The Power of a Habit


The Power of a Habit

I’m currently listening to a book called “The power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I had no idea what to expect when I ordered this book, as my friend had recommended it to me.  I was surprised during the first chapter when they started talking about advertising, specifically when they focused on pepsodent toothpaste.  I immediately thought to myself “This would be a fun blog post.”  Did you know that most Americans did not brush their teeth before Pepsodent?  The success of Pepsodent is due to the advertizing ability of Claude Hopkins. He plastered billboards  in many different cities using the following phrases; “Just run your tongue across your teeth, You’ll feel a film- that’s what makes your teeth look ‘off color’ and invites decay”, “Note how many pretty teeth are seen everywhere, Millions are using a new method of teeth cleaning”, “Why would any woman have dingy film on her teeth? Pepsodent removes the film!” Hopkins was known for his success in advertizing but his greatest contribution would be helping create a national tooth brushing habit.

As I listened to this book and the research that had been gathered I realized, that most of our daily routines and purchases are because of habit.  The book goes into detail about how life consists of the Habit loop, which is a neurological pattern that governs any habit. It consists of three elements; a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue is a trigger that transfers your brain into a mode that automatically determines which habit to use. The habit is a mental, emotional and physical routine. Followed by the reward, which is what helps your brain remember this habit in the future. After the cue and reward become neurologically intertwined you get a sense of cravings. These cravings are what drive all habits and is essential to starting new habits.  What does this have to do with teeth?  Well, if you take your tongue and rub it along your teeth, as Hopkins stated in his advertisement, you will feel a film covering them, that’s the cue. The routine is to brush your teeth and the reward is that your teeth feel smooth and your mouth feels minty fresh.

So, how does this relate back to pepsodent? Although, many types of dental pastes had been advertised prior to pepsodent, they did not contain the key ingredients to make them successful. Pepsodent contained citric acid, mint oils, and other relatively exotic chemicals. Pepsodent inventors used these ingredients to make the toothpaste taste minty as well as make sure the paste didn’t become gluey as it sat on the shelf.  Those chemicals caused a tingling sensation on the tongue & gum which was an unanticipated effect. This sensation is what separated Pepsodent from all previous toothpaste and lead to its overwhelming success.  As it turns out Claude Hopkins wasn’t selling beautiful teeth, he was selling sensation. This tingling sensation along with the minty freshness created a feeling of cleanliness that people began to crave. This craving started the habit of brushing.  Now I need to figure out the habit loop for flossing!


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