Warner’s Safe Cure: Marketing is Everything!

Warner's Compound (McMurray 2013)

Although H. H. Warner lost control of his Safe Cure empire in 1893 as the result of a history of bad investments, against which he leveraged the business that had made him a household name, his brand name endured for decades. Now that’s brand identification. The Warner Remedies brand survived into the 1930’s and 1940’s without its namesake.

While it never again reached the heights of popularity it experienced in the mid-1880’s, the Warner name became synonymous with medicines the average American could appreciate. Over the 60-odd years of its existence, Warner’s Remedies offered a consistent message: “bad health begins with the kidneys”. Now, whether you agree with that or not, it apparently struck a chord with the average consumer. Going back to the earliest Safe Cure almanacs, Warner attributed a host of maladies to poor kidney function. Indeed, his supposed brush with death as a result of Bright’s Disease was the result of improper kidney function.  In an age where most Americans did not have access to regular medical care, the explanation seemed a plausible one. Warner capitalized on the notion that Americans could be empowered to heal themselves and he was more than happy to provide a means to that end.

Warner's Compound 1 Warner's Compound 2

Indeed, the word “SAFE” in Safe Cure was both an homage to Warner’s early business success in the fireproof safe business and an assurance that his “medicines” were not harmful to the consumer. While the truth of that remains unknown, it is more likely that they were not helpful either. Gradually, Warner and “Safe Cure” or “Safe Remedy” became synonymous and the products flourished. Even so, the company never strayed far from the notion that all disease, whatever its manifestation, could be traced to malfunctioning kidneys. And, even after the “Safe” was long dropped from the name and the bottles went from embossed to screw top (pictured above), the importance of renal health remained the predominant theme. It simply resonated with the American public. Never mind that it was complete and utter nonsense. While malfunctioning kidneys can cause problems in the human body, they are most certainly not the source of all disease. If it were only that simple. Well, as Mr. Warner knew, a simple and consistent message is powerful marketing.


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