To those of you who have read the book, this post will serve as a nice little reminder and those of you who haven’t or don’t have the time to, I suggest you go through this eye-opening story that encapsulates the very essence of how habits work and further solidify your understanding.
Claude Hopkins was a prominent advertiser who lived in America around the time of World War 1. He had a unique ability to advertise products in such a way that they became instant hits in the marketplace. He had turned many previously unknown products into household names. His secret was habit. He knew how to align the products with the daily habits of people by making sure that the use of the product is triggered by some activity that people do daily.
He essentially had to develop a whole new habit of brushing teeth among the consumers. There was already an army of door-to-door salesmen hawking tooth powders and elixirs, most of them going broke. However, after his friend’s persistent insistence, Hopkins finally designed a national level ad campaign.
To sell Pepsodent, Hopkins needed a trigger- something that people could relate with or something that they did every day. Then he had to connect that product to that trigger so that the use of the product (routine) led to a reward. While going through dental books, he came across a piece of info about mucin plaques on teeth which he later called “the film”.
He had an interesting idea- he decided to advertise the Pepsodent toothpaste as a creator of beauty, something that could help people get rid of that cloudy film. The film is actually a naturally occurring membrane that builds up on teeth regardless of what you eat or how often you brush.
It can be removed by eating an apple, running fingers on the teeth or vigorously swirling the liquid around the mouth. But people didn’t know that because they had paid little attention to it. Hopkins plastered the walls of cities with many ads including this one:
Hopkins used a trigger that was easy to notice (chances are high you also ran your tongue across your teeth after reading the previous line), created a routine that could help people satisfy a non-existent need and fitted his product into the routine.
Brushing teeth was important, of course, for maintaining dental hygiene. But Hopkins couldn’t convince people by just saying, “Brush every day”. No one cares. He had to create a new need, even if it was just a figment of his imagination!
In the coming years, the sale of Pepsodent skyrocketed, brushing teeth using Pepsodent became almost a worldwide habit and Hopkins made millions in profit.
People who make toothpastes deliberately add such chemicals so that you get some sort of a signal that the product is working and feel ‘rewarded’ after a brushing session.