Saturday, January 15, 2011

Marketing Inspiration From a 3M Post-it Note

Marketing Inspiration From a Post-it Note You’re familiar with the 3M Post-It Note right? Have you ever heard how they came to be? When I heard the story I found a lot of inspiration from a 3M Post-It Note.

How I was inspired by a little piece of paper with glue that doesn’t stick that good.

Spencer Silver, a chemist that was working in the 3M lab, was trying to create a new glue; a glue that was exceptionally strong that would fuse two parts together and never come apart.

Well, after mixing simple organic molecules in an odd proportion during an experiment in 1968, he ended up with a glue that did the exact opposite of what he was trying to create. The glue he created didn’t fuse anything together at all. It was definitely tacky, but it would also easily let go.

He created a glue that wouldn’t stick.

But instead of saying “Well, this didn’t work. Let’s scrap it and start over,” Silver looked at the situation and asked himself, “What COULD we use this glue for?”

Silver started holding seminars within 3M sharing his discovery and appealing to the audience for alternative applications for his glue. He knew that many heads were better than just one. One of the people that was in attendance was a fellow scientist named Art Fry. At the time, he couldn’t think of an application for the glue, but that would all change…

An event sparks an idea…

In 1974, six years after Silver first discovered the glue, Fry suddenly had an idea for the glue. While singing one day in his church choir, he fumbled with his hymnal, lost his bookmarks and lost the pages to the songs they were singing. he thought to himself, “If only there was some way that I could glue my bookmarks in place without damaging my hymnal…”

Fry began taking advantage of a 3M policy known as the “bootlegging policy” which encourages technical staff to spend up to 15 percent of their working hours on projects of their own choosing. By 1977 the Post-It note was officially launched. By 1981, Post-It notes were being sold throughout the US, Canada and Europe.

Today, there are more than 600 Post-it Products including flags, labels, pockets, easels, bulletin boards and notes in 8 different sizes, 25 shapes, and 62 colors. Post-It notes are now a multi-million dollar revenue stream for 3M.

Inspiration from a 3M Post-It Note – Two Lessons To Take Away

The first lesson here is that you must have a level of commitment and determination in order to be successful. Spencer Silver, the chemist that invented the glue, basically spent six years promoting his glue that didn’t stick before some other scientist within the company discovered an application for it. They then spent another three years after that developing the product. That’s nine years since he first discovered the glue. Now that’s commitment.

Secondly, there is a certain level of inspiration here in regards to thinking outside the box to come up with different uses or applications for your products or services.

Think about Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Sure, you can use it to bake with. But did you know about all of the other uses of baking soda around your home? Arm & Hammer certainly does, and they take every opportunity to tell you about them. You can use it to clean with, deodorize your fridge or freezer, clean your swimming pool water, extinguish kitchen fires, use it in your laundry, unclog drains, as an antacid, even brush your teeth with it. So why does Arm & Hammer spend so much on advertising all the different uses for their Baking Soda? To increase the consumption of their customers.

If you only used baking soda to cook with, you’d probably be hard pressed to use more than a single box every year, unless you did a LOT of baking. But now that you’re using it to remove stains and odors in your carpets, unclog your drains, and you’ve got open boxes in your fridge, freezer and your laundry room, well now you’re probably consuming 6-10 boxes a year. That a 600-1000% increase in revenue!

Take a look at your products and services and ask yourself what some alternative uses are. If you can even find one other use for your product or service, you could easily increase increase your revenue by 10-20%, maybe even more than that!

Opportunities are all around us, we just need to be more creative and open-minded. Ask your self “What would happen if…?”

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