Pears Soap Reproduction Pears soap poster
Reproduction Pear soap poster. Amazon
Pears soap is one of the oldest commercially made cleansers in the world and certainly one of the most familiar, not least because of the company's  famous old-fashioned advertisements which have been widely circulated and re-used over and over.

The story of the translucent soap can be traced back over 220 years, to Oxford Street in London , where farmer's son and trained barber, Andrew Pears, produced and sold his reddish brown see-through soap in 1789...the first of its kind. Pears was also the world's first registered brand and thus, technically, the worlds oldest lasting brand-name.

Selling Purity
Pears' commercial success in an interesting example of successful marketing. In the late 1700s, most soaps contained harsh ingredients such as arsenic and/or lead, ingredients which could themselves be damaging to the skin. Conscious of this, Andrew Pears experimented with natural ingredients and came up with a gentle, glycerin based soap. "Purity' was the selling point and the translucence of the soap helped sell the idea - if customers could see through the soap, they would be more inclined to believe there wasn't anything nasty or harmful lurking in there.

Eorographics Pears print poster
By the 1800s, Pears' Grandson Francis had joined the company and A and F Pears Ltd was formed. Andrew Pears eventually retired and unfortunately did not live to see his soap win a prize medal at the famous Great Exhibition (Crystal Palace Exhibition) of 1851.

Eventually, Francis Pears son-in-law, Thomas J Barratt, generally regarded as an early genius of advertising,was welcomed into  the company fold and it was he who turned Pears soap into one of the most successful consumer products ever to hit the British mass marketplace.

With an eye for commercial aesthetics, Barrett famously employed Pre-Raphealite artist,  Edward John Millais's 1886 painting, Bubbles, to advertise the soap -a campaign which was so successful, it was continued for several decades. Bubbles, with it's strong soap/child association, reflected an image of clean innocence and purity -everything Pears wanted to get across to the purchasing public and it was a theme that Pears would continue to promote via it's advertising campaigns over the generations.

Bubbles by Millais. For commercial purposes,  the painting was overlayed with Pears Soap lettering

Celebrity Endorsement
Lovely Lily Langtry, actress and Pears soap ambassador
Another successful ploy devised by Barratt was to hire the endorsement of popular actress, Lily Langtry, who was famous for her ivory-skinned beauty. It seems an obvious move for a marketer, yet at the time, such a thing was unheard of and indeed, Langtry was the first woman to publicly endorse a commercial product.

The connection of pears soap to children and beauty was further reinforced in the early 20th century, when Miss Pears competitions  were held every year, offering the winner a chance to appear in Pears promotional material.

Pears advertising was ubiquitous in Victorian and Edwardian newspapers, magazines and periodicals -often there were four page inserts. From 1891 to 1925, the company also produced a large Christmas annual, containing stories, advertisements and prints which could be removed and framed.

From one generation to the next, Pears soap was (and still is to some extent) as trusted and comfortably familiar as the family cat. Through careful, clever advertising and the right associations, the company had managed to create a brand loyalty that must have been the envy of every manufacturer in England and probably beyond.