The story behind Johnson & Johnson’s most beloved ad slogans
Successful taglines can be catchy ear worms; others evoke images that capture the heart. These three span different eras in the company’s history and have all become cultural icons.
Popular products don’t usually become success stories on their own. It takes smart advertising to get the word out. A hooky jingle, a truthful motto or heartfelt words that resonate emotionally with consumers help build an aura around a brand that boosts its recognition and even makes it part of the pop culture landscape.
From its earliest days, Johnson & Johnson has known this, and it’s the reason some of America’s most beloved ad slogans are associated with the company’s products. Here’s the backstory of three such slogans—one from the turn of the 20th century, another from the postwar 1950s and a third born in the 1970s and 1980s. These slogans have become so memorable, they’re as iconic as the products they’re associated with.
The Slogan: “I am Stuck on BAND-AID® Brand”
If you’ve spent any time in front of a television over the past 50 years, then you almost certainly know it: an upbeat commercial featuring smiling kids and adults showing off their bandaged skin while singing one of the catchiest ear worms ever to hit the airwaves.
Sing it with us now: “I am stuck on BAND-AID® brand ’cause BAND-AID’s® stuck on me!”
BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages first arrived on store shelves in 1921. Starting in the 1930s, Johnson & Johnson created print ads that touted how well the product stayed on skin, even in water, explains Margaret Gurowitz, Johnson & Johnson chief historian.
The “I am stuck” jingle, which debuted in 1975, was the company’s latest effort to date to highlight the product’s sticking power.
Not only was the jingle instantly popular with viewers, in 1976 the commercial won a Clio—a national award that recognizes innovation and creativity in advertising. Over the next decade, several more commercials with the same hooky song aired on TV, each with different actors cheerfully singing the praises of the product.
The campaign “proved to be so popular that the brand brought it back several decades later for new TV advertising,” says Gurowitz. “It’s one of the few commercial jingles that practically everyone can sing from memory if you ask them to.”
Aside from the unforgettable jingle, the commercials stand out because Johnson & Johnson made it a point to cast diverse actors. “Johnson & Johnson has a heritage of working to be inclusive in advertising, and that BAND-AID® Brand commercial from the 1970s is part of that heritage,” says Gurowitz.
The Slogan: “No More Tears”
This appealing promise has its roots in the late 1940s. Up until then, parents typically used an all-purpose bar soap to wash babies’ hair; it was a way to save money and cope with shortages brought on by World War II.
After the war, market research conducted by Johnson & Johnson found that when it came to a shampoo specially designed for small children, moms and dads wanted a mild liquid soap that wouldn’t irritate the eyes.
After five years in development, the company began test-marketing JOHNSON’S® Baby Shampoo in six major U.S. cities. The result was a smash hit. “According to an article in the April 1954 Johnson & Johnson Bulletin (the employee publication in that era), never before had a Johnson & Johnson product found such immediate and overwhelming consumer acceptance,” says Gurowitz.
What made the shampoo so popular was that it didn’t cause the eye irritation that created so much bath stress for little ones. The company made this selling point part of the product’s official name: JOHNSON’S® Baby Shampoo with NO MORE TEARS®.
The shampoo was introduced to the baby boomer generation and their grateful parents via a nationwide ad campaign rolled out on March 7 and 8 of that year. The full slogan, “No more tears from soap in the eyes,” appeared in the product’s earliest newspaper and magazine ads.
Though the ads were originally limited to print, a 1955 radio jingle with a nursery-rhyme melody hit the airwaves. Later, more radio and TV advertising followed. By then, “no more tears” had become a trustworthy pledge associated with Johnson & Johnson around the world.
To capitalize on the product’s enduring popularity and gentle reputation, in 1961 the company started designing its shampoo bottles with a teardrop on the label. “The NO MORE TEARS® trademark was also used on JOHNSON’S NO MORE TANGLES, the first children’s detangling cream rinse, which went on the market in 1971,” says Gurowitz.
The Slogan: “Feels Good on the Back”
The story of this catchphrase starts in 1889, three years after Johnson & Johnson was founded. At the time, the company was a pioneer producing medicated plasters—adhesives that delivered medicine through the skin to relieve aches and other minor ailments.
The company manufactured a specific type of plaster, called a RED CROSS kidney plaster because of its shape. Kidney plasters were designed to ease back pain, and the tagline the company came up with to advertise kidney plasters—“feels good on the back”—worked on several levels.
The slogan “referenced the product feeling good on your back, positive emotions from a loved one putting their arm around you and the importance of human connection,” says Gurowitz.
That reference to emotional and physical connection is evident in the ad itself, and it’s a big part of the reason the slogan became such a hit.
“The image of the couple sitting on a beach watching the waves come in, with the man’s arm around the woman’s waist, really resonated with people,” says Gurowitz. “The phrase certainly applied to the therapeutic effects of a kidney plaster, but when accompanied by the illustration, it also highlighted the soothing and comforting effects of touch.”
The heartwarming ad ran for an astounding 32 years. It was so iconic, it became a meme, similar to the digital memes circulating on social media today.
“Couples had their photographs taken posed like the couple in the ad,” says Gurowitz. “During World War I, the image and theme were used to illustrate support for the men and women serving in the armed forces. At one point, Johnson & Johnson tried to modernize the clothing style of the couple in the ad, and consumers protested, so the ad continued to run with the couple wearing the same outfit that made its debut in 1889.”
The “feels good on the back” ad appeared until about 1921, around the time medicated plasters themselves were beginning to be replaced by more advanced ways to deliver medicine. “That’s an immensely long time for an ad to run,” notes Gurowitz.