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Dedicated to

The History of Vaseline


Dedicated to

The History of Vaseline

The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

Behind every great brand is a great passion In 1859, Robert Augustus Chesebrough, a 22 year old Brooklyn chemist, discovered a 100% naturally-derived product from deep within the earth which had remarkable skin-healing properties. He found ways to extract, purify and process it and in 1870, Chesebrough introduced Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to an eager public. Chesebrough was motivated by two powerful forces: an intense curiosity which drove him to make his discoveries and a passion to understand skin.

Skin is amazing. It’s an incredibly complex set of interdependent systems. It protects us from adverse climate and from infection. It recreates and regenerates itself throughout our lives. It is waterproof, yet it can emit water. It shows the world how you feel and lets you feel the world. It has truly miraculous properties. Many people never stop to think about their skin, but those who do are more inclined to place their trust in a brand like Vaseline - a brand that has been passionate about skin for over 130 years. Vaseline has a long and proud history. Indeed, it is one of Unilever’s oldest brands. This book will ensure that the richness of its past is permanently available to everyone who works on the brand today, tomorrow and into the future.


the discovery

chapter one

The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

A lifetime’s achievement By the time Robert Augustus Chesebrough died on the 8th September 1933 at the age of 96, Vaseline was a trusted household name. Even without the far-reaching advertising opportunities we have today, Robert Chesebrough managed to secure its name as a valued family brand - not only in his homeland of the United States, but also across Europe, South Africa and Australia. It’s a remarkable marketing fact that Chesebrough’s success was based on one single product, almost to the exclusion of all others. Yet such was the efficacy of his discovery that, even today, long after his death, Vaseline is still one of the best known and best loved brands in the world.


The Histor y of Vaseline

Family values Robert Chesebrough was in many ways the archetypal inventor. He came from one of the oldest families in America of Scottish/English descent. Wealthy, educated and privileged, his family’s ancestors emigrated to the USA in the 1630s, where they established themselves as prominent community members. In fact, William Chesebrough, the patriarch of the family, founded the town of Stonington, Connecticut in 1649. Born in 1837, Robert Chesebrough attended the best schools in New York and later studied chemistry at New York University. After graduating, Chesebrough elected not to follow in the family business belonging to his father and grandfather, but pursued his own career. In 1858 he developed an interest in the manufacture of petroleum products. The oil industry was in its infancy and the ambitious Chesebrough, like many others, was hoping to profit from it.


The Discovery

1860, Robert Chesebrough

The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

Chesebrough’s Eureka moment The discovery of petroleum in large quantities in Pennsylvania, as well as its extraction and refinement, was something Chesebrough wanted to look into. So in 1859, and at the young age of 22, he decided to make the journey to an oil well in Titusville. Despite his original intention of making a fortune as an oil prospector, it was a by-product of the refinery process that caught Chesebrough’s attention. While investigating the oil rig in Titusville, he discovered a viscous substance known as ‘Rod Wax’ that would stick to the oil rig drills, causing them to seize up.

The riggers hated this paraffin-like substance, but Chesebrough noticed that they would smear their skin with the residue from the drill head – somehow, it appeared to aid the healing of cuts and burns. His curiosity drove him to take some Rod Wax home to his laboratory in Brooklyn and start experimenting with it. After months of testing, he managed to successfully extract a more palatable and skin-friendly petroleum jelly. It was this Eureka moment that marks the birth of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and indeed, the beginnings of the history of the Vaseline brand. After several years of perfecting his extracting technique, Chesebrough discovered that by distilling the lighter, thinner oil products from the crude, he could create a pale coloured gel and in 1865 he patented this process of making petroleum jelly. Then, in 1870, the product we know and use today was officially born as he began to distribute this petroleum jelly under the brand name of Vaseline.

Robert A. Chesebrough patented the process of filtering petroleum to produce petroleum jelly in 1865


Colonel Edwin Drake’s successful oil well in Titusville, US, 1859

The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

What’s in a name? Nothing says more about a product than its name and there are a couple of theories on where the name Vaseline originated. According to some accounts, it was coined from the German word for water, wasser (pronounced vahser) and the Greek word for oil, elaion. Another theory is that Vaseline comes from the word ‘vase’ as Chesebrough, once being short of containers for his samples, used his wife’s flower vases! Whatever the source, the Vaseline trademark was registered as early as 1905, and is still a brand that’s widely known in many parts of the world today.


