What Can You Learn from an Old Maid?

When I was a kid, I remember my relatives talking about some Great Aunt I’d never met. They called her an “Old Maid.” 

I had no idea what they were talking about, but I could tell they considered it an insult. 

Years later, I learned the meaning: A woman who has — gasp! — never gotten married. 

Today, countless women choose not to get married…

…and no one blinks. 

But back in the day, being an Old Maid was cause for pity…

…or disgust. 

I thought of poor, pitiful Great Auntie the other day when I reread an old Listerine ad from 1925 with this headline: 

“Often a bridesmaid but never a bride”

Here’s some of the ad copy: 

Edna’s case was really a pathetic one. Like every woman, her primary ambition was to marry. Most of the girls of her set were married — or about to be. Yet not one possessed more grace or charm or loveliness than she. 

And as her birthdays crept gradually toward that tragic thirty-mark, marriage seemed farther from her life than ever. 

She was often a bridesmaid but never a bride. 

Then the kicker…

That’s the insidious thing about halitosis (unpleasant breath). You, yourself, rarely know when you have it. And even your closest friends won’t tell you…

And on it goes to describe how Listerine prevents and cures halitosis. 


That’s a brilliant ad. 

Some of you may cringe and call this “fear-based” advertising (in fact some people refer to fear-based advertising as a “halitosis appeal.”)

But here’s the thing: Bad breath is a real thing. Fear of repelling a potential mate is a real thing. And Listerine offered a real solution. 

If you want to connect with prospects, you have to meet them where they are (and then offer a real solution to their problem). 

In 1921, Listerine rang $115,000 in sales. By 1927, 2+ years after launching its halitosis ads, annual sales had grown to $4 million. By 1930, Listerine was the country’s third-largest print advertiser. 

The story of poor Edna sold A LOT of Listerine. 

Decades later, another family-run business grew from $10 million per year revenue to a publicly-traded behemoth earning more than $250 million per year…

…thanks to a different masterpiece advertisement. 

On Wednesday, I’m going to break down that ad and show how it was a story-powered super-magnet that attracted countless leads, kept them tuned in, and inspired them to act. 

And I’ll show you how to do the same with your marketing. 

To claim your spot at the Aug 5. (2 p.m. CDT) training (and learn more), go to MasterpieceAd.com

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.