Bon Ami (French for 'Good Friend') is a brand of scouring powder sold by the Bon Ami Company of Kansas City, Missouri. Since its inception in the late 18th century, the brand's advertising campaigns have gained particular notice.
The original Bon Ami formula was developed in 1886 by the J. T. Robertson Soap Company as a gentler alternative to quartz-based scouring powders available on store shelves. In those days, scouring powder was made from tallow and finely ground quartz. When quartz was mined, it was entwined with a mineral called feldspar, and the two had to be separated by hand. The feldspar was discarded until Robertson discovered that this soft mineral could be combined with soap to create a less-abrasive product that would clean without scratching, resulting in the Bon Ami product.
As of 1896, Bon Ami was a common product in northeastern United States households. The chick and slogan "hasn't scratched yet!" are textbook examples of an early American trademark. Consumers in the late 1800s understood that a newborn chick doesn't scratch the ground for three days; thus the correlation to the non-scratching benefits of Bon Ami.
In the early 1900s, Alfred William Erickson, founder of McCann Erickson Advertising, revived the brand with full-color pages in leading women's magazines. He took on Bon Ami as a client around 1908. Artist Ben Austrian painted the prints, and Ben's wife served as the model for the ads. The campaign eventually blossomed into literature with the release of The Chick That Never Grew Up, a work of children's literature featuring Princess Bon Ami.
In 1980, the company again revived its brand with a magazine campaign featuring the headline "never underestimate the cleaning power of a 94-year-old chick with a French name". During the first 6 months of the campaign, Bon Ami sales rose 12 percent. Nevertheless, its business was still flagging by 1983, when it remained in third place behind products from Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive.
In 2011 the Bon Ami company celebrated its 125th anniversary by re-releasing the original cleaning cake for purchase. Limited supplies were offered both with and without a commemorative tin, celebrating the original formula's popularity.
The product called "original" contains only feldspar. For other products, the Bon Ami website lists the following as main ingredients: feldspar, limestone, water, baking soda, citric acid, corn alcohol, epsom salts, essential oils, and xanthan gum.
Outside the United States
In Canada, the brand is owned and distributed by S.C. Johnson & Son as a glass cleaner.
In popular culture
In the film comedy The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, whenever people are discussing a particularly gory murder at an old mansion, Bon Ami's cleaning effectiveness is given quite the testimonial. The murder was so gory that blood was found everywhere—even on the organ keys. Despite the efforts to clean the keys, the blood remained to this very day—"and they used Bon Ami!"
In the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel Tender Is the Night, first published in 1934, Fitzgerald notes the routine of the character Dick Diver in cleaning up his workroom at his home outside Cannes: "He swept up, for no servants were allowed in there, treated his washroom sketchily with Bon Ami, repaired a screen and sent off an order to a publishing house in Zurich".
In the first volume of his autobiography, Isaac Asimov recalls a box his family kept in the bathroom when he was a child, and how in his childish naïveté he was impressed that the company was so conscientious that if they ever found that the power had scratched, they would change the slogan to "Only Scratched Once!"
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- Woodward 2003, p. 143.
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- "Lestoil Buys Contol of Bon Ami for Cash". The Wall Street Journal. August 27, 1963. p. 6. ISSN 0099-9660. ProQuest 132807938.
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- "Bon Ami 125th Anniversary Cleaning Cake Kit". Archived from the original on December 8, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
- "Bon Ami® 1886 Original Formula SDS Number: 04030" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on December 23, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
- "The Bon Ami Story". Bon Ami. Archived from the original on June 15, 2020. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
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- Dorman, Evelyn S. (1994). "Bon Ami". In Jorgensen, Janice (ed.). Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands. 2. St. James Press. pp. 66–68. ISBN 9781558623378. OCLC 756196954.
- Woodward, A. (2003). "Faultless Starch/Bon Ami Company". In Grant, Tina (ed.). International Directory of Company Histories. 55. St. James Press. pp. 142–145. ISBN 9781558626966. OCLC 769044999.
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