Thought Process Behind Listerine Label Finally Revealed

Reader Tom writes:

Marketing guy 1: “Hey how about this for a slogan… 24 Hour Protection?”
Marketing guy 2: “Yeah, that’s great! Let’s put it on our bottle!”
Marketing guy 1: “Wait, if we say that, the consumers will only use it once per day and we’ll only sell half the volume!”
Marketing guy 2: “True… so let’s be sure to remind them to use it 2x a day.”
Marketing guy 1: “Cool. We’ll put both on the label. 24 Hour Protection that you use twice a day. Oh, and we’ll clarify by putting Use Every 12 Hours, just in case they get confused.”
Marketing guy 2: “Yeah, that makes perfect sense.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. azntg says:

    Gotta love contradicting numbers!

  2. ptrix says:

    That’s pretty much the same tactic they’ve been using with hair products such as shampoo – “Lather, rinse, and REPEAT”

    Voila, 2x the usage

  3. pda_tech_guy says:


  4. NefariousNewt says:

    I’m often amazed that anyone pays attention to stuff like that. Marketing is filled with people who failed to get real jobs and were too uncoordinated to become janitors or garbage men.

    Mind you, the average person lets their critical reasoning skills take a nap when it comes to looking at adverts, so these marketing type will have no shortage of work.

  5. savvy999 says:

    @azntg: It’s not contradictory: 12 hours x twice a day = 24 hour protection!

    Goofy, but not technically wrong.

    I have issue with the claim that any mouthwash lasts longer than until you have your first and-oh-so-critical cup of coffee. That’s BS.

  6. freshyill says:

    My non-retarded brain interprets it as “If you use it twice a day, you’ll get 24-hour protection.”

  7. Sockatume says:

    I think you can get 24-hour-a-day protection with toothpaste if you use it every 6 minutes.

    (Okay, I’ll cut them some slack: if you just use it at your regular toothhbrushing times, Listerine will cover you 24 hours a day. That seems reasonable. That label is a mess though.)

  8. Bladefist says:

    It’s not real great marketing. I would be like, “hmm am I gonna have that shit taste in my mouth all day while its “working,” then i’ll go with the cheap stuff that works for 10 seconds

  9. Just add some more sodium saccharin and be happy.

  10. HeyThereKiller says:

    I think that even better listerine marketing is the fact that they take the fact that this shit hurts and turn it into a challenge…

    are you man enough to swish this shit around in your mouth for 30 seconds?

    Crest Prohealth FTW

  11. coan_net says:

    **** LIFETIME PROTECTION **** (use every 2 hours for the rest of your life)

  12. failurate says:

    I think it is possible to tell when your mouth wash has quit providing protection.
    It is definitely possible to tell when other people’s mouth wash has quit working. Especially Curt’s… if he uses any at all. The stench fills my cube when he stops by to chat. I need a fan and a couple of those cone/jelly scent things that were so popular in the 80’s.

  13. Myron says:

    The label is deliberately misleading.

    History of Listerine, from Freakonomics via wikipedia:

    Listerine was invented in the 19th century as a powerful surgical antiseptic. It was later sold, in a distilled form, as 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”, the faux medical term that the Listerine advertising group created in 1921 to describe bad breath. By naming and thus creating a medical condition for which consumers now felt they needed a cure, Listerine created a market for their mouthwash. Until that time, bad breath was not conventionally considered a catastrophe, but Listerine’s ad campaign changed that. As the advertising scholar James B. Twitchell writes, “Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis.” 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. In just seven years, the company’s revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million.

  14. TWinter says:

    This is really just a matter of a missing word and poor layout. It would be fine if it were – Use twice a day FOR 24 hour protection!

  15. warf0x0r says:

    @Myron: In the wrong hands bad breath is killer though, so maybe they did need to make 1920s Americans realize their breath was stank.

  16. spinachdip says:

    The funny thing is, Listerine actually makes your breath worse, since the alcohol dries your mouth. People assume it works because the mint flavor covers the smell and the burn makes you feel like it’s “working”.

  17. Wormfather says:

    @ptrix: Crap, I feel like a tool.