The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

Vaseline tried and tested During the early years of experimentation, Chesebrough would visit construction sites and demonstrate his product. Whenever a worker suffered an injury on the job, he would rush to their aid and apply Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. This hard-hitting tactic worked. Injuries seemed to heal faster and hurt less. In fact, it was the petroleum jelly’s ability to seal the wound and protect it from infection that aided the healing process, while accelerating the rate at which skin recovered and damaged cells rebuilt.


Confident that his product would appeal to the medical industry, Chesebrough opened a factory in Brooklyn in 1870. However, even though he gave out countless free samples to doctors and drug stores, not a single order came in. With a passionate belief in his product and a tireless determination to market it, Chesebrough decided to take Vaseline Petroleum Jelly directly to the public. He spent several months travelling around the State of New York in a horse and cart, demonstrating his ‘miracle’ product by using himself as a guinea pig. To a rapt audience, he would burn his skin with acid or an open flame, then spread the clear jelly on his injury, showing at the same time past injuries that had healed with the aid of Vaseline. To create further demand, he would hand out free samples.

Of course, once the samples ran out and people rushed to their local stores to buy more, the demand for Vaseline Petroleum Jelly became clear. Soon, orders began pouring in, not only from New York, but also from neighbouring states. Within six months, Chesebrough had a dozen wagons distributing his product far and wide. By 1874 Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was being sold nationwide at the rate of a jar a minute, with most medical professions recognising it as the standard remedy for skin complaints.

The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

Vaseline horse and cart, 1900


amazing facts

It is claimed that Chesebrough ingested a teaspoon of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly every day of his life. He lived until the age of 96!

By 1874 Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was sold in the US at the rate of a jar a minute.

Within ten years of its 1870 launch, nearly every household in the States owned a jar of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly.


The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

One product, so many uses By the 1880s, the increased exposure and popularity of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly meant that almost every household in America had a jar of it in their medicine cabinet. New mothers used it as an absorbent shield for nappy rash, while professionals working in extreme cold weather used it to relieve their dry chapped skin. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly even made the first trek to the North Pole with Commander Robert Peary, who took a jar with him because it wouldn’t freeze. Although Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was originally intended to be a medicinal product to help heal cuts and burns, additional healing properties were soon claimed. These included relief from chapped skin and lips, as well as an ability to fight dysentery and other diseases. It was advertised as a cure for wounds, burns, sores, cuts, skin diseases, rheumatism, haemorrhoids, catarrh, chilblains, sunburn and also, when taken orally, was a cure for colds, coughs, sore throats, croup, diphtheria and dysentery. It was this broad range of uses and its implied universality that enabled Vaseline to become such a well loved and trusted family brand.


The Histor y of Vaseline

The Discovery

How the iconic Blue Seal came about In order to differentiate Chesebrough’s product from a growing number of ‘imitation’ petrolatum or petroleum jellies which claimed similar efficacy, Blue Seal Vaseline Jelly was introduced to the market in the early 1880s. Blue Seal was a clever marketing move, designed to authenticate what was not only the original petroleum jelly, but also considered by many to be the most superior product on the market. In fact, advertising copy warned consumers that any other petroleum jelly besides Vaseline was merely a ‘worthless imitation’.


In 1892 the Vaseline ‘Blue Seal’ was trademarked


Vaseline evolves

chapter two

The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

Vaseline spreads from continent to continent The rapid development of an international market for Vaseline was not unusual in the business world of the late nineteenth century. And this was made easier thanks to the Chesebrough family having established solid working relationships with some of America’s leading business and banking families.

What’s more, due to his father’s knowledge of the import/export trade and his strong business connections in London, Chesebrough also had access to the vast distribution potential of the British Empire in Africa, Asia and, before the Revolution, Russia. Vaseline was truly becoming a global brand. So in 1904, to deal with rapidly increasing demand, Chesebrough moved the manufacturing side of the business from Brooklyn (where he had first experimented with petroleum jelly) to much bigger premises in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. By 1911, the Company had also begun to open operation plants and factories in Europe, Canada and Africa in order to facilitate the manufacture and distribution of the product.


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

Media endorsement The early success of Vaseline as a brand was due to Chesebrough’s dedication and determination to promote his creation. By 1900, widespread advertising campaigns, together with the endorsement of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly by respected journals and individuals, ensured the continuation of the brand as a market leader into the new century.


