Like water off a rocket’s back

Like water off a rocket’s back

space heroes

Even before WWII, The “Space Age” was an established genre in fiction and popular culture. Buck Rogers made his first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929 and the Flash Gordon comic strip was first published on January 7, 1934,

However, after the end of WWII, things really started to take off in the aerospace industry – both metaphorically and literally – as new technology, missiles and rockets were being rapidly developed allowing people to fly further faster.

In 1950 the UK got in on the space hero act with the first appearance of Dan Dare in the Eagle comics, soon to be followed by a daily dramatized version on Radio Luxembourg

Perhaps partly inspired by these three superheroes, but also recognising a potential gap in the market, three friends, Norman B. Larsen, Gordon Dawson and John B. Gregory, launched the Rocket Chemical Company on September 23, 1953.

What the three men saw was that while incredible new machines were being invented they were all made of metal, and metal rusts, so if they could come up with a chemical compound that would keep the newly invented rockets and missiles from rusting it should be a winner.

Chief Chemist, Larsen knew that the secret would be to find a substance that could displace the water, stop it from clinging to any of the many metal surfaces’ rockets had. The aim was to get the water to roll harmlessly away, like water off a duck’s back.

The three men set to work developing new compounds and testing them. None of the first ten showed any promise. The next ten weren’t much better. Still no luck by the time they reached thirty. They kept going but then with formula forty they finally found something which worked beautifully. However they had not only created a successful compound but found their brand name – ‘water displacement, fortieth attempt’ or WD40 for short.

WD 40 original

The first company to use WD-40 commercially was, as the founders’ had hoped it would be, a real ‘rocket’ company. Convair, an aerospace contractor bought it to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile.

atlas

As sales grew so did the uses. Workers at the factory started to take samples home and applied it all around their homes, using it as a protectant, solvent, and all-purpose lubricant.

By 1955, Larsen and the team realized they might have a market for their compound that was much broader than the aerospace and defence industry. It led them to develop an aerosol can version.

In 1960 the company had more than doubled in size, growing to seven people, who sold an average of 45 cases per day from the trunk of their cars to hardware and sporting goods stores in the San Diego area.

A year later the first full truckload order for WD-40 was filled. It was for a special event and required all the employees to came in on a Saturday to produce additional concentrate. It was all for a good cause though the WD40 was used to recondition flood and rain damaged vehicles after Hurricane Carla had struck the U.S. Gulf coast.

WD40 range

Nowadays it’s an iconic brand with that market, and the yellow and blue can is found in 75% of American households.

It’s known as ‘the can with a thousand uses’ and while many are obvious a couple of the lesser known instances include when a bus driver in Asia used WD-40 to remove a python, which had coiled itself around the undercarriage of his bus and when police officers used WD-40 to remove a naked burglar trapped in an air conditioning vent!

A travelling brand?

A travelling brand?

duncan-hines-cake-mix

Two of America’s biggest baking brands are named after people – Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. The former was invented by a marketing department (and whose story I have previously told), but Hines was real person.

However, he didn’t have the credentials you might have expected to be the face of such a famous food brand. He wasn’t a chef or even a keen amateur baker. He was a traveling salesman for a printing company.

There are some question marks about his taste too. In 1946 he was interviewed by Life magazine and as well as saying he liked to drink neat gin or whiskey, he also explained that he enjoyed “Mrs. Hines’s cocktail.”

What’s wrong with that you might ask until you hear the ingredients of that particular cocktail. It’s made from the juice of a watermelon pickle, a whole egg, cream, gin, grenadine, orange-blossom honey, and lime juice!

Yet Hines was for a while America foremost food critic. How did that happen?

Duncan and Florence

The clue was his job. As a travelling salesman Hines did just that – he travelled. He averaged 40,000-60,000 miles a year and when on the road, he ate most of his meals in restaurants and diners. What’s more he and his wife, Florence, loved to travel on weekends and then to they often chose to eat out.

After eating all those restaurant dinners and lunches across the country and across the years, Hines had discovered where the best places to get a meal were and where you should avoid. He and Florence had an idea they start compiling a list of recommendations of their favourite restaurants in various cities and towns around the country.

