The Pepsodent Tingle

Claude Hopkins is a name that was unfamiliar to me, until I read a little bit about the evolution of toothpaste.  Hopkins was a marketing professional and a friend of his contacted him about a new product called Pepsodent.

Hopkins had two rules that he closely followed when developing an advertising campaign:

  • First, find a simple and obvious cue.
  • Second, clearly define the rewards.

The rules paid off:  Three weeks after the Pepsodent campaign started, the demand for the toothpaste soared. In fact, the company received so many orders they ran out of toothpaste.

A closer look at Hopkins’ rules reveals the following:

  • He identified a cue which was the feeling of a film over the teeth.
  • He called attention to a routine (brushing your teeth with toothpaste).
  • He marketed the reward which was the feeling of a clean mouth.

The makers of toothpaste cleverly add an ingredient that leaves a tingling feeling in the mouth. Even though this ingredient doesn’t actually help to clean the teeth, people identify cleanliness with the tingle.   The end result is, people crave the tingling.

The story of Pepsodent is a lesson on habit control.  To stop unwanted behavior, a person needs to be familiar with the rules of Hopkins:

  • Cue
  • Routine
  • Reward

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, outlines this sequence:  The cue is the trigger that sets the sequence in motion…. The routine is the behavior itself, which can be positive (like a daily running habit) or harmful (like gambling away the family savings). And the third part is the reward — the goal of the behavioral loop, which your brain’s pleasure centers gauge to determine if a sequence of behavior, is worth repeating and storing in a lockbox of habit….

The first thing to do when trying to break a habit is to identify the cue.  Generally speaking, CUES are categorized as:  [1] Time of day [2] A certain place [3] A specific emotion [4] A certain person or group of people [5] A ritual that is already in place

To see this illustrated in the life of an individual, at least 4 of these 5 CUES, were present in the incident that involved David with Bathsheba.  Can you identify them?

If we find that we are craving a tingle, we may need to ask:  What CUES are present  in my life that are contributing to unhealthy habits?

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