Sales of Band-Aids were flagging until Johnson & Johnson made an ingenious marketing move.
In the 1920s, the company began distributing, for free, an unlimited supply of Band-Aids to Boy Scout troops across the country, according to this lesson from TED-Ed.
Band-Aids also were included in the custom first-aid kits Johnson & Johnson produced for the Boy Scouts of America. The kits were designed to help Boy Scouts earn merit badges like First Aid.
The original 1925 “Boy Scout First-Aid Packet” contained a triangular bandage for a sling, a compress and two safety pins. It came in a simple cardboard container.
In 1926, Johnson & Johnson and the BSA asked silent film cowboy Fred Thomson to show Scouts how to use the kits. He bandaged the leg of his horse, Silver King, for the demo.
A few years later, Johnson & Johnson debuted an upgraded BSA first-aid kit in a tin box. Inside, Scouts found burn and antibiotic creams, first-aid instructions, and several kinds of bandages, including Band-Aids.
Appealing to families
The collaboration with the BSA proved fruitful. Johnson & Johnson effectively made Band-Aids a default part of every Scout’s camping gear — a tradition that continues today in many packs, troops, ships and crews.
“This was the beginning of marketing to children and families that helped familiarize the public with the Johnson & Johnson name and their new product,” according to this article in Smithsonian magazine.
Boy Scouts, with Band-Aids handy inside the tin box attached to their belt loops, were ready to deal with any cut, scrape or burn they might pick up on the trail.
After all, as one Johnson & Johnson ad from the March 1934 issue of Scouting magazine put it, “a Scout with a first-aid kit is a better Scout.”