Arm & Hammer Offers a Lesson in Making Boring Marketable

Aug 7, 2018

How do you keep a 170-year-old brand fresh?

Arm & Hammer baking soda is an American pantry staple. The little yellow box and signature logo is instantly recognizable. But maintaining its place as a household name has required a steady mix of clever marketing tactics throughout its nearly two-century existence.

Baking Soda in Baking

In the 1860s, Arm & Hammer had already been selling baking soda for decades. To spur sales, it did a little content marketing, publishing cookbooks with ideas of delicious desserts you couldn’t bake without its product.

But most recipes only call for a tiny amount of baking soda. That fact, combined with a long shelf life, meant consumers didn’t actually have to buy very much baking soda to meet their baking needs. So Arm & Hammer once again used smart marketing to redefine how customers viewed its product.

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The Versatility of Baking Soda

In the 1950s, it started marketing its only cooking ingredient as a versatile product that could be used around the house. To depict all the ways baking soda could be used, Arm & Hammer created the “Dial to Easier Living.” The dial was a small cardboard wheel that offered step-by-step instructions for using baking soda for a number of household tasks.

Arm & Hammer has continued to reinvent and remarket its product. 1972, it started pushing baking soda as a way to keep food fresh in the fridge. In the 80s it started adding baking soda to everything from laundry detergent to toothpaste.

Arm & Hammer’s ability to use marketing to reinvent a single-use leavening agent as a multifaceted, must-have household item has been instrumental in keeping the brand relevant asserted for nearly two centuries. Spencer J. Volk, past president and chief operating officer, asserted: “Arm & Hammer’s is as American as apple pie. Heck it’s in the apple pie.”

Long story short: Even the best products can get stale. Marketing is a powerful tool in the quest to turn an average product to a household staple.

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Allison Kodroff.

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