For those of us who are old enough to remember this song from the 60’s, continue to read and stroll down ‘Memory Lane’. For those who grew up watching video games and listening to cd’s, this article will be enlightening for you. Let me start by saying , “I like connections”.
As a former teacher, I always felt students learned much better when not ‘blasted’ with facts but rather shown how things are connected…you know the feeling you get when a door opens to a ‘discovery’ and staring at you is another door waiting to be opened…to its discoveries! Readers, this story has ‘connections’… Enjoy!
In the mid 1800’s our journey begins… a trail that would eventually involve names like Demi Moore, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Pitt, and many more common folk like you and I. It will also be ‘scandalous’ to some, and in some ways that is a big part of the ‘irony’ in the ‘connections’.
Have you showered today or taken a bath? That’s really a rhetorical question but important in this story. If you did, your friends will be delighted. Did you go outside? Probably not. But, it wasn’t that long ago that a bath meant going outside to your nearest water source, possibly a pond, stream or showering in the rain. Of course, none of these options are very ‘comfortable’ in cold weather… unless you are a member of the ‘polar bear society’.
Consequently, most folks had a tub inside, made of wood or tin, it never mattered much, in their home. It was a chore filling the tub so often that the same water was used for all. If you were first, great…if last, not so great. Regardless, for a good ‘clean’, you had to have soap. See the connection? Soaps were often harsh to say the least.
Fortunately, the only time I used harsh soap was when in the field while serving in the Army. I think I am spoiled because my showers are long, hot and with lots of lather. I don’t take baths because I always drop the bar of soap in the tub and have to ‘fish around’ for it. I told you I was spoiled.
Anyway, something happened nearly two hundred (200) years ago that revolutionized the task of ‘Bathing’. No, it wasn’t indoor plumbing, but still important. A young man, not by accident, rather by his education in science, invented a process that both made soap that cleaned, didn’t rub your skin raw and equally if-not-more important…floated.
Remember how people would bathe outside in that pond or stream or whatever years and years ago? Well, if they dropped the soap…it often was lost. It wasn’t like today when you can buy 6 bars for less than a gallon of milk. The only good thing about soap being expensive for the common ‘folk’ was that it wouldn’t be wasted on foul mouthed kids washing their mouths out. That comes later in my generation and it wasn’t pleasant!
As history would have it, this gentleman had a cousin who was not a scientist but a marketing genius. The ‘cousins’ knew what they had but nobody else did. They knew it was a ‘dirty’ world out there and they were going to clean it up…while making a fortune at the same time! Then it happened.
One Sunday, in church, the business cousin, while listening to the sermon, particularly the 45th Psalm, 8th verse came up with the name. How could the name be any better than one that comes through the scriptures? The year is 1879. Take a few minutes now, if you have time, and gather your Bible… see if you can identify the name. If you didn’t try or couldn’t figure it out, hang on. In a few moments I’ll connect some dots.
Let’s jump into the 1900’s. The soap the cousins were marketing got a major boost with ‘RADIO’. In the 1920’s the cousins went ‘all out’ advertising on radio. They sponsored and produced numerous shows to a mostly female market.
They knew, at this time in our history, most women were stay-at- home wives and mothers. It wasn’t rocket science to come up with a marketing strategy and programming that appealed to these women…and then convince listeners to buy the products they offered/advertised.
In the summer & fall the cousins began advertising locally on a Cincinnati radio station. By that December, they went ‘National’ with radio ads. All over the country women became familiar with the cousins’ products. Note the plural. Their company produced numerous products that did similar things to create competition for themselves.
The fantastic thing is that they made the competitive products as well. It would be like Coke and Pepsi marketed differently but bottled by one company. The company went on to sponsor 20 programs on radio before going to TV. You probably know by now the company and that it went on to become a ‘Blue Chip’ stock. Yes, we are referring to “Procter & Gamble”.
Have you ever heard the IVORY soap ads i.e. ‘It Floats’ and ‘It’s 99 & 44/100’s pure? If you grew up when the daily soaps like “As The World Turns”, “Guiding Light” & “The Young and The Restless” monopolized the daytime programming, then you know soap products.
In the third paragraph, I mentioned some actors’ names. They are just a few that got their start by appearing on ‘soaps’. In the same paragraph, the word scandalous is mentioned. Are soap operas often such?
Ladies and Gentlemen, this story could not be possible without the genius of Harley Procter’s marketing and James Gamble’s inventiveness. When you have time, look at the company and or companies that create the soap products in your home…’betcha’ P&G shows up.
P.S. I did get my mouth washed out with soap as a kid… but can’t remember what I said or the soap that was used.