What You Can Learn from Early Toothpaste Marketing

What You Can Learn from Early Toothpaste Marketing

The history of toothpaste marketing is actually pretty remarkable. In the early 1900s, few Americans were brushing their teeth. (Yeah, I can feel you cringe.) That changed when a man named Claude Hopkins began marketing a revolutionary toothpaste that tasted minty and tingled in your mouth.

It was called Pepsodent, and the brand he created endured for decades. It’s a success story worth studying.

Hopkins is one of the great marketers in the history of marketing. He developed a two-step formula that is still used today:

Find a cue and define the rewards.

Hopkins marketed early Pepsodent as a way to remove the ever-present feel of plaque film that people of the time could feel on their teeth. He pointed out that the film made people’s teeth look dingy (the cue) and said millions of people were getting bright, white smiles thanks to the product (the rewards).

Of course, it helped that the product tasted good.

Let’s give Hopkins credit; he understood people. His marketing approach for Pepsodent appealed to their vanity, to their envy, and to their disgust emotions. This is an example of a principle you probably already know: If you want to change people’s behavior, appeal to their emotions.

So if you want people to stop avoiding the dentist, appeal to their:

  • fear
  • vanity
  • envy
  • pride
  • disgust

The history of toothpaste marketing is actually very interesting and goes far beyond the story of Pepsodent. We may revisit this in future posts.

But the key takeaway for dentists from the Pepsodent success story is that facts rarely motivate people to seek dental procedures. They’re seeking to avoid something – embarrassment, pain while chewing, jaw pain, poor sleep – and gain something positive, usually the opposite of what they’re trying to avoid.

Your marketing should bear that in mind.

However, knowing this opens up additional selling opportunities. Patients see you for a solution to their problem. If you have two solutions that will address the problem equally well, but one offers additional benefits, those benefits open the door to additional discussion and acceptance of one of your solutions by the patient.

You can see this principle played out with today’s dentifrices: Kills germs and freshens breath. Total Mouth Protection. Reduces sensitivity and whitens.

One benefit is good, more benefits are more attractive. And it’s weird how many people cite the additional benefits of something when the benefits really don’t interest them.

It may have been the 1957 film, “12 Angry Men” that brought the phrase, “Hit ‘em where they live” to  common usage. That’s good advice for dentists to follow when marketing to prospective patients. All of us like to feel that we make decisions rationally, based on research and consideration.

In fact, research shows that most decisions are made on emotional factors and that people are hardly ever aware of how much their feelings influence their decisions.

If you’re going to market successfully to dental patients, hit ‘em where they live. Or, as they say these days, “Right in the feels.”

Claude Hopkins certainly did, and the results were spectacular.




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About the author
Colin Receveur is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and dental web marketing expert who has pioneered the way dentists market themselves online for the past decade. Since incorporating in 2001, Colin has established a rock solid track record with his dentist clients and turned SmartBox into a stalwart of proven results for hundreds of dental practices.