The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian Beanie Illustration
MIND: Documenting Invention

Inventing | Documenting | Things to Collect | Resources

Business Records, Advertising, Marketing, and Publicity

Business records (financial materials, orders, receipts, cancelled checks, sales information) and advertising, marketing, and publicity materials promote a better understanding of the social, cultural, and historical context in which inventors work. Not all inventors participate in this part of the invention process, but its documentation sheds light on the relationships the inventor develops in order to persuade, convince, market, and sell his or her idea or product.

Inventors may seek out professional assistance to help them bring their idea to market. In doing so, they may contract with an advertising agency or publicity firm. Advertising and publicity agencies create documentation in the form of original artwork, tear sheets, color advertisements, printed ephemera, point-of-purchase ads, packaging, testimonial letters, television commercials, and moving images of product demonstrations, often revealing how the inventor and the invention made its way to the consumer. Additionally, there may be contracts and correspondence between the inventor and the agencies discussing how the product will be positioned and described for maximum exposure.

Many advertisements provide details about a product's size, color, cost, and availability through, for example, department stores or mail order catalogs. Depending on the product's popularity and longevity, these records can be voluminous and may not be included in the inventor’s personal documentation, but held instead by the advertising firm.

Last Update: 28 Dec 2010

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