You might be astounded to know that long long time ago in America, in the early twenties, hardly anyone brushed their teeth. In fact, rotting teeth was such a serious problem for the soldiers in World War One that government officials declared poor dental hygiene as a national security risk! That all changed, however, when a marketing maestro by the name of Claude Hopkins.
Claude was actually the genius that took unknown brands such as Goodyear and Quaker Oats, and turned them into household brand names. What did Claude do? His signature tactic was to tap into the habit loop by anchoring the product to a specific trigger, regardless of how incredulous the connection was. Quaker Qats, for example, became successful when Claude was able to convince America that it provided 24-hour energy – but only if you ate a bowl every morning.
Similarly, Claude applied the same principles to toothpaste. He ran advertisements that read,
“Just run your tongue across your teeth. You will feel a film – that’s what makes your teeth ‘’off colour” and invites decay.”
After giving people the cue, he continued with images of beautiful white smiles and the statement:
“Note how many pretty teeth are seen everywhere. Millions are using a new method of teeth cleaning. Why should any woman have dingy film on her teeth? Pepsodent removes the film!”
The claim was in fact downright false and unwarranted. The “film” is a naturally occurring membrane, and toothpaste actually doesn’t do anything to remove it. However, the cue was universal and easily apparent, and people could relate to the connection to the reward (beautiful teeth). Within a decade, toothpaste usage had grown from 7% of the population to 65%, and probably 99.9% in the modern day.
Back to Febreze
In the earlier posting, I mentioned about Febreze. Febreze was actually a technological marvel that worked well. The problem was the phenomenon of the human olfactory system that causes people to become used to any smell and lose the ability to detect it. In this manner, a lady with nine cats and a house odour had no cue sufficient to induce or convince her to use the product that would probably transform her life.
P&G executive were about to axe the product when the product team discovered what scientists already knew; that a habit is only formed when the brain begins to anticipate and crave the reward the moment the cue is introduced, before the routine is even completed. You can’t sell a product that provides scentlessness because there is no cue available for the brain to anticipate.
Febreze sales went through the roof once P&G began marketing the product instead as an air freshener – a product to be used as the final step of a cleaning process or routine to make the room aromatically fresh and inviting. Once people tried the product, they began to crave the clean smell from Febreze.
Creating a Cue
It was here that the authors of the book reveal that Claude Hopkins’ methods really had little impact on the sales of Pepsodent toothpaste. In reality, that particular toothpaste’s success was completed by chance. Pepsodent had included citric acid, mint oil, and other ingredients that created that now-familiar cool, tingling effect. That feeling created a cue – people missed the feeling when they forgot to brush their teeth. The tingling serves no purpose other than to let people know the product is working.
My name is Willie, and I like to muse about things. Things related to me are Wellaholic.