Burma-Shave has a history not so much for its successful sales, although in the 1950s it was the second bestselling brushless shave cream. Burma-Shave is better known for its pioneering sequential roadside billboard advertising. Burma-Shave got its start in 1925 Minnesota following the tepid sales of predecessor Burma-Vita liniment. Supposedly, the aromatic scent of both products came from Burma in the Malay peninsula of Asia.
Founder Clinton Odell thought that marketing the scent in a shave cream would appeal to a wider customer base than that of a medical liniment. The cream, which came in squeeze tubes, was said to save time for the user by eliminating the need to apply the product with the traditional shaving brush.
Chain of Owners
Here is the timeline for the ownership of Burma-Shave:
Clinton Odell, the founder of Burma-Shave, owned the company from its founding in 1925 until 1963. Odell was known for his innovative advertising campaigns, which included placing humorous rhyming jingles on roadside signs.
In 1963, the American Safety Razor Company purchased Burma-Shave from Odell. American Safety Razor was a large manufacturer of shaving products, including razor blades and shaving cream.
In 1966, American Safety Razor sold the Burma-Shave brand to Philip Morris, the tobacco company. Philip Morris was interested in diversifying its product line, and it saw an opportunity to expand the Burma-Shave brand beyond shaving cream. In the late 1960s, Philip Morris launched several new Burma-Shave products, including aftershave lotion and deodorant. However, these products were not successful.
Philip Morris eventually sold the Burma-Shave brand to the Warner-Lambert Company in 1970.
Warner-Lambert continued to produce Burma-Shave shaving cream until the early 1990s.
Burma-Shave was then acquired by Pfizer, Inc. Pfizer decided to discontinue the Burma-Shave brand in 1996, citing low sales and a lack of consumer interest.
Burma-Shave emerged on the market at the same time as people were starting to take longer road trips in their automobiles. Highway speeds were still relatively slow. Roads were one lane each direction with narrow right of ways, enabling billboards on private property to be viewed prominently. Burma-Shave came up with the idea for clever sequential signs that would attract eyeballs, awaiting the eventual punchline. The last sign was nearly always the product name. Burma-Shave signs became famous for dotting the old Route 66 and other highways across the United States.
Over time, Highways got wider and faster. Signs were farther away and flew by quicker. Eventually suffering from declining sales, Burma-Shave was sold in 1963 to Philip Morris, who took down the roadside advertising. A later owner, American Safety Razor Company, tried reintroducing Burma-Shave as a nostalgia brand in the 1990s without great success.
- Year Started: 1925
- Year Ended: 1963
- Origin Of Name: Supposed origin of the aromatic scent of the product
- Location Sales: North America
- Brand Name Predecessor: Burma-Vita
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Clinton Odell
- Owner While In Use: Philip Morris / American Safety Razor Company
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel
- Naics Code: 325620
- Location Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States