As a professional exterminator about the only thing I ask people to keep on hand is a can of Raid. I don’t know why I say Raid, I’m not getting paid by them and me and Mr. Johnson are not fishing buddies. I guess it’s like we say Kleenex when we need a tissue, there are other brands but somehow the word and the product have been forever etched in our minds as the ipso de facto and no other will do. Regardless of why, Americans reach for Raid insect spray far more than any other product and the visible evidence of belly up bugs is hard to argue against.
The idea of an aerosol spray can be traced back to 1790 and was used for carbonated drinks in France but it wasn’t until 1927 that the first aerosol spray can was invented. From there it took until 1941 before the idea was finally put to good use. Americans Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan, who are credited as the inventors of the modern spray can brought about the ‘father’ of modern sprays and oddly enough it was called a bug bomb. This invention and the contents thereof came just in time to save many combat soldiers lives as they could now effectively deal with disease carrying mosquitos even in the field of battle. Most cans at that time were either refillable using liquified gas or extremely high pressurized and could be dangerous unless smaller amounts of propellant were used. Tweaks in the trigger and cans came about and the gas was perfected until a reliable and effective delivery system was ready for use.
This new way of delivering insecticides spawned an entire industry as the SC Johnson company introduced Raid in 1956. The cans were lightweight, disposable and extremely powerful against bugs. The first active ingredient used in Raid was allethrin which was also the first synthetic pyrethroid. Bugs didn’t stand a chance and homeowners have been reaching for their Raid cans ever since. The slogan “Raid kills bugs dead” was first used in 1966 and you can still here this trademarked tag line in commercials today. Raid has been the leader in spray can sales with Black Flag in second and Combat a distant third. The last confirmable records I could find for just the sales of Raid insect spray alone was for 1997. The then $400 million dollar market was dominated by SC Johnson taking in 44% which is roughly $176 million and the with the growth rate around 10% per year, close to $350 million dollars worth of Raid insecticide is now being sold on an annual basis. My math could be way off and it’s just a guesstimate but SC Johnson has sales of $8.75 billion dollars per year with all of their products so what’s a hundred million here or there.
The love affair with Raid is definitely due in part to the advertising genius but also because the product has delivered what the consumer expects all these years. When a roach pops its head out or a wayward fly enters the room we simply reach under the kitchen sink, can in hand we point and shoot and let God sort out the rest. Dead bugs keep people buying these products and whether they use them safely and correctly is the subject for a whole other post. Whether we actually have Black Flag in our cabinet or some other product doesn’t seem to matter much since it was SC Johnson who got the whole thing started some 53 years ago. This snowball effect and the clever tag lines seem to have affected the bugs as well and if you listen very closely you can hear them scream as you point your spray can at them.