The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel transports fans to the time when Tupperware was known for its ‘Patio Parties’ marketing model
- “Today's product designs are inspired by yesterday's modern miracles,” says
Tupperwareas it brings back its vintage ‘Wonderlier Bowl line,’ which is featured in Amazon Prime Video’s recently released The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Season Four.
- Here’s a brief history of how Tupperware used ‘Patio Parties’ as its marketing model in the late-1950s to early-1960s to become a household name in America.
I couldn’t help but notice how her journey in this Season is very similar to Tupperware’s Vice President Brownie Wise from the early 1960s. Wise, the woman who built Tupperware’s empire in America through her ingenious marketing model, was at the peak of her career when she was fired from the organisation. So, when I saw Tupperware’s product placement in Amazon Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it made perfect sense. Tupperware’s product placement is so seamlessly built into the narrative that people with only a penchant for marketing or advertising professionals would notice it.
The Marvelous Partnership
After we saw Midge being dropped as the opening act for singer Shy Baldwin, she starts picking up the pieces in episode 3. She looks for a side-hustle and that’s when we briefly see her stepping into a new offstage role as an independent Tupperware Sales Representative.
The plastic-maker Tupperware was quite popular in American kitchens in the late 1950s and has partnered with Amazon Prime Video to bring back its vintage Wonderlier Bowl line, which is featured in the series. Only available for a limited time, the five-piece pastel-hued Wonderlier Bowl set can be bought through Tupperware’s website.
As Midge hosts her first Patio Party aka Tupperware Party, she sells “Plastic, the modern miracle” to her close friends. “Ladies, these are some of the finest plastic products on the household market. There’s so much to choose from; there are so many convenient sizes -- so many vivid colors and you’re going to want it all,” she says, as she introduces the ‘Wonderlier’ and hopes that her friends would get excited about the newest product on the block in the 1950s.
Midge cleverly doesn’t mention the brand Tupperware in that presentation and you could faintly hear the brand as her friends chatter in the background. She later adds that she will announce the winner of the ‘Silliest Tupperware Hat’ as we see women in the background, who have fashioned Tupperware bowls and glasses into a hat on their heads.
Transporting back to Tupperware’s golden era: How it cracked the market with a brilliant marketing strategy
When Earl Tupper launched its range of plastic containers in the 1940’s, he was faced with the biggest challenge. Its target audience simply did not like plastic. This was during World War II, when plastic was only used for everything from insulation wiring to truck parts but not for home use. American kitchens were filled with glass jars and ceramic and had no place on their shelves for anything plastic.
Tupperware’s very first range of containers, ‘Wonderlier Bowl’ line gathered a lot of appreciation from the design and media industry, however, the plastic-maker still struggled to find its place in the consumer kitchens and their hearts.
The company was about to go under when Brownie Wise in Miami, their leading seller, came up with a ‘marvelous’ solution. To penetrate the market and get American wives excited about plastic containers, Wise suggested ‘Patio Parties.’ As the picture below by the National Museum of American History shows, parties were Tupperware’s ‘answer’ to a very complex market problem.
Wise recruited women to sell some plastic containers for her. They organised Patio Parties, wherein women would demonstrate novel products and discuss how the latest colour in Tupperware’s Wonderlier Bowl line excited them, over a cup of coffee and local gossip. To up the fun, Wise added a few party games. In the picture below, Wise herself throws a balloon in the air. These party games have also made an appearance in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's newest season.
Pioneer of the Patio Parties, Wise was appointed as Tupperware’s Vice President in 1951 and was responsible for building the home party business. She built the Tupperware empire and helped the brand become a household name. In the 1950s, Tupperware sales soared and hit $25 million in 1954 on the back of Wonder Bowl, Ice-Tup popsicle molds, which were a hit in Patio Parties. Tupperware knew the importance of Community Marketing even before it was a thing. Wise built a network of 20,000 women and none of them were Tupperware’s employees.
Tupperware parties became one of the fastest-growing marketing programs in the US and women of all ages and colours would host and join these very popular parties. It also empowered women to become independent in the 1950s from the safety of their homes, many of whom came onboard as full-time party organisers later.
Unfortunately, the Founder of the Company Tupper fought frequently with Wise over company strategy and management. As she got all media attention and Tupper saw her as a threat, Wise was fired in 1958. Wise took the matters to court and got $30,000 as her compensation, which was her annual salary back then. She joined a cosmetic company later and continued organising Patio Parties for them.
Wise was fired from Tupperware at the peak of her career but that didn’t stop her, just like Mrs. Maisel. It is difficult for women to start over after a setback when society just eagerly waits for us to fall and stop. It must have been harder for Wise to be sacked in the late 1950s when women were just expected to be mothers or wives. Just like Midge was told to focus on her family and keep tending to her children when she started pursuing comedy or faced minor setbacks, Wise’s journey would not have been very different than hers. Back then, having a professional dream, pursuing it despite a lot of resistance from society with almost no backing from your family and no resources to fall back on, was quite rebellious. In real life, change-makers like Wise and in the fictional world, characters like Miriam Maisel push women to keep trying harder.
In season 4 of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Miriam normalises having an emotional breakdown, makes the audience laugh through it as she turns tragedy into comedy and reminds women that it is okay to fall, stop for a while and then get back onto your path, just marvelously!