Embracing current trends, the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company was quick to recognise the importance of new media such as magazines and journals and often commissioned artists, writers and poets to create advertising for the Vaseline brand. Booklets were also a popular form of advertising during this era and, since Chesebrough had diversified his product portfolio to include Cold Cream, Camphor Ice, Toilet Soap and Hair Pomade, this was the perfect way to showcase the range to a wider audience.

It was also during this time that young women were finding new uses for Vaseline Petroleum Jelly outside of the medicine cabinet, mixing it with coal powder or soot to form a base for mascara. This early trend towards beauty would have far-reaching consequences for the Vaseline brand in years to come.

For toilet, 1881

Convenient, 1908

Magic tube, 1914

Don’t mistake ordinary, 1911

When you get home, 1924

You know Chilblains, 1926


The Histor y of Vaseline


Vaseline Evolves

Vaseline print ad, US, 1920


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

The First World War When the US joined the UK and her allies in 1916 in the First World War, the Vaseline brand saw further expansion across Europe. Vaseline Packaging, 1914

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, which was being packaged in easy-to-carry, hygienic aluminium tubes, became a staple for the thousands of American soldiers who were shipped to Europe to assist in the war. Ideal for soothing sore feet in the trenches, Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was in such high demand that many young men would write home from the Front, asking their families to send out more. It was even used as a bartering tool for cigarettes with the British soldiers! Combined with simple bandage dressings, Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was also used during the war for the treatment of burns, particularly as a result of mustard gas attacks. In the absence of antiseptic or sanitary conditions, it became an indispensable addition to any medical officer’s kit.


amazing facts

In 1886 it was noted that French bakers were using Vaseline in their cakes and pastries because, unlike lard, it stayed fresher for longer. Over a tonne of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly has been used since 1981 just to help protect London Marathon runners from chaffing and blistered toes. When Commander Robert Peary became the first man to reach the North Pole, he took Vaseline Petroleum Jelly with him because it wouldn’t freeze.

Vaseline Hair Tonic, 1920


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

The ‘Beautiful Decade’ of the 20s After the turbulent war years, the 1920s saw a return to the era of glamour, beauty and Hollywood style. While many households had a jar of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly for emergencies, the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company recognised the need to respond to these new trends.


Vaseline Hair Tonic and Soapless Shampoo, c1920


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

Thankfully, the universality of the brand allowed it to develop in various directions. While the original Vaseline Petroleum Jelly continued to appeal to all, it was now produced in variants: white and yellow, as well as scented or ‘flavoured’. With this, its uses multiplied. Movie stars glazed their teeth with it to make them shine, the film industry used it to smear over cameras for a ‘soft focus’ and radio artists used it to avoid sore throats. Hair tonic, a popular styling product of the time, also became a major area of innovation and growth for the Vaseline brand. Primarily targeting men, advertising for Vaseline Hair Tonic claimed to promote hair growth in bald patches. More commonly, it was used as a styling tool, perfect for achieving the sheer, brilliant look of this fashionable era. As with petroleum jelly, hair tonic enabled the Vaseline brand to come out of the medicine cabinet and onto the dressing table.



The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

Vaseline: an iconic brand that has stood the test of time


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

The Second World War and Post War In 1937, after over a decade of peace, the era of glamour came to an end as the world faced war for a second time. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly once again assumed its pivotal role in the lives of the soldiers who were sent to the front line. Serious injuries from burns due to the devastating effect of bombing raids were now a major problem. Because of this, the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company was commissioned by the Surgeon General of the US Military to produce a sterile antiseptic dressing containing petroleum jelly which would be distributed to the troops under the Vaseline name.

Thanks to its support of the US troops, the Vaseline brand name became a patriotic symbol in the United States. The efficacy of the product was also highlighted in a report in the New York Times in 1943, explaining how 75 serious burn victims admitted to a naval hospital had survived and recovered well, owing to the use of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly in their treatment. A further development from the Second World War was the launch of a new division of the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company. The Professional Products Division developed, manufactured and supplied medical supplies for a wide variety of industrial uses. While these products initially remained the exclusive reserve of the US Armed Forces, many of them went on general sale in 1951, taking the Vaseline brand into the professional specialist market.

Vaseline Petroleum Gauze Wrapper, 1939


Production of Vaseline Sterile Petroleum Gauze, McKees Rocks, USA, 1940


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Evolves

Aiming for the right target Although the Second World War once again highlighted the healing properties of the original Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, throughout the 1940s the Company continued to concentrate on promoting its hair products to a growing male audience in the US. Vaseline always had a ‘masculine’ edge to it: it protected skin, combated infection and strengthened hair. This masculinity was reflected in the promotion of Vaseline Hair Tonics on boxing telecasts, which the brand bought exclusive rights to.

