They say marriages are made in heaven and in that sense we truly have God to thank for this invention. If accident prone Josephine Dickson had not married Earle Dickson, and then repeatedly cut herself with the kitchen knife while working in the kitchen, the Band-Aid might never have been invented. Earle Dickson invented the Band-Aid in 1921 because he realized that the gauze and tape that was being used then would not stay on his wife’s very active fingers. He therefore put a piece of gauze in the middle of a tape and covered it with crinoline to keep the gauze sterile. This piece of tape could stay in place over the wounded area especially for small wounds.
Earle Dickson was working for Johnson & Johnson at this time. When James Johnson saw the Band-Aid he realized its potential and started making Band-Aids in 1924. Earle Dickson would go on to become the Vice President of the organization before his retirement.
However, the first band-aids were hand made and crude and were not very popular. In order to increase the awareness about Band-Aids and to exhibit its usefulness, Johnson & Johnson gave away free samples to the Boy Scouts. This PR stunt remarkably increased their sales and made the product popular overnight. As Band-Aid was the only brand making the product, the product and the brand started becoming interchangeable as well.
By 1924, Johnson & Johnson started making these bandages with machines. Band-Aid gained further popular acceptance as millions of Band-Aids were shipped overseas during World War II and to emergency care units in hospitals.
Johnson & Johnson continued to concentrate on children and released decorative bandages in 1951 featuring Superman, Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants, Hello Kitty, Rocket Power, Rugrats, Smiley faces, Barbie, Dora the Explorer, and Batman.
Johnson & Johnson currently makes a number of products under the Band-Aid brand such as Band-Aid liquid bandages and Scar Healing bandages. They also make bandages, which come in various shapes that form a fluid filled barrier to help heal wounds faster called Active Flex bandages. Another product is their waterproof Tough Stripes in which the adhesive is stronger enabling the Band-Aid to stay on longer. Johnson & Johnson has also created another brand called Burn-Aid which is a burn gel applied as a prepackaged bandage.
The adhesive bandage category has a number of players currently all of who were tempted by the success of Band-Aid. Band-Aid has a market share of about 60% and is the recognized category leader. In fact, Band-Aid is the generic name used for the category.
While it is a great thing for a brand to be synonymous with the category, it is not without its downsides. Shopkeepers stock multiple brands of adhesive bandages and when a customer asks for a Band-Aid the shopkeeper hands over any one of the brands he has stocked up. In order to overcome this problem, and to protect their trademark, Band-Aid products are now referred to as Band-Aid Brand products.