I was scanning the shelves of the baby care aisle when I spotted the familiar name of Desitin® on tubes of diaper ointment.
Next to it, however, I saw a tube with a smiling cartoon Buddha-baby on it. The bright orange letters on the label announced "Boudreaux's Butt Paste." Was this a joke?
No, it was indeed a diaper ointment with a 16% formulation of zinc oxide. It also contains a proprietary blend of Peruvian balsam (mildly antibacterial), boric acid, castor oil, and mineral oil, in a wax and petroleum base.
It turns out this particular combination of ingredients was developed by pediatrician Dr. "Pappy" Talbot in the 1970s, and compounded by Dr. George Boudreaux at his pharmacy in Covington, Louisiana. Boudreaux would mix up batches for local doctors and word spread about this miracle salve to treat severe cases of diaper rash. When an anxious mother asked her pediatrician, Dr. Buddy Terral, for some more of "George Boudreaux's Butt Paste," the product finally had a name.
Although the FDA has approved it for use in treating diaper rash and as a skin protectant, the product is used for other ailments. Based on letters from consumers, the company states it has been used successfully in the treatment of "heat rashes, acne, hemorrhoids, bed sores, abrasions, chicken pox, shingles, razor burn, feminine irritation, jock itch, poison ivy, rectal itching, fever blisters, minor burns, skin irritations, and chapped lips," plus "monkey butt" and sore udders on cows.
In 1994, Boudreaux sold the pharmarcy to concentrate on marketing his product full time. He bought an RV, nicknamed it the Butt Mobile, and went on the road to regional trade shows and local pharmacies. A regional Wal-Mart manager trial testing the product found it outsold Desitin® two to one. Wal-Mart now carrys the ointment in all its stores. Longs Drugs, Target, and Walgreens followed suit.
Boudreaux is a tireless promoter for his product. He doesn't advertise, but has been relying on word of mouth (and the attention he gets from the product name). Jay Leno on The Tonight Show quipped "I don't even want to know what this is used for" during a segment on funny products. But Boudreaux has managed to take the funny-named product onto The Oprah Winfrey Show (for the episode, "Quirky Ways People Have Gotten Rich"), Live with Regis and Kelly, The Today Show, and even ESPN (an LSU fan, Boudreaux has joked that the salve is the secret weapon for both the championship baseball and football teams). Shaquille O'Neal, Peyton Manning, Mike Ditka, Lance Armstrong have reportedly used the product enthusiastically. Major League Baseball teams keep tubs of it on hand.
In the closest move towards actual advertising, the Bourdreaux's Butt Paste brand appears on a NASCAR automobile driven by Kim Crosby, who races in the Busch Series.
Boudreaux's Butt Paste Web Site, <http://www.buttpaste.com> (1 October 2004)
Alan Sayre. "Boudreaux's Butt Paste Sells Itself." ABCNews.com. 22 August 2004. <http://abcnews.go.com/wire/Business/ap20040822_1638.html> (1 October 2004)
Carol Ukens. "Butt of jokes, R.Ph. entrepreneur gets last laugh." Drug Topics. 12 July 2004; 148:34. <http://www.drugtopics.com/drugtopics/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=107956> (1 October 2004)
Webb Williams. "Bottom's Up!" Inside Northside Magazine. April/May 2004. <http://www.insidenorthside.com/April_May04/art14.htm> (1 October 2004)