Listerine Mouthwash TV Television Commercial from 2007.
Listerine is a brand of antiseptic mouthwash product. It is promoted with the slogan “Kills germs that cause bad breath”. Named after Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, a pioneer of antiseptic surgery, Listerine was developed in 1879 by Joseph Lawrence, a chemist in St. Louis, Missouri.
Originally marketed by the Lambert Pharmacal Company (which later became Warner-Lambert), Listerine has been manufactured and distributed by Johnson & Johnson since that company’s acquisition of Pfizer’s consumer healthcare division in late December 2006.
The Listerine brand name is also used in toothpaste, Listerine Whitening rinse, Listerine Fluoride rinse (Listerine Tooth Defense), Listerine SmartRinse (children’s fluoride rinse), PocketPaks, and PocketMist. In September 2007, Listerine began selling its own brand of self-dissolving teeth-whitening strips.
Inspired by Louis Pasteur’s ideas on microbial infection, the English doctor Joseph Lister demonstrated in 1865 that use of carbolic acid on surgical dressings would significantly reduce rates of post-surgical infection. Lister’s work in turn inspired St. Louis-based doctor Joseph Lawrence to develop an alcohol-based formula for a surgical antiseptic which included eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate, and thymol. (Its exact composition was a trade secret.) Lawrence named his antiseptic “Listerine” in honor of Lister.
Lawrence hoped to promote Listerine’s use as a general germicide as well as a surgical antiseptic, and licensed his formula to a local pharmacist named Jordan Wheat Lambert in 1881. Lambert subsequently started the Lambert Pharmacal Company, marketing Listerine. Listerine was promoted to dentists for oral care in 1895 and was the first over-the-counter mouthwash sold in the United States, in 1914. It became widely known and entered common household use after Jordan Wheat Lambert’s son Gerard Lambert joined the company and promoted an aggressive marketing campaign.
According to Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s book Freakonomics:
Listerine, for instance, was invented in the nineteenth century as powerful surgical antiseptic. It was later sold, in distilled form, as both a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. But it wasn’t a runaway success until the 1920s, when it was pitched as a solution for “chronic halitosis”— a then obscure medical term for bad breath. Listerine’s new ads featured forlorn young women and men, eager for marriage but turned off by their mate’s rotten breath. “Can I be happy with him in spite of that?” one maiden asked herself. Until that time, bad breath was not conventionally considered such a catastrophe. But Listerine changed that. As the advertising scholar James B. Twitchell writes, “Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis.” In just seven years, the company’s revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million.