When Good Brands Taste Bad

A recent post on Brandchannel.com made me think about the uniquely horrible taste of one of America’s greatest brands – Listerine.
Listerine...kills bad breath.
Since it’s inception in the 1800’s (great factoid), Listerine mouthwash has always had a taste that makes the strongest of us shudder and contort our faces into twisted shapes. This is, as you may have seen, one of the brand traits it centered its advertising around.
Come on…if Morgan Freeman pitches it…it’s gotta be good. God has minty breath, right?

This spring, the company launched Vanilla Mint Listerine, the seventh different flavor joining FreshBurst, Cool Mint, Fluoride, Natural Citrus, and Advanced with Tartar Control. I immediately bought a bottle, thinking it would lessen the overall agony of the experience, while providing the tried-and-true value of the mouthwash I’ve known for years.

While the flavor is definitely less intense, and the effects are equal to the original flavor, the experience just isn’t the same. Part of the “enjoyment” of Listerine, is suffering through the use of it. OK…maybe I’m a masochist. But if you can suffer through a product that tastes that bad, then it must be working, right? Good cough syrup tastes terrible, doesn’t it?

Tanya Willer, Brand Manager for Listerine notes “Our trademark hasn’t been the taste, it’s been about Listerine’s therapeutic quality and the fact we kill germs that cause plaque, gingivitis, and bad breath. The fact that our flavor extensions over the last 15 years have been so successful means that we aren’t pigeonholed into that original flavor. We’ve been able to successfully move beyond it. We have a very loyal set of consumers who continue to use it (the original flavor),” she says. “It’s one of our strongest flavors. Even when a new product is introduced, those customers would never switch.”

Now that’s brand loyalty. Count me in.

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