At about the same time, Vaseline Hair Tonic advertisements began to feature a charismatic James Bond style model. This subliminal association with the fantasy world of power, fast cars and adoring women was a significant step in mid-twentieth century male grooming advertising. However, the Company knew it would be dangerous to alienate women, as they were the main purchasers of cosmetic products. Moving too far into the world of male grooming would carry with it the danger of creating a niche brand. Women were the dominant force, purchasing for themselves, their husbands and their children, and they were subsequently a vital sector in the market. With this in mind, a strategic merger would soon secure the Vaseline brand’s place in the world of skin care – and in the minds of millions of women.


Vaseline Cream Hair Tonic, 1947


The Move Towards Universal Skin Care chapter three

The Histor y of Vaseline

T h e M o v e To w a r d s U n i v e r s a l S k i n C a r e

Two great inventors: two similar ambitions

Theron Pond

Robert Chesebrough

During the 1950s, as the Vaseline brand was extending its range into skincare and grooming, a rival business called Pond’s Extract Company was doing the same. Theron Pond was similar to Robert Chesebrough in that he too was a young pharmacist with a keen interest in skin. He was the first person to introduce extract of witch hazel, creating a commercial product from it in the form of a topical salve to cure wounds and remedy other minor ailments. What’s more, like Chesebrough, Pond believed his natural product had ‘miracle’ properties and spent years advertising and promoting its efficacy. However, as witch hazel became more widely available to the general public and less profitable, Pond focused his attention on two new products: Pond’s Cold Cream to cleanse skin and Pond’s Vanishing Cream to protect skin. Campaigns were created for both products by J. Walter Thompson, with one in particular featuring testimonials from three queens, six princesses and several titled ladies! Such regal endorsements ensured Pond’s position as one of America’s favourite skincare brands.


Reaching an even wider audience During much of the first half of the twentieth century, Vaseline and Pond’s were seen by many as rival products. Both were powerful brands and both had an interest in personal grooming and skin care. But there were a number of compelling reasons that convinced the two firms that a merger between them would make sense and in 1955, Chesebrough-Pond’s Inc. was created. Such was the power of the merger, The Wall Street Journal described it as ‘the marriage of the aristocrats; two of the oldest and most successful companies in America joining forces for the future.’


The Histor y of Vaseline

The merger enabled the newly formed Company to reach a global audience with both brands. Chesebrough’s areas of activity were North America, Europe and, in particular, the territories of the old British Empire: Africa, Asia and Australia. Pond’s had a strong international business in Europe and parts of South America and was especially well known in Argentina and Venezuela - both huge markets. The merger also allowed both businesses to benefit from each other’s strengths. The Chesebrough Manufacturing Company had never had its own distribution system, relying instead on Colgate since 1876. So being able to use Pond’s extensive distribution network was invaluable. In return, Pond’s gained the range, innovation and expertise of Chesebrough’s manufacturing and product development.

T h e M o v e To w a r d s U n i v e r s a l S k i n C a r e

Throughout the Chesebrough-Pond’s Inc. extensive acquisition programme, the Company never lost sight of its core brand, Vaseline. However, the merger did change the focus of its future advertising and product development. The focus shifted back to the original Vaseline Petroleum Jelly which had, over time, come to be perceived as an ingredient in variants such as hair tonic. New campaigns highlighted its universality, talking to mothers about using Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to ease nappy rash and to women in general about using it on their faces and lips. After absorbing the costs of the merger, ChesebroughPond’s Inc.’s sales rose dramatically, increasing from $47million in 1954 to $117million by 1963. With a powerful new partnership in place, many new changes were on the horizon for the Vaseline brand.


Vaseline Hair Tonic, 1967


The Histor y of Vaseline

T h e M o v e To w a r d s U n i v e r s a l S k i n C a r e

The changing 60s During the late 1960s, having maintained the production and promotion of Vaseline Hair Tonic for over half a century, the decision was made to discontinue the line in favour of skin care. The last advertisement for hair tonic was made in 1968 and a few years later, the product ceased being manufactured in both the US and Europe. Meanwhile, Vaseline Petroleum Jelly continued to be sold and promoted. It had always enjoyed the recognition of the medical profession and, since 1880, had been continually listed in various medical journals for the treatment of skin conditions.

