I’m always talking to marketing clients about trying to condense their value proposition down to three words and a picture – something that can communicate your value proposition in three seconds. And last night I discovered one of the best examples of this I’ve ever seen – and it goes back to the late 1800s.

The Pinkerton detective agency first made its name in the late-1850s for hunting down outlaws and providing private security for railroads. Founder Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish cooper by trade (a person trained to make wooden casks, barrels, etc) moved to Chicago in 1842, eventually becoming the first police detective in Chicago, and made himself famous during the Civil War when he claimed to have foiled a dubious plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln. He went on to form his own detective agency, which originally was known for hunting outlaws like Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, and later on for being the used by businesses to crush worker strikes.

As the company’s profile grew, its iconic logo – a large, unblinking eye accompanied by the slogan “We Never Sleep” – gave rise to the term “private eye” as a nickname for detectives. I haven’t been able to find out who came up with the logo, but it’s a masterpiece of marketing.

The Pinkerton brand is still around, but today it’s a subsidiary of the Securitas Group in Stockholm.