How a Simple Habit Swept Across the World


One of the only habits the majority of the population has been able to adopt on a daily basis is brushing your teeth.

It’s hard to believe that 100 years ago most people didn’t brush their teeth. It wasn’t until Claude Hopkins, author of scientific marketing decided to market Pepsodent toothpaste nation wide did the habit start to take shape. You can find the whole story in the book The Power of Habits.

Claude Hopkins was known for turning companies around. Companies like Quaker Oats and Goodyear Tires.

One day an old friend approached him to help him market Pepsodent toothpaste. Hopkins liked the idea but from his experience as a marketer he knew that their needed to be a visual trigger that would create a need for the toothpaste’s daily use. He researched the subject and found a reference to mucin plaques on teeth that he would market as that yellow film on your teeth that could then be marketed in the beauty industry.

Why did he choose a visual cue?

Like one ad man who was asked why he moved from selling soap to face cream “Soap, he explained, only promises to make them clean. The cream promises to make them beautiful.”

The science of the mucin plaque wasn’t very strong but the ad man was. He decided that the “yellow film” should be the cue that would trigger a habit. They started an aggressive ad campaign with ads that said:

“Why would any woman have dingy film on her teeth? …Pepsodent removes the film.”

A decade after, 65 per cent of Americans had a tube of Pepsodent in their home, up from 7 percent before Pepsodent.
Toothbrushing had become a habit.

Also published on Medium.

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