Most US dermatologists also considered it to be safe to use on both adults and children alike. These influential medical endorsements resonated with consumers, ensuring that Vaseline was passed down from generation to generation as a trusted household staple. Yet there was a strong sense that the Vaseline brand needed something new to boost its image, something which was neither hair-related, nor a simple re-positioning and the answer lay in the brand’s heritage of healing. With Company Chairman, CEO and Vice President Ralph Ward at the helm of Chesebrough-Pond’s Inc., Vaseline, a brand that had changed little since its introduction in 1870, was about to enter into an exciting new era.


Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era chapter four

The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

A beauty product with healing properties Fifteen years after the merger between the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company and Pond’s Extract Company, and after several years of experimentation and development, the Company launched what was to become the first significant product innovation since the beginning of the twentieth century. From its inception, Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion was both a beauty product and a skin care cream that offered superior moisturisation and protection.

The history and expertise of Pond’s in the beauty industry, combined with the Vaseline brand’s long track record of producing high rated products to aid the healing and regeneration of skin, facilitated the creation of something unique and innovative. Vaseline Intensive Care was a powerful new brand. Crucially, it was able to link the healing properties of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly with beauty. Up until then, the hand lotion category had only ever been about self enhancement and never about skin therapy. With Vaseline Intensive Care, Chesebrough-Pond’s had developed more than just a moisturiser: their new creation actually helped protect the skin from damage and promoted its ability to heal itself. It was a ground-breaking product for its time. The notion that Vaseline Intensive Care could produce an occlusive barrier over the skin, one which retains moisture and encourages healing, became an extremely powerful message. Consequently, eager female audiences who had already been educated on the therapeutic properties of petroleum jelly were keen to try Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion.

Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, 1970s


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

A hands-on approach to moisturised skin Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion was launched in the US as a hand lotion in 1969 and quickly became a huge success. The strength of the Vaseline brand, the heritage of the original product, and its efficacy in treating cracked skin and lips, all worked in attracting new consumers to the product. Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion’s new formula also overcame a critical problem faced by original Vaseline Petroleum Jelly - its greasy image - which prevented people from using it everyday as part of their skin care routine. After undertaking numerous in-depth consumer studies which only reinforced Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion’s popularity, Chesebrough-Pond’s were prompted to launch their new creation world wide, with a range of variants. In 1972 the classic yellow bottle was joined by the Herbal variant, formulated to freshen skin and soothe sunburn with calming aloe. These were followed by the Extra Strength variant, developed to combat extreme skin conditions. As was conventional in the skin-care category, Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion’s advertising was aimed primarily at a female audience, focusing on the need to soften hands that do washing up. However, Chesebrough-Pond’s soon realised the benefits of broadening the brand’s appeal to capture a wider market. So, the famous ‘Working Hands Of America’ campaign was developed, featuring people from all walks of life and different occupations – traffic wardens, construction workers, chefs, housewives – all clapping and joining hands across mountains and valleys.


Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, US, 1972


The iconic Leaf Campaign One of the most iconic campaigns for Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, and one of the brand’s earliest promotions, was the dry leaf campaign. The ads, which were aired on TV and published in print in the early 1970s, showed a dry, desiccated leaf being revitalised by Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion.


Perhaps one of the keys to the success of this campaign was the visual symbol of the need to protect skin, rather than just beautify it. This beautifully simple analogy struck a cord with the public. The leaf visual remained a solid fixture in the brand’s advertising right up until 1984 and is still one of the brand’s most recognised campaigns.

The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, US, 1984


The challenges of the early 1980s The 1980s marked a period of changes, challenges and new opportunities for Vaseline. Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion had been a market leader for over a decade and its success had not gone unnoticed. Large retailers recognised its popularity and had been quick to copy with their own store-brand products. Although the competition presented a tough challenge for the product, Chesebrough-Pond’s struck back, launching innovative formats such as flip-top lids and easy-to-use containers. These new ideas ensured that Vaseline Intensive Care constantly moved forward, keeping one step ahead of the game.


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

Chesebrough-Pond’s also recognised the need to reinvigorate the larger Vaseline brand portfolio and launched a number of product variants, including anti-bacterial and water-resistant hand creams, a muscle rub and a professionally endorsed Dermatology Formula. One of the most successful variants launched at this time was Vaseline Lip Therapy. Introduced in 1984, it served a new growing market for lip balm. Although Vaseline Petroleum Jelly had been promoted for chapped lips as long ago as 1919, Vaseline Lip Therapy Balm delivered a new format that was revolutionary for its time: the plastic tube. This easy-to-carry product design was a success for the brand and brought about a resurgence in the Vaseline brand’s market share.

