3 reasons why pink Germolene was a master-class in marketing

Pink Germolene. If you want a single lesson in how to inspire brand loyalty beyond all reason, this is it.

My husband is addicted to the stuff. Any spot, scratch or scrape and out would come that ‘magic pink cream’ that would make it better …and make it better instantly. No ifs, no buts, no doubts, it just would.

As a football-mad boy in short trousers, I am pretty sure that the young Mr Shipp had his fair share of grazed knees and elbows. But it was OK, all it took was a smear of the magic, strongly scented pink cream gently applied by his Mum. His tears would dry and he would feel instantly better.

A generation on and should our daughters ever have had the slightest hint of a scratch, spot or splinter, and out would come that very same pink cream that his mum (their Granny) used. Tried-tested and proven beyond doubt, this was indeed as close to a magic potion as you were likely to get.

Almost 50 years on from those early encounters and he still holds that same belief. So much so that in our house, you are never more than 10 feet from a tube of Germolene. In the kitchen drawer, in the bathroom cabinet, in the cupboard by the bed and, of course, in his wash bag (as heaven forbid that he should be away from home without a tube in close-quarters incase needs be).

And it turns out that he is not alone; google ‘Germolene discontinued’ and you will find a multitude of comments and threads extolling the virtues of this thick pink cream with the comforting smell. It is only ‘magic’ if it is pink and has ‘that’ smell is the general belief. Quite simply the new white ‘ointment’ and the old pink cream are worlds apart. The ointment doesn’t feel the same; it doesn’t look the same; it doesn’t smell the same and it doesn’t work the same. That’s the common consensus.

So why the uproar? Why was that magic cream quite so ‘magic’ in a way that no other antiseptic cream was? Why not the same commitment and loyalty to Savlon, for example?

Appealing to the senses

Could it have been accidental, or was it the pure marketing genius of the Beechams company back in 1925 when Germolene was first sold?

Three things:
1. A distinctive dusky pink that differentiated it from any other cream I can think of.
2. That unique, almost welcoming clinical antiseptic smell that seemed to linger in your nasal passages long after the scent of other creams would have faded away. It singled the instant relief and somehow elevated its healing properties beyond all other remedies.
3. It had a thick, almost sticky texture that was in no way silky like its competitors or indeed its successor. And, importantly as a child, it was almost always applied with the loving touch, by the hand of a parent or care-giver just before the hug and the congratulations for being brave.

In short, it appealed to as many senses as it was able; how it looked and how it smelled was as important as its actual healing properties. We now know that our senses are gateways to our emotions, so no wonder that appealing to three out of five of these in such a distinctive way was a winning combination. Take any of these elements away and it just wasn’t quite so magic anymore.

It is hard to think of an example that has done quite so well as the ‘not so humble pink Germolene’ in inspiring the marketing holy grail of loyalty beyond reason. Could it be that its assault on three senses that  all important difference to the customer experience? Quite possibly.

My proof of brand loyalty beyond reason? Perhaps the 20 tubes of pink Germolene that were panic bought when word of its discontinuation reached our household.

And the reason for this blog post now? Well that would be the ten out-of-date tubes that are now lingering under the bed.

What do you think?

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