Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
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The Arm & Hammer Brand Baking Soda has been a staple of American life since 1846. The brand once only used for baking enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the 1970's by reinventing itself and its usefulness without changing a single ingredient. The new marketing campaign would eventually expand the Arm & Hammer brand to include deodorants, laundry detergents, cleaning supplies, and even toothpaste. An interesting history with many interesting uses in such an uninteresting little yellow box we are all familiar with, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda has become as Americana as apple pie and baseball. In fact, you probably can't even name one other brand of baking soda, can you?
The Little Yellow Box
Though we are all familiar with the little yellow box in our refrigerators or in our mothers pantries many of us would be amazed at what can be done with the contents of that little yellow box. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda has been used as a toothpaste, a remedy for bee stings, a fire extinguisher, a pot-scrubber, a facial scrub, a battery acid neutralizer, a laundry additive, a carpet freshener, a way to test the pH in your gardening soil, a litter box freshener, a remedy for fleas, it even removes tea stains from old plastic drinking cups (Thomlison, n.d.). These are just a few of the consumer uses for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, not to mention the commercial and industrial uses such as an abrasive blast for removal of surface coatings, in water treatment facilities, air pollution control, as an additive in oil well drilling fluids, and even as an alternative to CFC's in the electronics industry (Thomlison, n.d.).
Started in 1846 by Dr. Austin Church in Rochester, New York was the first American factory for the production of saleratus or sodium bicarbonate. Dr. Church felt he had a better and cheaper way to manufacture this popular additive in American rather than to continue importing it from Europe. His brother-in-law, John Dwight, an ambitious gentleman and convincing salesman traveled from grocer to market promoting the American made substance creating a substantial customer base. The company was re-named John Dwight & Company and they called their baking soda product, Cow Brand Baking Soda (Wikipedia, 2005). Soon after Dr. Church retired in 1867, his two sons began their own firm called Church & Co.
with a factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Church's son, James, once owner of Vulcan Spice Mills, which went out of business, decided to use what is now known as the ARM & HAMMER® logo (Wikipedia, 2005). The symbol depicting Vulcan, the mythical god of fire is depicted by the anatomically impossible image of a left shoulder and a right hand holding a hammer (Baking Soda, n.d.). This is also the symbol of the Socialist Labor Party of America and had been used even prior to the American Civil War as a symbol of the labor movement (Baking Soda, n.d.). This was the symbol Church & Co. chose to use on their packages of baking soda. Both brands represented the finest-quality product and were equally popular with homemakers.
The companies of Church & Co. and John Dwight & Company finally merged in 1896 to form Church & Dwight Co., Inc., the two logos of Cow Brand Baking Soda and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda were both featured in consumer advertising and on packages for sale depending on the markets they were sold in (Baking Soda, n.d.). In 1960, Cow Brand Baking Soda was discontinued in favor of the more memorable Arm & Hammer logo.
Church & Dwight Co. used many forms of advertisement and self promotion over the years to spread the word about the various uses of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Through trading cards, recipe cards, and collectible tins the company constantly promoted the safe, natural, pure benefits and attributes of this wonder product ("Baking Soda Gets Out of the Box", 2004). Arm & Hammer Baking Soda had enjoyed almost total market domination until notoriety began to waver in the 1970's. Due to the introduction of packaged foods with baking soda as an added ingredient and a decline in home baking Arm & Hammer Baking Soda needed a way to make itself viable in modern life (Horwitz, 2005). Though they were not new uses the company began to promote the use of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda as a refrigerator and freezer deodorizer. The promotion of new uses for this established product created a new marketplace and increased its consumer base with no changes at all to the formula or to the packaging. Minimal effort yielded maximum returns and an increase in use (Wansink, 1999). Also, an unintentional benefit of the new marketing plan was the continued turn over and consistent demand from the consumer to replace the refrigerator and freezer boxes every thirty (30) days for the freshest effect (Horwitz, 2005). Updating the packaging with "flow-through" boxes which allowed for a distinction between the baking soda used for cooking and the baking soda used to fight odor also increased the number of boxes found in homes ("Thinking Outside the Box", 2003). Who wants to use the same stuff in cookies that is used to fight a mildew smell in the fridge? This renewed interest in and increased awareness of the benefits of baking soda created a marketplace for new Arm & Hammer products containing the original formula of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda including gum, carpet, deodorizer, cleaning supplies, toothpaste, and even laundry detergent.
Packaging concepts continue to grow with the introduction of the Zip-Pak's Powder Proof reclosable zipper ("Baking Soda Gets Out of the Box", 2004). The new Zip-Pak will possibly reduce waste created by the poorly designed traditional cardboard box we all know so well. The familiar box was prone to water damage and moisture problems causing the box to disintegrate and fall apart or the baking soda to clump together. The new packaging is an attempt at increased storage life and more hygienic storage options, allowing the consumer to store the product in its original packaging instead of transferring it to a separate airtight container.
Church & Dwight Co. also recently introduced the plastic shaker bottle for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. The granules in the shaker are slightly larger than the traditional granules in the cardboard box for increased scouring power and friction yet still providing scratchless cleaning power. The plastic container allows the shaker to sit beside the sink for easy access when needed without the cardboard box becoming water damaged and falling apart ("Thinking Outside the Box", 2003). The shaker is clearly labeled "not intended for antacid use" to discourage consumption. Though still harmless and consumable this version of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is intended for cleaning and scouring.
Maintaining market leadership over the years has not been difficult since the formula for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is a simple one. It is not a recipe subject to flavor or variation, not subject to trends or market fluxations. Arm & Hammer is a dependable, reliable, consistent formula that has served many purposes in its original formula. It has always been and continues to be an environmentally friendly, bio-friendly, holistic product void of any controversy or hype. It is what it is and it continues to be one of the few consistently high performing, low cost solutions to many of today's concerns. With minimal waste and maximum potential new uses for sodium bicarbonate are being discovered everyday in the consumer, manufacturing, and industrial markets. In America alone it is sold in over 300 industrial markets in various grades and has been deemed as environmentally benign (Thomlison, n.d.). Consistently placing in the top 10 of American brand names year after year and has continued a legacy of equity and reliability in the minds of consumers for almost 160 years (Horwitz, 2005).
What we have comfortably known as the little yellow box with the "arm and hammer" design has had a much greater impact on our country and the industrial growth of our country than many of us could ever imagine. Used in everything from cattle feed and medical dialysis sodium bicarbonate has incredible attributes and benefits, many of which I am sure are yet to be discovered. This is not a product which will eventually be phased out and with no real competitors in the market Arm & Hammer Baking Soda in all its various forms will continue its reign as the dominate brand in both the marketplace and in the mind of the consumer. It is a product we can remember from childhood and can remember our parents and grandparents relying on. It is a brand logo that is embedded in our culture and our society through notoriety, history, and recognition. With the continued growth and expansion of new products and of the Arm & Hammer line of existing products Church & Dwight Co. is aware which single product commands loyalty from the consumer and continues to sell products on name recognition alone. This type of name recognition and brand equity is the benchmark for many products and brands both competing and non-competing yet is rarely achieved.
A survey conducted in 1992 concluded that at least one box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is found in over 90% of American homes (Wansink, 1999). With consumer demand that high and loyalty that strong Arm & Hammer Baking Soda will continue to be a viable and formidable brand for decades or even centuries to come.
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Thinking Outside the Box. (2003, August 12). Beverage Daily, Retrieved November 23, 2005
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November 23, 2005 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arm_%26_Hammer