Vaseline Lip Therapy, 1990

In the mid 1980s, Unilever began to take notice of the success Chesebrough-Pond’s had achieved in the fifty years since its formation. With the strength of brands like Vaseline, Chesebrough-Pond’s Inc. was already a leader in the personal care category and Unilever saw its acquisition as a strategic opportunity. The merger of Chesebrough-Pond’s into the Unilever stable took place in 1986. With brands like Vaseline, Dove and Pond’s in its new arsenal, the multi-national became a force to be reckoned within skin care.


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

Worldwide reach At the time of the Unilever acquisition in 1986, Vaseline was already a brand with truly global reach. In fact, almost from the time of its launch in 1870, the Vaseline brand and product range were being exported to various markets around the world, especially to areas of the former British Empire. Amazingly, much of this early activity saw Chesebrough personally attending trade fairs and travelling from his base in New York to make new contacts. Because of his dedication, by the end of the First World War, the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company had offices as far afield as Moscow, Cape Town, and Montreal.Â


Although the brand was very much an American brand, with American values, the Vaseline brand took on a life of its own in places like Africa, gaining customer loyalty while fighting off local imitations and competition. South Africa in particular became a strong market for Vaseline Petroleum Jelly early in its history. Introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century, it became a truly universal part of everyday life. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was one of the first cosmetic products used by workingclass South Africans, whether to protect skin from dry weather or to soften hair to ease combing. It also served as a healing lubricant for those who walked barefoot in the bush or cooked on open fires and was used in rural areas as a sealant to line blankets in order to keep warm.

New mothers used it so much to prevent nappy rash that a special Baby Jelly variant was created to meet demand. And if a bicycle chain stuck with rust, a jar of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly would come to the rescue! Into the 21st century, it remains a trusted brand in every South African household. The Asian continent also became a key area of growth for Vaseline. In Thailand, for example, Vaseline was registered as a trade mark as early as 1931 and sold in limited distribution until the early 1990s. The brand retained a premium modern image over other local brands due to the fact that it was an import from the US and UK. Product variants in these markets were also introduced based on local needs. For example, in response to public demand for whitening products, Vaseline UV Whitening was introduced in Thailand and a number of other countries in Southeast Asia.

Vaseline Intensive Care, Asia, 1996


amazing facts

By 1929 Vaseline was used in 75% of British homes.

In 2005, every 39 seconds a tub of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was sold somewhere in the world.

“It has become a family brand and is handed down from one generation to the next. That is the best form of promotion you can get – one that comes with your mother’s blessing.” Robert Opie, UK Director of the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

Over 15 million jars of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly are manufactured each year.

The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

Always listening, always innovating Following the acquisition of Chesebrough-Pond’s by Unilever and throughout the 1990s, the skin care market continued to grow and evolve, becoming a billion dollar category in the US. The Vaseline brand faced increased competition but continued to recognise the importance of reaching consumers in different and exciting ways.

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, US, 1983

For example, Vaseline Petroleum Jelly had become a staple within the sporting world although it had never done anything to directly promote its efficacy at helping to protect skin from chaffing. That’s why at the 1981 London Marathon, a giant pot of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was taken down to the route to provide relief for thousands of sore runners. New advertising also targeted new mums, reinforcing the message that trusted Vaseline Petroleum Jelly was ideal to use on their precious babies’ bottoms. As a pure and natural barrier, it offered total protection against wetness and irritants in the gentlest way possible. In response to new consumer needs, Vaseline introduced a series of new innovations. Vaseline Creamy was launched in 1993 to remedy the consumer perception of the ‘greasiness’ of the original Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. This rich, velvety cream with added Vitamin E was a success, achieving a healthy share of the US market in just one year.


Another popular variant was Vaseline Hand & Nail Formula, which was launched in the US in the early 1990s. In focus groups, women talked about how their cuticles would dry and the nails themselves would develop ridges, causing them to harden and break. As a result, Vaseline’s new advertising focused on the moisturisation of cuticles and nails to avoid breakage, a message which struck a cord with its female audience. Light pink in colour with a pleasant peachy fragrance, Vaseline Hand & Nail Formula was a successful product that enabled the brand to regain some of the market share it had lost to its competitors. In fact, Vaseline Hand & Nail Formula was so popular, it changed consumers’ perception of Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, shifting it from just a hand lotion to more of an all-over body lotion.