  18. Wormfather says:

    Can listerine provide any *achem* other protection?

  19. catcherintheeye says:

    @HeyThereKiller: That’s kind of like the commercials for some cough medicine

    They show a guy doing a blindfolded taste test, and one is a cup of after-prom jacuzzi water, and the other is a cup of the cough syrup…the guy drinks both, and says “no difference!” – there’s a variation on this using a cup of after-workout armpit sweat.

    Their tag line is “It tastes like shit but it works!”

  20. darkclawsofchaos says:

    note that the 2x and the 24 hour protection is in the biggest fonts, hmmm… most people don’t stop and stare at the stuff they buy, so it is misleading yet technically legal since the other font is not fine print,

  21. catcherintheeye says:

    @catcherintheeye: The name of the cough syrup is: The Moops. The Moops.

    No, it’s Buckley’s.

  22. mrmysterious says:

    Go ahead and complain about the mint and orange flavored listerine….you haven’t tasted nasty until you try the original.

  23. MsClear says:

    Listerine is a rip-off. Target sells their brand of antiseptic mouthwash for about 1/3 the price. $2.37 for 1.5 liters.

  24. tmosley35 says:

    This is the type of marketing communication that gives the rest of us (marketers) a bad name. Looks like Listerine should start using their own products to clean the mouths this junk is coming out of.

  25. Brian Gee says:

    @warf0x0r: I think you’re onto something there. Life expectancy has also increased since the 1920s. Maybe Listerine is responsible?

    @TWinter: Use 14 times a week for 168 hour protection. ;)

  26. SkyeBlue says:

    What is so hard to understand people? It is POWERFULLY CONCENTRATED so it gives you 48 hours of protection every 24 hours, if you use it 2x a day! Eventually, you will have used enough of it where you will be all caught up for the rest of your life. What a bargain!

  27. Nytmare says:

    My car can go 450 miles … on 2 tanks of gas.

  28. jbellusdlaw says:

    I look at this label each morning and evening on my counter. Up until now, my brain only saw:
    “2X = GOOD!”
    “Blah blah blah”
    “Protection = GOOD!”
    “Blah blah blah”
    “24 hours = GOOD!”

  29. exkon says:

    @freshyill: I have to agree. Never was confused by the label.

    But then again in this day and age. If it isn’t spelled out letter by letter. People get easily confused.

  30. Prosumerist says:

    Comment about the factual history of these companies are extremely insightful and help cast a lot of light on their products. What pisses me off is that these bastards help drive up the cost of health care (in this case dentistry) by forcing their products on helpless consumers. I was at the dentist today and right after my cleaning I was shoved a cup of green liquid. In that situation it does nothing explaining to the assistant you’d rather gargle Diet Cola.

  31. Chris H says:

    Listerine has had a long history of making health claims to justify the existence of a nearly useless product. They used to claim that Listerine could prevent TB.

  32. UpsetPanda says:

    Listerine is incredibly disgusting stuff. I know there are better tasting mouthwashes out there…even if Listerine was actually effective, the battery acid taste in your mouth would probably just turn you off to it anyway.

  33. Nighthawke says:

    *facepalms* Marketers, you gotta give them credit, they DID try.. But that is all the credit that they will get.
    Now I’ve sampled Listerine, now why would anyone want to gargle with such a vile concoction? I’d rather gargle hydrogen peroxide straight than tangle with that green crap.

  34. mammalpants says:

    proof that collaboration between groups NEVER works.

  35. arby says:

    @savvy999: You’re right, it’s not contradictory at all. But the issue is not whether it keeps your breath fresh for 24 hours; it specifically says protection “against plaque and gingivitis germs.” All the protests about it not working that long aren’t paying attention.

  36. tabasco454 says:


    “but if something tastes this bad, it must be good.” that’s how it works right? Monster cables have to be better, look how much they cost.

    I just like how a few years ago Listerine made the claim that their product was as effective as flossing. The ADA came down on that pretty hard, since it wasn’t actually true. Still, a lot of people remember that advertising and are not aware of its inaccuracy.

  37. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @HeyThereKiller: “Crest Prohealth FTW

    Go brown teeth!