A hundred years ago, few people thought about their bodies and bodily functions with the horror we do today. There was no real concept of germs, body odor, or bad breath. But the world was changing. More people had indoor plumbing and a little free time for anxiety every year. And manufacturers were developing products to sell. However, in order to sell those products, they had to create a need. That’s where advertising came in. First, you have to convince people that they need your product, even if you have to insult them to do so. Take Listerine: it was originally sold to doctors as a surgical disinfectant. Lambert Pharmacal wanted to broaden Listerine’s sales base, but why would regular folks need to buy a surgical disinfectant? Company owner Gerard Lambert tells about a 1914 brainstorming session:
I asked him if Listerine was good for bad breath. He excused himself for a moment and came back with a big book of newspaper clippings. He sat in a chair and I stood looking over his shoulder. He thumbed through the immense book.
"Here it is, Gerard. It says in this clipping from the British Lancet that in cases of halitosis . . ." I interrupted, "What is halitosis?" "Oh," he said, "that is the medical term for bad breath."
[The chemist] never knew what had hit him. I bustled the poor old fellow out of the room. "There," I said," is something to hang our hat on."
Halitosis was a malady the American public had never heard of, but it was terrifying enough to make mouthwash a thing. The same happened for other personal hygiene products, which you can read about at Gizmodo. -via Digg