From Medicine to Mass Market: Products that Changed their USPs

Medicinal products usually have one of two origins: those that are developed on purpose, and those that are discovered accidentally. An example of the former is insulin, which was discovered by Frederick Banting and Charles H. Best following in-depth research. An example of the latter is penicillin, which formed unexpectedly in Alexander Fleming’s contaminated petri dish.

And then there’s a third, less common category: those that were created as potions and lotions, only to take on very different purposes over time.

In this article, we look at a variety of household brands that once claimed to offer a range of health applications supplied in glass dropper bottles, vials or containers over the counter.

Dropping the G

In 1927, a chemist in Newcastle created a tonic to be used in hospitals. Heavy in glucose and believed to revitalise patients, Glucozade was a means of getting the sick back on their feet. However, thanks to its popularity and some clever marketing, which included a slightly amended name, Lucozade gradually evolved into a tonic that could also be consumed at home.

Decades passed by, and the arrival of the 1980s brought a significant change in identity. In response, Lucozade’s advertising campaigns suddenly focused on the sporting world, aiming its restorative properties at anyone in need of hydration and an energy boost. This series of adverts went from strength to strength and used humour to grab attention, such as Olympic champion decathlete Daley Thompson distracting fellow sportsmen by noisily opening his beverage at various tournaments.

With its slogan originally being “Aids recovery”, Lucozade was now the drink that “Replaces lost energy”. This was later followed by the concept of “Positive energy”, the claim that it was “The original solution”, and even a focus on gamers, with the product offering “The refreshing pause”.

In relatively recent years, the sweet, bubbly beverage has established itself as the ultimate everyday tonic, especially thanks to straplines such as “Do more” and an incredibly simple yet effective “Yes”. Whatever its future messages might be, we’re sure they will reflect the brand’s ethos of embracing a positive mental attitude and a can-do approach to life.

The Safe Antiseptic

English doctor Joseph Lister demonstrated in 1865 that adding carbolic acid to surgical dressings dramatically reduces the likelihood of subsequent infections. A few years later in 1879, American chemist Joseph Lawrence used knowledge to develop an alcohol-based formula for a surgical antiseptic, which included the fresh properties of eucalyptol and menthol.

In tribute to his new product being based on Lister’s work, Lawrence named it Listerine, “The Safe Antiseptic”. However, it would be a while before the cleansing solution moved from open wounds to open mouths. To begin with it was used for surgical applications and even as a cure for gonorrhoea, as well as an answer to sweaty feet, the common cold and dandruff.

Finally, in 1914, Listerine was sold to consumers as an over-the-counter mouthwash. It still took a few years to become a hit, achieving success as soon as the promise of combatting chronic halitosis was adopted as its USP. Since then, Listerine has become increasingly commonplace in our bathrooms, and still carries the message that it “Kills the germs that cause bad breath”.

Taste the feeling

Coca-Cola, one of the world’s biggest and best-loved brands, also started off as something very different to what it is today. The ubiquitous soft drink has a long history of sponsoring and collaborating with the Olympic games and even gave Father Christmas his red suit, yet originally it was sold as an alternative to morphine addiction. Its inventor, John Pemberton, was a veteran of the American Civil War who suffered from a dependence on the narcotic.

To begin with the product was a sweet alcoholic drink infused with coca leaves, which are where cocaine comes from. So whilst the product could supposedly wean the drinker off one drug, it actually contained another. Still, at least the creator was honest, calling his elixir Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.

Twenty years later, the beverage was heavily fine-tuned. Part of this was further sweetening and the adding of a carbonation process, leading to it being renamed Coca-Cola. Whilst today’s version doesn’t contain elements of cocaine, the brand name still eludes to its inclusion. On top of that, Coca-Cola retains the philosophy that its product helps people to feel better and overcome obstacles, which isn’t too dissimilar from its initial assertion.

Finger on the pulse

The teams at Origin are fascinated by and dedicated to the world of pharmaceuticals. Creating world-class and innovative packaging solutions, we help to combat everything from accidental consumption to the counterfeiting of medication.

We are also dedicated to revolutionising the primary pharmaceutical packaging supply chain through our Hybrid Pharma Packaging Partner (HP3). This programme is designed to enable rapid improvement in the effectiveness of the industry’s supply chain.


Find out more about HP3 and how it’s changing the world of pharmaceuticals.