A Plague Upon You…Unless You Use Lysol

Product: Lysol Disinfectant
Date: 1931

1931 Lysol disinfectant ad

Marketers know that few things work better than a scare tactic or two when it comes to compelling people to buy a product. Witness this 1931 ad from Lysol that uses the Bubonic Plague as its central image. The text tells you that those silly people in the Middle Ages didn’t know that germs caused illness. Oh, silly dead people.

But thank goodness we live in 1931 and we know better: Germs are the cause of disease. And oh, by the way, Lysol kills germs real good.

Nowhere does it actually say that the Black Plague is a threat in the 20th century, yet the headline, the illustration, and the text combine to deliver several unspoken messages:

  • You can protect yourself against horrible sicknesses — the Plague, for crying out loud! The Plague! It could happen. You never know.
  • You can feel smart when buying this product because you know about the causes of disease, unlike those “ignorant” people of long ago.
  • You can feel proud when buying this product because it is thoroughly modern…and so are you.

And P.S., it’s good for “feminine hygiene” too.


1931 Lysol disinfectant ad

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