Sam Johnson Led SC Johnson to Winning Brands, from Raid® Bug Spray to Glade® Air Freshener and Beyond
SC Johnson Brands Grew to So Much More than Wax
There’s a funny story about the New Products Division’s first product under Sam’s leadership – the aerosol insecticide that ultimately became Raid®. Taking the product to his father, H.F. Johnson, Jr., for approval, Sam said that this was a business we surely ought to enter.
As the story goes, H.F. looked at the can and said, “Don’t you realize we don’t make any products without wax in them?” Sam answered: “We could put a little wax in it, but I don’t think it would kill bugs any better.”
He may have been joking, but Sam’s response reflected an important insight: After nearly 70 years in business, more wax products wouldn’t be enough to help the company keep growing in the second half of the twentieth century.
Rather, we needed an infusion of expansive new ideas and products to continue winning in the increasingly competitive marketplace. As Sam later noted, “Quite simply, you have to have new products – good products – or you die as a company.”
Raid®, Glade®, Pledge® and OFF!® Became Winning Brands
Sam’s New Products Division launched numerous products from 1955 to 1958 that endure to this day as winning brands for the company. These include Raid® insecticides and Glade® air fresheners, Pledge® furniture products and OFF!® insect repellents.
While Sam moved on from the New Products Division to other leadership roles, during his career he also backed the acquisitions of Windex® glass cleaner, Ziploc® brand bags and Scrubbing Bubbles® bathroom cleaner, to name just a few.
Other great ideas that found their start in SC Johnson labs were Edge® and Skintimate® shave gels, Kit® auto polishes and Curel® lotions. While they were a better fit for other companies to whom we ultimately sold them, we’re proud that they got their start with us.
Sam Johnson Brought Us Opportunity and Innovation
Despite frequent success, Sam’s new product efforts weren’t without challenges. For example, in 1956, some company scientists were ready to give up on the new wipe-on furniture polish the team had in development. They said it didn’t offer the consumer enough benefits.
But Sam believed differently. He saw promise in the idea of an easy-to-use furniture polish that would provide gloss in just one step – without wiping off or buffing. However, early testing showed it was hard to control the amount applied to the polishing cloth.
That’s when the team hit on the idea of using an aerosol container, so the amount of product dispersed could be better controlled. When the new version was tested in a study of 1,000 consumers, there was no negative feedback. In fact, consumers saw potential that hadn’t even been considered, including using it as a dusting aid.
Six decades later, the Pledge® brand continues to be a beloved part of homes around the globe.
He wrote in The Essence of a Family Enterprise, a book about the principles of SC Johnson, “You must be constantly thinking, exploring and trying to figure what the next consumer need will be. And that, simply, is what makes the business so interesting.”