhattan, was best known for his use of late-night television and especially radio to turn dull brands that other companies abandoned -- what Forbes magazine once called "health and beauty oddities" -- into moneymakers.
The Newark-born son of an automobile mechanic, Mr. Himmel graduated from Irvington High School. He began his career with the Vitamin Corporation of America as a shipping clerk and eventually became its advertising director.
Shortly after the company was sold, he started his own company, Jeffrey Martin Inc., in 1960 in Union, N.J., to market health and beauty aids through heavy advertising. Made Topol Brand Sparkle
Some of his earliest brands were Compoz sleeping tablets, Psorex dandruff shampoo, Porcelana fade cream and Topol, a smokers' tooth polish that he acquired in 1973 for $200,000. At its peak in the early 1980's, Topol had $23 million a year in sales.
His company's sales took off in 1981, when Mr. Himmel licensed the rights from the Purex Corporation to several brands, including Ayds appetite suppressants, Cuticura medicated soap, Doan's Pills, Bantron anti-smoking tablets and Pursettes tampons. The next year, his company acquired Lavoris, an 83-year-old mouthwash, from Richardson-Vicks for $8.5 million.
Some products and their advertising were changed to appeal to a different audience. But mostly, Mr. Himmel depended on simple "slice of life" advertisements to improve sales, typically pumping half of each year's revenues back into advertising. He had few qualms about the investment. "Advertising creates cash that buys more advertising that creates more cash," he once told a trade magazine.
According to public documents filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he and his family cashed in 36 percent of the company for $42 million when it went public in 1983, and made another $47 million when the company was sold to the Dep Corporation three years later for $73 million.
Mr. Himmel put his talents as a pitchman to a different use after the company was sold. He started the Martin Himmel Health Foundation to create and run advertisements warning the public of the dangers of smoking, drunken driving and AIDS. One memorable spot featured Patrick Reynolds, an heir to the R. J. Reynolds tobacco fortune, mentioning relatives of his who had died from smoking-related illnesses, and challenging the tobacco industry's assertion that smoking poses no health hazard.
Besides his son, Jeffrey, of Manhattan, Mr. Himmel is survived by his wife, Harriet, who worked in the family business; his mother, Mollie, of Millburn, N.J.; his sister, Rhoda Hollander of Marlboro, N.J.; his daughter, Lindi Gordon of Chicago, and two grandchildren.
Ayds, Not AIDS
Monday, Jun. 20, 1983 Article ToolsPrintEmailReprintsSphereAddThisRSS Dividends The quandary could be a case study at the Harvard Business School. The problem: a deadly disease breaks out that has a name that sounds the same as that of a well-known diet product. Question: What should the marketer do to avoid possible confusion?
Jeffrey Martin Inc., the distributor of Ayds appetite-suppressant candy, has faced just this issue since AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, began getting public attention in mid-1981. Jeffrey Martin acquired the Ayds marketing rights from Purex at about the time of the first report of AIDS.
Sales of the diet candy had been sluggish for years when Jeffrey Martin took over the product. Says Martin Himmel, company president: "We have repackaged it, redesigned it, readvertised it and given it a new breath of life."
Martin Richard Himmel's Timeline
November 25, 1991