Modernity, Beauty and the Swedish ‘Way of Life’: Lifestyle Marketing in Stomatol Toothpaste Advertisements, 1900-1950

O'Hagan, Lauren (2022). Modernity, Beauty and the Swedish ‘Way of Life’: Lifestyle Marketing in Stomatol Toothpaste Advertisements, 1900-1950. Journal of Historical Research in Marketing (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/JHRM-01-2022-0004

Abstract

Purpose
This paper aims to challenge the assumption that brands of everyday products have only used lifestyle marketing in the past 30 years by conducting the first case study of the marketing practices of the Swedish toothpaste brand Stomatol (1910–1940). Through visual social semiotic analysis, it explores how the brand was a pioneer in lifestyle marketing, using discourses of modernity, beauty and the Swedish “way of life” to sell its toothpaste.

Design/methodology/approach
Two hundred Stomatol advertisements were collected from the Swedish Historical Newspaper Archive and analysed using visual social semiotics. The analysis considers how the idea of a cultural Swedishness centred around modernity and beauty developed between 1910 and 1940, and how both linguistic and semiotic resources were used to make these claims seem credible.

Findings
At a time when its main adversaries were capitalising upon science in their advertisements to construct authority and credibility, Stomatol instead targeted lifestyle. Modernity, beauty and the Swedish “way of life” were central themes of their marketing campaigns, yet the way these themes were articulated varied between 1910 and 1940 in accordance with changing popular discourse. This made Stomatol more competitive than other toothpaste brands because it was able to sell an experience rather than a product, turning it into Sweden’s most popular toothpaste.

Originality/value
This paper demonstrates the importance of case studies to challenge the assumption that toothpaste brands have only used lifestyle marketing in the past 30 years (a claim based on Anglocentrism). It also showcases the need to further investigate non-Anglo countries when conducting research into lifestyle marketing to build a more nuanced perspective on its origins and the supposed novelty of (largely) US practices. Thus, Stomatol makes an important case for Sweden as a trailblazer in lifestyle marketing.

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