Some of the world’s most successful products happen to also be the simplest ones. Sometimes finding solutions to some of life’s everyday problems can yield the most innovative and original ideas. Here are 7 products that came about through some unexpected ways.
The Post-it Note is probably one of the most well-known and lucrative office supply inventions to date. They came about when Spencer Silver, a scientist, developed an adhesive that wouldn’t permanently stick. It wasn’t much of a success, to no one’s surprise. It did however, catch the attention of Arthur Fry, who used it to attach his bookmarks to objects so they weren’t lost. Thus the Post-it Note was born.
After a product test in 1980, the Post-it Note was launched and sold millions of units with only a small amount spent on advertising.
Kleenex came about when Kimberly-Clark started experimenting with a variety of different blends and pulps during the development of a creped wadding. Eventually, they were able to make a softer crepe, which led to the creation of the facial tissue, Kleenex. By 2011, Kleenex generated over 6 billion dollars and is sold in over 150 countries.
Sometimes there is a lot of room for improvement on an existing invention. Joseph Friedman was observing his daughter attempting to enjoy a milkshake at a parlor. He noticed she had a hard time with the straw due to its rigid shape. Friedman took a straw home to see what could be done to improve the accessibility of straws. He implanted ridges in the straw using a screw wrapped in floss and inserted it into the top. After he extracted the screw, the straw had the ridges that are well recognized today and was able to bend.
In 1939, he started the Flex-Straw Company and went to a hospital where he tried to sell his product to patients that had a hard time with regular straws. His product rapidly took off and he would end up becoming a multi-millionaire.
The slinky was invented when a naval engineer, Richard James, was working on tension springs. He dropped one and watched how it bounced. He and his wife then developed a spring of their own into a toy and presented it to a department store in Philadelphia. The slinky is now in the Toy Industry Hall of Fame and has sold over 300 million units, becoming a household name.
George Mestral worked in a machine shop of an engineering company. He was annoyed by how often he had to remove cocklebur seeds from his dog, and decided to study them under a microscope to see how they kept attaching to his tormented pet. He found loops and hooks on the burs and started designing the product that we know as Velcro. He launched a small company in 1941, and by 1988, it became an international company earning 93 million dollars.
Walter Morrison was an American inventor who developed the Frisbee. He and his girlfriend would spend time throwing cake pans to each other to pass the time. As he was doing this on the beach, people would ask if they could buy the pans for 20 cents more than their worth, which in 1940 was considerable.
He would develop and then sell his “Plutto Platter” design to Wham-O, who sold it with great success. They later renamed it the “Frisbee”, which was what college students were calling it. The Frisbee can be seen at most parks, and is sold in a wide variety of shapes and colors today.
Snuggie exploded during 2008 and 2009 through its flashy infomercial campaign. Similar products had already existed on the market before Snuggie, but weren’t able to match its accomplishment of over 30 million units and $500 million dollars. The success of Snuggie can be attributed largely due to its marketing strategies.
These products are a prime example that sometimes simplicity trumps complexity. After all, it was Leonardo Da Vinci who said that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.
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