Vaseline Hand & Nail Formula, US, 1991


Skin Science Update commercial, US, 1995


The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

Science updates In 1992, Vaseline introduced audiences to ‘Science Updates’, a new advertising platform that used science to sell beauty. The new programme was hosted by Joan Lunden, one of America’s most popular morning TV show hosts, whose endorsement brought warmth and credibility to the campaign. The new technique allowed the Vaseline brand to use product demonstrations that were centred on the skin technology it owned. ‘Science Updates’ was exported all around the world, featuring local personalities in each region. The success of the campaign enabled the Vaseline product portfolio – which included Petroleum Jelly, Intensive Care, Hand & Nail and UV – to truly unify and come together under one creative idea for the first time in its history.


Taking care of knees and elbows The ‘Joan Years’ took Vaseline through to the mid 1990s, but increasing competition and changing consumer needs soon began to pose a new challenge. Vaseline had a solid reputation in basic skin care and consumers saw it as a practical, functional solution. What was missing from the scientific message was an emotional dimension that would link Vaseline to how people felt about their skin.


The ‘Take Good Care’ campaign addressed this significant insight, marrying the functional with the emotional, something the Vaseline brand had never really communicated before. It reminded audiences of what they already knew - that Vaseline was a hard-working, trusted brand with an honest, relatable message. Despite the success of the ‘Take Good Care’ message, Vaseline continued to feel the pressure of increasing competition. One of the most significant threats in the late 1990’s and first years of the 21st century was the emergence of specialist skin care retailers. New brands emerged focusing consumers’ attention on the cosmetic and aesthetic benefits of skin care products; their perceived value, based on image, was further highlighted by heavy global advertising. Vaseline, with its honest, down-to-earth approach to health and skin, found it harder and harder to compete and as advertising budgets trailed, so did the brand’s share in the global marketplace.

The Histor y of Vaseline

Vaseline Intensive Care – A New Era

Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, UK, 1999/2000


Restored to greatness chapter five

The Histor y of Vaseline

Restored to greatness

The truth of the matter 2005 saw the beginning of a new dawn for Vaseline. After a difficult start to the new millennium, with the brand’s health under threat and its positioning for the future not clear, the brand went “back to the future” – finding its inspiration for the future in some piercing insights that went right back to the roots of the brand and what makes it unique. People’s personal values about what they found important had changed. Instead of wanting to just look good, they wanted more and more to be fit and feel healthy. And they wanted brands that promoted their health and well being, not just ones that cured existing problems. Yet none of the brands in the personal care market seemed to reflect this seemingly simple fact. On one end of the spectrum lay hospitalstyle therapeutic curatives devoid of emotion, while on the other sat the cosmetic brands, offering products that promoted outer beauty. Vaseline was ready to capitalise on this opportunity. With a strong 130 year heritage of promoting health, well-being, and a passion for skin, the brand had stayed true to itself and accessible to consumers, male and female, old and young, around the world. With a renewed focus and commitment behind it, the Vaseline brand was ready to once again take the lead in teaching people how to care for themselves by caring for their skin.


The Histor y of Vaseline

Restored to greatness

Passion for well-being With this key insight, the core of the brand’s positioning came to rest in one simple, yet powerful message: that skin is amazing. What the brand wanted to reinforce was that nobody knows this amazing skin more or understands how to keep it at its healthy best better than Vaseline. An award-winning 2007 TV campaign, ‘Keeping Skin Amazing’, demonstrated this thought through visually striking creative, using naked bodies to represent the landscape of skin. It showed consumers the amazing attributes of skin and explained how Vaseline products could protect, nurture and help care for it.

The ‘Keeping Skin Amazing’ campaign cleverly tapped into the market’s new mentality. Consumers wanted to understand skin; they wanted to know how it works, how it functions - both as a barrier to the outside world and as a protector of what’s inside. It wasn’t enough being told to use a beautifying cream to make skin look better for a more fulfilling lifestyle. In over 130 years, Vaseline had never been about shallow aesthetics and this was not changing. Strategically, this global campaign positioned the Vaseline brand as an authority on skin and skincare rooted in 130 years of passion and expertise. And it communicated the heart of the brand, its continuing passion to learn about skin and share the knowledge with audiences old and new around the world.

