May 11, 2018

Wordology, Halitosis

Halitosis is a word used in mouthwash commercials to describe a medical condition characterized by very bad breath. Contrary to the popular belief that Listerine coined the term halitosis, its origins date to before the product's existence.

Company owner Jordan Wheat Lambert decided to market Listerine as a cure for bad breath. To convince the public they needed Listerine, he needed something ominous sounding and came across the word halitosis. The company then ran a series of ads claiming that halitosis was a chronic problem plaguing America for which only it had the cure. In seven years, the company's revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million.

This was about the same time King Gillette convinced women to shave their underarms and legs. Both men are still regarded as marketing geniuses.