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It's A Stick-Up....And More!

Updated on November 23, 2011
An idea, a piece of paper, a special 3M(TM) adhesive, and sales, sales, sales....
An idea, a piece of paper, a special 3M(TM) adhesive, and sales, sales, sales.... | Source

Hindsight is always 20/20.....

Arthur L. Fry knew what he needed. He needed a piece of paper for a place marker that wouldn't fall out of his hymnal on Sundays and during choir practice sessions.

He decided it had to be able to be moved around without damaging the hymnals, and move with just enough difficulty that he wouldn't have to keep bending over all the time to pick it up.

Art had the good fortune to work for the 3M(TM) Company, and the even better fortune that 3M(TM) was allowing him to spend 15% of his time working on any pet project that he felt was worth working on.

So it was that in 1974 Art started working on his pet project, and the pet project was to make (and here I exaggerate) a few handfuls of profit from that gift of "pet project time" given to Art to experiment.

In hindsight Art's admittedly great idea was to have a piece of paper with its own adhesive that would not stick fast to even really thin sheets of paper. That called for (1) something Art had to invent, and (2) something that could convince 3M(TM) could be a prodct with a sales future. (In 1983 alone it was to result in sales of $45,000,000!)

His first of many 1974 experiments using a low-tack glue left a potential stain and a residue that required pulling the hymnal pages apart each time. Almost as daunting, his pet project, even if successful, had no clearly defined market.

IRS had already asked 3M(TM) for a peel-off label whose use would identify individual tax returns and Art was able to squeeze his idea into that niche for funding, but in 1975 Art knew he was approaching a deadline to defend his part of the project.

Art had begun handing out samples of his first efforts as "bootleg samples" to other engineers and company secretaries, and the requests for resupplies started pouring in. As part of his own "marketing strategy" Art had the calls redirected to 3M(TM)'s Marketing Department, but he knew from selling pots and pans as a college student that for every "yes" sale, there were usually a whole lot of "no" refusals.

Then there were also the myriad questions to be answered, such as the right adhesion level, the right manufacturing process, and how to define a market for the product. Many times he could only reply "I'll research it and get back to you with the details." Help came for finding those answers from others who were also catching his vision of the project.

To accelerate the project, Art even created his own sales brochure and got it into the hands of as many of the key decision makers (and their secretaries) as he could. The result was that some initial support began to grow. But, the needed test marketing discussions were repetedly put off, until finally one day in such a meeting he made the statement that 3M(TM) was "losing a million dollars a month in sales" as a result of the delays. His remark was scoffed at amidst an uproar of laughter.

Art and a supportive friend left the meeting and each wrote down their own estimate of what they thought a realistic level of "Post-it (R)" sales could be. Their estimates were sealed in an envelope.

That envelope would finally be opened at a celebratory banquet awards ceremony. Art's friend's estimate was closer, at "a million pads," than Art's estimate of "two million pads," but by then success had blest their efforts.

Those efforts, however, almost fell flat! Initial marketing in four major cities hadn't shown the demand Art had anticipated, but in the few cases in which office supply stores in those cities had handed out free samples of "Post-it (R) Notes" the samples users wanted more!

What the 3M(TM) marketers had initially left out of the equation was that to believe in the "Post-it (R) Notes" potential customers had to actually see them and use them, just as those office supply stores customers had.

To test that approach in "one last effort," 3M(TM) did a marketing blitz in Boise, Idaho. In Boise, every effort was made to get the "Post-it(R) Notes" into the hands of just as many potential users as possible. They became the "one final test."

Victory! 90% of users stated their intent to buy more as soon as their supply was used up! Art's hymnal marker had finally made the big time. And it hasn't stopped. What those little pads of paper accomplished was not confined to just their own sales. Those sales spread recognition of the 3M(TM) brand worldwide and increased the sales of many other 3M(TM) products. The banquet celebration wiped away Art's memory of being scoffed at.

A contest 3M sponsored in the 1980s produced an almost endless stream of unique ideas for uses of the "Post-it(R) Notes."

Here are some ways you might not have thought of:

~~~place one or more on the cover of your most-used phone book to write down a number you just looked up and might want to have handy again there or some place else;

~~~placed on the "photo section" of your wallet, it can take note of shopping items, gas mileage at fill up, and the day's priorities;

~~~ in copies of a speech the notes can help reorganize items at the last moment, or note areas deserving of special emphasis during presentation;

~~~as they are easily moved around, they can be switched around as priorities shift; and,

~~~you can always use them as a bookmark....and in your own hymnal at choir practice!

I can remember cutting the original size notepapers into smaller slices and numbering them to mark places I wanted to access, and then use them in the sequence I wanted. Since then, 3M(TM) has introduced items based on the original concept, but tailored to specific applications, such as their larger note pads for what you can't fit on the smaller size pad.

If you think you have a personal use others might benefit from, just add it in the "Comments" section below and check back from time to time for the ideas others add. They might be "money savers" for you. Art Fry's "Post-it(R) Notes" certainly proved to be "money makers" for 3M(TM), and still are.


Do you have a unique use for these peelable notes you will be commenting on?

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    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      This is a great history of post-it notes. I use them all the time, for regular uses. I used to cut them up too, but now they come in all sorts of wonderful sizes and colors and even shapes.