Thanks, Lex Brodie… Very Much.
The late Lex Brodie didn't just fix our tires, he broadcast his mahalos into our living rooms.
Lex Brodie had been retired for years when he passed away on January 11, at the age of 98, but he remained one of Hawaii’s most recognizable characters. Most residents knew Brodie from his decades of TV and radio presence as the owner of one of the biggest automotive chains in town; the combination of his caveman logo and his famous slogan was unforgettable. But for those who knew Brodie, he was much more.
Brodie had been looking for an eye-catching logo after opening Lex Brodie’s Tire Co. in 1961. Visiting the Mainland for a convention, he came across a small sign with a caveman on it (the one we’re all familiar with now, affectionately known as “Little Joe”). He purchased the sign for $25 and brought it home.
“He tried some different, local versions of that sign,” says Scott Williams, president of Lex Brodie’s enduring franchise. “But he decided to stick with the original caveman.”
A caveman inventing the wheel just made sense for the tire king of Honolulu.
Lex’s son, Sandy Brodie, says his father used to hand out Little Joe decals to his customers. One day, Sandy says, a small boy wanted one. Brodie obliged.
“What do you say?” he asked, as he was known to ask everyone who wasn’t forthright with their appreciation. The boy’s mother instructed him to say thank you. He did. “No,” said Brodie. “It’s thank you very much.”
“Thank you … very much,” the boy replied. Brodie liked the beat, so he kept it, and used it to sign off in his famously brief television spots.
Brodie did all his own commercials. In the advertising business, he was what’s known as a “direct account.” Marty Schiller, of The Schiller Agency, who has been working in Hawaii advertising for more than 40 years, is a longtime admirer of Brodie’s branding strategies. He’s a longtime customer, too.
What about those ads gave Brodie such credibility? Well, nothing …
“Good advertising fails quickly with bad service,” says Schiller. “The credibility wasn’t because he was on television saying, ‘Thank you very much.’ It was because he was in his shop, and when you went there, you saw him, and he came out and shook your hand.”
Brodie wasn’t just a successful businessman and marketer. He was a community leader as well. He gave small businesses a voice in 1976 when he started what is now known as Smart Business Hawaii. After retiring in 1991 and selling his franchise, he focused on improving Hawaii’s educational system on the Board of Education. An old-school beach boy, he had a lifelong love of the ocean, and surfed until the age of 90.
In his last years, Brodie returned to Kauai, where he was born, raised and now, passed. However, the caveman, slogan, and values he brought into Hawaii’s homes and hearts live on.
Hawaii’s local advertising history is full of catchy slogans like Lex’s. We’ve assembled some of our favorites at honolulumagazine.com/ads