Obituary: Christian Petersen
Wednesday 20 January 1993
CHRISTIAN PETERSEN was a pioneer of modern sales promotion. He was co-founder of one of the earliest sales-promotion consultancies in Britain and of another that grew to be the first such company to be listed on the London Stock Exchange. He was instrumental in starting what later evolved into the Institute of Sales Promotion, today a powerful and flourishing trade association. He wrote and edited two books which were milestones in the advance of the understanding of how promotion works.
His business career started in the mail-room of a London advertising agency. This was the golden age of television advertising in Britain but, much ahead of his time, Petersen saw the potential of sales-promotion techniques to achieve many marketing objectives more cost-effectively. This required a considerable leap of the imagination, since at the time much sales-promotion thinking was confined to choosing between a plastic flower and the plastic submarine which popped up when you poured milk on your breakfast cereal.
In 1970 Petersen left his fast-progressing career in advertising to become a founding partner of The Sales Machine, creating the first of a series of award-winning promotions. These were usually characterised by their boldness and daring: goldfish were sent to children through the post in oxygenated containers; housewives were invited to enter a 'computition' by punching out the IBM cards themselves; small change was solicited from central banks to form an educational 'Coins of the World Collection'.
Even more influentially, his work constantly exemplified how sales promotional offers could communicate positive and favourable impressions of a brand, rather than appearing to be just gimmicky inducements to buy a product which couldn't sell on its own merits.
In 1973 Petersen joined two other promotional entrepreneurs to form Kingsland Lloyd & Petersen (KLP). The late Seventies saw the publication of his book Sales Promotion in Action and of the Handbook of Consumer Sales Promotion, which he edited. Meanwhile, KLP had been growing rapidly in both reputation and size, and in 1984 it was the first sales- promotion agency to obtain a quotation on the London Stock Exchange.
The success of this flotation ensured the financial security of a large, happy and growing family and funded the fulfilment of another of his ambitions. He had long regretted not going to university, and in 1986 he withdrew from business and went up to New College, Oxford, to read Modern History. He duly obtained the first predicted by his friends, and at the time of his death was putting the finishing touches to his Ph D thesis.
He had also just completed his work as co-author of another book, returning to business with fresh insights to depict the shape of post-modern marketing and promotion. He had lived to see many brands' expenditure on sales promotion overtake what they spend on advertising.
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