They sent it to friends as Christmas gifts.

adventures in

His friends loved it so much that in 1935 Hines signed a publishing deal and turned his travels into a book; “Adventures in Good Eating. Book”. He became a best seller. One of the reasons for its success was at that time in the United States, there was no interstate highway system and only a limited number of restaurant chains, except for those in large, populated areas. Therefore, travellers depended on meals at local restaurants and a book of honest recommendations was welcomed.

In 1938 he released a second, companion book; “Lodging for a Night”. This reviewed hotel and motels and suggested where travellers might like to stay.

In the 1940s, Hines the started a newspaper food column, “Adventures in Good Eating at Home”, which appeared in newspapers across the US three times a week (on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday). The column featured restaurant recipes, adapted for home cooks, that he had collected during his nationwide travels.

Hines was now one of the country’s most trusted food critics.

A roadside sign advertising Duncan Hines' Adventures in Good Eating is on display at the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University.
A roadside sign advertising Duncan Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating is on display at the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University.

Moving from recipes to products was therefore a logical next step, and while Hines is most famous as a cake-mix, the first foodstuff bearing his name was actually an ice cream. The Lehigh Valley Cooperative Farmers dairy of Allentown, PA, started churning out Hines-branded ice cream in the summer of 1950. The treat was an instant success and helped convince Hines that licensing his name was a viable business strategy.

In 1952, Duncan Hines made his first move into bakery products introducing Duncan Hines’ bread in partnership with Durkee’s Bakery Company of Homer, New York.

A year later, Hines sold the right to use his name and the title of his book to Roy H. Park, forming Hines-Park Foods, which in turn licensed the name to several food-related businesses.

The cake mix license was sold to Nebraska Consolidated Mills in Omaha, Nebraska, which developed and sold the first Duncan Hines cake mixes. In 1957, Nebraska Consolidated Mills sold their cake mix business to Procter & Gamble who expanded the brand to a national market, adding more related products.

The mixes were a huge success and now almost every American knows his name but few know the back story.

And the moral is that trust can be earned in all sorts of ways and once earned is incredibly valuable for brands

The story of Oswald, Charles, Ub, Hugh, Lillian, Mortimer and Al.

The story of Oswald, Charles, Ub, Hugh, Lillian, Mortimer and Al.

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The soon to be nonagenarian Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney are synonymous. However the tale of the birth of Mickey is full of other interesting characters and some lovely little plot twists.

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Oswald and Charles
The story of the world’s most famous mouse starts with a rabbit – Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Oswald was a cartoon character created by the Disney studio for film producer Charles Mintz, who distributed the resulting films through Universal Studios.

In early 1928, with the series doing good business, our hero Walt Disney goes to our soon-be-exposed-as-a-‘villain’ Charles Mintz and asks for an increase in the budget.

Much to his surprise and anger Walt’s request isn’t met with enthusiasm. In fact he is asked by Mintz to take a 20 percent budget cut! Mintz points out that not only do Universal own the rights to the Oswald character but that Mintz had already signed most of Disney’s current employees to new contracts.

Walt refuses a new deal and only returns to work to produce the final Oswald cartoons he contractually owes Mintz.

The fight back beings
Disney dusts himself down and decides to start again. He sets up the new Disney Studio, where he is joined by a few of those who have remained loyal to him. They included animator Ub Iwerks, an apprentice artist, Les Clark and Wilfred Jackson an animator who would go onto become an arranger, composer and director.

One thing Disney makes sure of, having learnt from his recent experiences, is that he should own all rights to the characters produced by his company.

Ub-iwerks

Ub and Hugh
So Disney asks Ub to start work on developing new characters and Ub tries sketches of various animals including dogs and cats, but Walt rejects them. Ub then draws and likes a female cow and a male horse but these too are rejected, though they would later turn up as Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar.

A male frog is also rejected. It would later show up in Ub Iwerks’ own ‘Flip the Frog’ series.

