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

Germolene: inspiring brand loyalty beyond reason

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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    • I’ve just finished the dregs of my metal tube of pink wonder ointment and am hankering after your out of date stash! Don’t suppose you know why it was discontinued? I mean, I used to quite literally eat the stuff as a small child when it came in round tins! My mum had to hide it from me!

      • Hi Caitlin, I am not totally sure, but I did hear that this was due to sourcing of some ingredients. I don’t know how reliable that information is however. I am so glad that you enjoyed the post!

  1. How can this firm ignore the cry for this excellent ointment when its now selling for £20 or more if you can afford it. Sadly i just cant would love some.

  2. My sentiments exactly. I’ve been trying to squeeze the dregs out of my final metal tube, and I am so desperate. The white stuff is absolutely useless and I hate the plastic tube.

  3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The old adage that sadly applies to so many things now, wonderful germolene included, in its little flat round tin, pink & smelling fabulous, it worked. But now, a white insipid cream, no analgesic properties, plastic tube. What are these people thinking? Bring back the original tin of pink and everyone will be jubilant. Yours in hope……..

  4. I get my Germolene Ointment from friends visiting South Africa. It’s a cream/red/blue packaging, and it clearly states OINTMENT. Aspen Pharmacare South Africa manufacture it, and it’s exactly the same as we all know it. Sold in Boots like shops or the pharmacist. 50g cost about £ 4. I have noticed that the power of the ointment, does reduce some time after the expiry date. So to extend the expiry date, I keep my extra tubes in the fridge. So find some one who is visiting South Africa, or get a friend in SA to send you a few tubes. I have just now (19/11/2018) seen a 50g tube on Ebay UK at £24.99 with expiry date 11/2019, so watch out for the expiry date!. Hope this helps other lovers of this truly fantastic ointment.

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    • John – yes – indeed – It was in fact the meddling EU (yet again) that caused its death in the UK – down to the fact that a key ingredient ‘Octophoniam Chloride’ could not be sourced from within the EU – it was deemed then too expensive for the manufacturer to import it. As so it can be purchased from ebay sellers – but now in 2019 I would advise against it as they are now clearly ripping people off – for example in 2017 I bought a 50g tube off ebay for £17 (still very expensive) but if you look on ebay and amazon today, those 50g tubes are now a sickeningly rip off £37!! Don’t buy off these thieves – possible get in touch with a South African pharmacy direct to post you some? Maybe post Brexit it will become available on the high st again??

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  21. I still have a tin of Germolene and there is no “best before” date on it – bought it before I moved to Cornwall in 1996!

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