Keeping Skin Amazing TVC, US, 2007


B:8.25 in T:7.875 in S:7 in

©2008 Unilever

A stronger formula to lock in moisture and fight even the driest skin.

keeping skin amazing

Vaseline Intensive Rescue Lotion, US, 2007


B:10.75 in

S:10 in

* Clinically proven in a 14-day Skicon test for skin hydration. Eucerin® is a registered trademark of Beiersdorf AG.

T:10.5 in

Vaseline Intensive Rescue Lotion is clinically proven to help heal dry skin better than Eucerin® Intensive Repair Lotion by delivering 80% more moisture.* Visit to see the proof.

Vaseline Healthy Glow, Colombia, 2007


The Histor y of Vaseline

Restored to greatness

A global presence Vaseline today is a truly global brand, a market leader not just in the developed world but across the developing world too. In markets as diverse as Thailand, Arabia, India, Korea, and South Africa, Vaseline is a trusted, leading authority in bodycare. The brand’s offerings remain global, but the relative importance of different formats varies with climate, consumer habit, and incomes.

21611_energelly_print_ad.fh11 5/2/07 4:17 PM Page 1








Vaseline stops up to 98% of your skin’s moisture loss. Here’s the proof.

The period up to and including 2008 has seen remarkable growth for the brand in the developing and emerging world, to the extent that over 40% of sales now come from Asia and Africa. The story of how that growth has been realised changes from market to market, but the trend is the same. In India for example, Petroleum Jelly continues to be a mainstay of the brand, with a pronounced seasonality in the North of the country where consumers rely on Vaseline during the winter. In Thailand and Indonesia, lotions with fast-absorption properties, specially created for the hot humid conditions of South East Asia, have boosted sales. In South Africa the brand’s first male variant, catering specially to the “ashen skin” signs of dryness experienced by South African men, has brought significant incremental sales. And in Colombia and Venezuela, where the brand has recently been relaunched, the arrival of the Glow self-tanning lotion phenomenon helped get the brand back into strong growth. What unites all of these is the underlying “keeping skin amazing” positioning – a simple thought which has proven both a strong focus and unifying proposition for the brand, and yet has proven flexible enough to enable the brand to address different consumer segments, needs, formats, and even product categories, all with great relevance and credibility.


Your skin loses water all the time – up to half a litre a day. Vaseline Blue Seal locks in moisture preventing up to 98% of moisture loss, leaving your skin positively healthy.

keeping skin amazing

Vaseline Blue Seal Petroleum Jelly, S Africa, 2006



A great history, a great future conclusion

The Histor y of Vaseline

Restored to greatness

The truth of the matter The Vaseline brand has a rich and landscaped history. And yet many brands with proud histories vanish from the shelves. The ones which endure are those which manage to stay true to their root strengths, but find ways to reinterpret and refresh them for each new generation. This is exactly what Vaseline’s crusade to “keep skin amazing” does: by recapturing the passion and curiosity of its founder, and matching that with leading-edge skincare science, it has brought new life and new relevance to the brand. A stream of innovation is now in place to deliver new formats, new breakthrough formulations, new claims, and new variants to meet emerging needs – innovations which will further build the brand’s authority and appeal into the future. And all of it stems from Robert Chesebrough’s belief in his creation back in 1870: a product that was initially rejected by drug stores in New York yet has ended up 138 years later a staple in millions of homes across the world, sold in every continent and 111 countries. The appeal of Vaseline is truly global. Mums in the USA use it. Athletes in England use it. Young women in Thailand use it. Doctors in Korea use it. Yet each audience shares one thing in common: the universal knowledge that Vaseline products can be trusted to heal and protect skin like no other, from the day we are born.


Vaseline. Dedicated to skin

Š Unilever PLC. Vaseline, Vasenol, the Vaseline logo and Vaseline Intensive Care are trade marks of Unilever. This book should not be reproduced in part or full without prior permission. Some images provided by Unilever Archives. Acknowledgements: With thanks to CRAM International for their boundless dedication and tireless research, to PUSH Design for capturing the essence of the Vaseline brand in the pages of this book, and to Unilever Archives for providing many of the superb images. Finally, thanks to the Global Vaseline team in London for sharing their pride, knowledge, and insight: Steve Miles, Global Brand Vice President; Gustavo Lara, Global Brand Manager; and Global Brand Assistant, Aliz Csaki. Printed September 2008.

Vaseline Brand History Book  

100 year history of the Vaseline Brand, compiled for GlaxoSmithKline whilst working for Push Design.

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