During the 1950s Quaker Oats Co. had a strange promotion that went out of control, some would not even believe it existed in today’s marketing landscape, but the strange-but-true giveaway did happen. Quaker Oats Cereal handed out millions of deeds for land in Yukon, in exchange for mailing in a cereal box.
It was the rugged landscape of Klondike in the brutal northern climate of Canada that caused the rush to buy their cereals. Klondike is renown for having Gold in its dirt, and even though the deeds only gave you a 1 square inch piece of land: it could be land with a gold nugget in it.
Over 3,573 miles northwest of Akron, deep in the Yukon Territory of Canada, the cereal company bought over 19 acres of land and divided it up into little 1 inch squares to give away to their customers. The marketing giveaway was the idea from an advertising executive Bruce Baker who hosted a radio show every Tuesday and Thursday night that was sponsored by Quaker Oats.
And well to say the nation went mad for this promotion would be an understatement, their cereal flew off the shelves as children all tried to get a deed to this exclusive 1 inch of land in Yukon. Never underestimate the human lust for gold, we have seen years of mad cold rush fever in the mining industry – so it really should not have surprised the cereal company. But the real disaster was this promotion was not even legal: you can’t exchange land for cereal said the Ohio securities association.
Some years later in 1965, after all of the deeds had been distributed, the whole chunk of land was reverted to the Canadian government because the company had failed to pay its taxes. The promotion haunted Quaker Oats for generations as people mailed in to ask questions about their inch of land, trying to find out if it was worth anything.
Today the deeds are seen more as collectible items, sometimes auctioned online for around $40. A legal spokesperson for the cereal company confirmed in 1971, that the deeds were worthless and were just a marketing gimmick.