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A distinguishing element of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is its text-heavy labels. In this modern stage of advertising where marketers opt for messaging about lifestyles or countercultures and bold images or movie-like productions, Dr. Bronner’s white-on-blue bottles stick out like a sore thumb (Leiss et al. 312). Though it might not be considered direct advertising – the labels do not appear in magazines, television or on billboards – they do tell us about the product and who it is made for. Further, considering the company does not invest in any mainstream advertising (none that I have been able to track at least,) these labels could well be the only clue the public gets on how the product fits into our lifestyles. In addition, I chose this advertising in particular because it does not fit perfectly into a single advertising format. Rather, it brings advertising techniques from the industrial era into modern forms. (This might be more coincidental than a planned approach. The company has kept the philosophy of its founder who started the company in 1948, around the market boom, and who came from a family of soap makers.)

Foremost, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps’ labels are dense and full of information. It’s text heavy, and the only illustration on the package is a generic symbol that indicates it is not tested on animals. The company itself does not use images as a way of selling the product – they rely solely on what is written. At first glance, this advert appears to follow a Product-Information model; however, a closer look will tell you the opposite (Leiss et al. 175). The label focuses very little on what the product is and how to use it. Of all that’s written on the label, only the white shaded area, about a third of the space, gives direction on how to dilute the soap, their efforts at organic products and sustainable consumption, it’s many uses (shaving, bathing, massaging, shampooing, cleaning baby etc.) and the soaps all-natural ingredients.

The rest of the advert is dedicated to spreading the message of “spaceship earth” and unity across ethnicities, religions and philosophies. In it we see the names of many infamous men from different sects including George Washington, Tomas Paine, Albert Einstein, Booker T. Washington, Moses, Buddha, Mohammad, Mao and Jesus, among others. It also mentions the Marxist theories, the Holocaust, several proverbs from American culture and from others. This allows many people from different backgrounds to identify with the message and product.

In addition, several phrases that actually sound more like slogans, come up throughout, and these can summarize the narrative of this soap: the moral ABC’s, all-one-God-faith, we’re all-one or none, listen children eternal father eternally one; and perhaps it’s most significant slogan, the one where Bronner’s makes its sales pitch: absolute cleanliness is godliness!

It’s telling consumers that they are open-minded, free from prejudice, and goodhearted. Supporting this conclusion are the stores where Dr. Bronner’s is available, which have similar messages; these include Trader Joe’s and American Apparel. Duane Reade also began to carry the soap after its brand was revamped. This message tells the conscience consumer that the soap he/she uses, preferably Bronner’s, plays a part in purifying his/her souls. It makes the shallow act of bathing sacred.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps’ advertising is sophisticated in its approach, combining the old advertising methods that stand out from the present image-based adverts, while keeping the appeal to lifestyles and narratives (Leiss et al. 308).

The official trailer for the documentary feature film “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox.”

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