Promoting everything from frosted corn flakes to auto insurance, quick service burgers to brownie mixes, corporate mascots help build a brand’s identity. Bette Malone did the same thing for United Van Lines, but with an important difference. Unlike many women mascots from decades past, Bette ruled in the office, not the kitchen. She was portrayed as an expert in her field – as well as a formidable businessperson.
We’re proud of the part she played in our history- and we’re bringing her back into the spotlight to shed some insights about the Big Shift in moving preferences, the moving business, and society in general.
Q: Was Bette Somers Malone a Real Person?
United Van Lines trademarked the name “Bette Malone” back in 1957 when Bette was part of a successful marketing campaign promoting our Move Coordination department. Her “Moving Consultant” character fulfilled a need for a knowledgeable professional who could provide expert advice and reassurance at a time when moving was described as “a woman’s problem.”
Relatable, empathetic, and always positive, she helped equip millions of United Van Lines customers and others with the tools, techniques, and confidence to take charge of their moving experience. Hundreds of requests were received each week for Bette Malone pamphlets on everything from how to pre-plan family moves, to packing tips and even city guides.
Q: What Did She Do?
The Bette Malone character was positioned as the nation’s foremost “moving consultant.” Often portrayed in person by Charlotte Will, she was a welcome presence at traffic and transportation clubs, meetings of agents, on TV commercials and on the radio. Her name was also attached to the nation’s first toll-free moving information service, the Bette Malone Information Center.
Bette and the campaign behind her became the stepping-stone to the development of a move coordination process that was rolled out to the booking agents of United Van Lines and continues to this day.
Q: Would Bette Be Considered a Pioneer for Women in the Workplace?
In Bette’s heyday, women in senior management or consultant roles were a rarity. Thankfully, this is no longer true. Bette would probably be pleasantly surprised to know that at UniGroup, the parent company of her old alma mater, nearly 53% of women employees hold positions in management – and make up 38% of the executive leadership team.
Q: What Advice from Bette Still Holds True?
Bette was all about pre-planning a move, making lists and checking them twice. She also understood the needs and anxieties associated with the moving process and she not only helped customers before moving day, but also with advice on how to settle in afterward.
Q: What’s Changed?
For starters, moving is no longer thought of as just “a woman’s problem” but as an experience that involves everyone. Also, the customers themselves now have the ability to receive estimates through a virtual survey and what was once a standardized service has evolved into a variety of moving options, from full-service to pack-it-yourself and even container shipments.
Q: What Would Surprise Bette About Why and Where People Move Today?
The latest Annual Movers Study would be an eye-opener for Bette. She would most likely be astounded to know that for the first time ever more people moved for personal than professional reasons, and that there is a general migration away from major urban areas toward more livable, less populated parts of the nation.
Q: How Have Her Spirit and Philosophy Lived on at United Van Lines?
In Bette’s own words, United Van Lines is a moving service that “does more than just get you there.” That’s as true today as it was in 1957.
Want to learn more about what motivates people to move? Dive into our 2021 Annual National Movers Study and check out our blog for moving tips, expert packing advice and a wealth of information to help you settle in.