Getting Pasted at the Pharmacy

Aquafresh, Gleem, Colgate, Crest, Aim, Pepsodent, and. . .there are so many more. Endless rows, shelf after shelf, box after box, lining the drug store and supermarket aisles. How many different kinds of toothpaste can there possibly be? And, how many different variations? Whitening, decay preventing, sensitive, gel, mint, mint gel, striped, fluoride, and so on. Toothpaste has been around for more than a hundred years, yet somehow the different brands keep coming out as “new and improved.” How many times can a product be new, not to mention improved? Toothpaste AisleAt the risk of being too logical, it occurs to me that if something is genuinely new it cannot be “improved.” Not yet. It has to be around for a reasonable amount of time in order for someone to be able to improve it.

Sometimes, the maker cannot think of a way to improve their paste, at least not at that moment, so they just change the packaging. Then we get, “New look, same great taste.” Now, why would they do that? It could be because the product is not selling as well as they’d like, and maybe a new “look” will get someone’s attention, someone who’s never tried it before. But, it’s important to include the “same great taste,” so people who already like the product will still buy it, placing it in their shopping cart, while scratching their head, and wondering, “Why did they change the package? It was hard enough to find before.” I once had a dentist tell me, “The toothpaste is just to taste good and temporarily freshen your breath; it’s really the brush that does the real cleaning.” So then, why do people stand in front of the endless selection of toothpastes which fill those long rows of shelves pondering which to buy? Maybe for the same reason they also do that in front of the soup aisle, with its million variations, and the unending cereal aisle. Don’t even try to figure out the ad agency reasoning behind the flavoring, packaging design, and pricing in the overloaded aisle of cereals. Just grab a box of Froot Loops and head back over to the toothpaste aisle. There is probably a new and improved brand that: “Instantly removes food coloring stains, even from the new and improved Froot Loops.”

Revised from original version published 1/13/2016 as “New and Improved Again?”

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