Some of the most beautiful and appealing ads in the history of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies are the historical ads for JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder. One of the most popular of those ads – and still a favorite today -- is the Wonderful Mother ad from 1922. But did you know that the ad was inspired by Abraham Lincoln? Read on to find out why.
The Wonderful Mother ad appeared in the leading magazines of its day, such as Women’s Home Companion. The centerpiece of the ad is a beautiful illustration of a mother looking down at her sleeping baby. Her arm is protectively around her other child. The ad conveys nurturing, trust and comfort, and perfectly captures the parent-child bond and the love between the mother and her children.
So what did all of that have to do with Abraham Lincoln?
Believe it or not, the title of the ad and the inspiration behind the text comes from a quote from Lincoln, which is reproduced in the body of the ad: “‘I had a wonderful mother, said Lincoln. ‘All that I am, I owe to her.’”
Here’s a close up of the text:
The ad begins by talking about how parents can help shape their children’s futures, mentions the ways in which the product could help mothers soothe their babies so they can get the sleep they need, and finishes by bringing in another theme that ran through the Company’s advertising from the very beginning: the scientific basis, reliability and trustworthiness of the Company’s products.
A small paragraph on the left side of the ad (as it appeared in magazines) mentioned a new Baby Gift Box that contained the three baby products we made in 1922: JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder, JOHNSON’S® Baby Cream and JOHNSON’S® Baby Soap. The paragraph on the lower right, under the baby powder tin, was a shout-out to the retail pharmacists who sold our products to the public at that time, in the days before supermarkets became widespread.
This was a reference to a national public awareness campaign the Company initiated that talked about the important role of the retail pharmacist as a trusted, ethical expert who could help people with their own and their family’s health. It was done to give a boost to community retail pharmacists, in the face of the growing impact of the popularity of the automobile – which let people travel farther to shop. (The campaign was thought up by Scientific Director Fred Kilmer, himself a former retail pharmacist.)
The Wonderful Mother ad was such an all-time favorite that, approximately 70 years later, our consumer operating company brought it back.
The mother and little girl in the new Wonderful Mother ad have updated clothing and hairstyles, but the basic image is the same. They’re in the same pose, and they’re dressed in just about the same colors as their 1922 counterparts. The orange and white baby powder tin from 1922 is now the more modern white container of the late 1980s/early1990s. Looking at the two ads together really gives you a sense of the history of JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder (since 1893!) and the multiple generations of parents and children it has touched.