Friday, January 18, 2008

The Listerine Theory

#348 The Listerine Theory

Call it the fight for authenticity. Since 1879, Listerine Antiseptic has tasted lousy. There's a reason. We believe stuff that tastes lousy works.

The stuff was first put together to ward off germs in hospital operating rooms (some of which still were in the backs of barber shops in those days, hence the red, white and blue barber polls.) It was an early germ fighter that got crowded out of the surgery business after more effective things came along. But it DIDN'T get crowded out of everything. Yes, those enterprising Americans found other uses for the stuff and capitalize on the myth that something that tastes bad or stings or vaguely resembles what you put into those little cups at the doctor's office works better than something that tastes sweet, doesn't sting and looks like the stuff with which they color candy-coated gum balls.

It's only recently that the makers have decided to make sweet tasting, tooth whitening, gum ball blue colored Listerine and they may be having a tough time convincing generations of users of the original that they're getting the same effectivness.

We'll get back to this in a moment. But first, a trip down the cat food aisle, and a visit to the Cat Food Theory.

Most cats can't read. Or if they can, they don't admit it.

So when you see pretty pictures of fish or other creatures on the labels of cat food, guess who they're there for, if not the cats.

Further, your cat -- no matter how smart or clever -- does not know the difference between Salmon Fillet Deluxe and plain old salmon. She does not know the difference between Ocean Whitefish and Tuna and plain old whitefish and tuna. So, guess why they give the stuff those names, if not for the cats.

Yes, yes... the Listerine theory. Not yet. Please be patient, or as your computer would say "please wait," like you have a choice when it tells you that?

Baby meds. Cold medicines for kids under the age of two.

Babies generally don't read any better than cats. So those fancy looking over-the-counter cold remedies for kids don't appeal to them. If an 18-month-old feels lousy, he knows only that he feels lousy, not that he has a cold or sniffles or congestion or a loose cough or the flu.

So, you, being a caring parent, buy this cold stuff.

Same reason you buy the Ocean Whitefish and Tuna. You want to do something that will benefit the kid or the cat, even if the kid or the cat.

NOW we get back to the Listerine theory.

You, being concerned test out the kids' cold medicine. It tastes lousy. Now you know it's real medicine.

Small problem, though: The Food and Drug Administration says the stuff doesn't work for kids under age two. And it might do serious damage.

Like the originators of Listerine, this is not going to stop sales.

Here's a marketing suggestion: give the "remedies" new names. PediaKill comes to mind. And the ad campaign? "Kid always cranky? Pain in the neck? Always into everything? Not a minutes peace? Cure them with PediaKill. Fast, effective, and no more annoying behavior. (Use only as directed.)

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

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