In the end the inspiration comes from Walt’s past and from a tame mouse which would visit him at his desk at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City.

It was there in 1925, that Hugh Harman another animator drew some sketches of mice around a photograph of Walt Disney. Ub comes across those drawings and is inspired to develop a new mouse character, which Walt loved.

Mortimer and Lillian
Walt named the new character “Mortimer Mouse” and while his wife, Lillian, loves the character she hates the name. She convinces Walt to change it. The new name was “Mickey Mouse”.Planecrazy01

Al

The first film featuring Mickey is ‘Plane Crazy’. It isn’t the immediate success everyone hopes for. It is made as a silent film and given a test screening on May 15, 1928, but doesn’t impress the audience and fails to pick up a distributor.

In the meantime Walt goes to see The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson. He comes out inspired and commits himself and his team to producing the first fully synchronized sound cartoon. This film is ‘Steamboat Willie’ which features not only Mickey but Minnie Mouse too. It proves to be an enormous success becoming the most popular cartoon of its day.

Walt
Walt is involved in all aspects of the film development, co-directing it but in one regard it is all him. Mickey is voiced by Walt himself, a task in which Disney takes great personal pride.

It’s a role he will continue to play until 1946, by which time he was becoming too busy with running the studio. However, he will still do occasional stints and performances.

mortimer

The return of Mortimer
Mortimer makes a comeback as our second ‘villain’. In 1936, in ‘Mickey’s Rival’ the world is finally introduced to a character called Mortimer Mouse.

Where Mickey is short, rounded, sincere and a little clumsy, Mortimer is tall, has whiskers and a much more pronounced snout, complete with two prominent front teeth. An appearance that for some makes him look more like the ‘rat’ he is shown to be.

In the film Mortimer gate-crashes a picnic Mickey and Minnie are having and starts sweet-talking Minnie, who initially enjoys all the attention. Mickey is naturally jealous. Things change however when Mortimer’s antics annoy a bull, and Minnie’s life is put in danger. Mortimer flees, leaving our hero Mickey (and his car) to save the day and his beloved Minnie.

Happy birthday
Since then Mickey has gone on from strength to strength and continues to be a huge success. In 1978, he becomes the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and on November 18th 2019 he will reach the grand old age of 90.

He has a place in many people’s hearts but none more so than Walt himself who said “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

Footnote: Hugh Harman and Rudolf Carl “Rudy” Ising would go onto found the Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation studio,

Sharing Knowledge

Sharing Knowledge

Giles book

Sharing knowledge can a great gift and a great pleasure, there is the wonder of learning something new and the joy of passing on what you have experienced and learnt.

Sharing knowledge is the mission of LID Publishing, who have been kind, some would say foolish enough to publish a couple of my books (including The Prisoner and The Penguin) and together we’re in the middle of producing of a third.

LID Publishing are commemorating 25 years in publishing since their ‘beginning in Spain’ in 1993 and to celebrate the milestone they have published a book entitled “250 Insights”.

It is a compilation of insights drawn from the work they have done together with authors, thought leaders, and experts in their field. I’m delighted and honoured to have been included – you’ll find me as Insight no.5. Congratulations and thanks to them

 

@LidPublishing #250Insights #SharingKnowledge #books #personalgrowth

 

 

Who ate all the pies

Who ate all the pies

FB pie

Sometimes you are told a story but there is no way you can check it.

The story I’m going to tell you is one of those but it has the ring of truth. It instinctively makes sense, so I hope you’ll forgive if it’s not completely true.

It a story about Fray Bentos pies, one of the those brands from yesteryear which you think might have died out long ago but is in fact still going strong

However before the story, one fact which you can check out is the brand isn’t named after a cattle town in Argentina. Fray Bentos is in fact a port in Uruguay, where the products were originally processed and packaged.

Fray Uraguay

Anyway, back to the story.

“Barry”, let’s call him Barry because I think that was the name of the brand manager who told me the story, was worried. The cost of steak had gone up again and he was concerned that if he put the price of his steak and kidney pies up then sales would fall.

So before he went to his director he thought he ought to see if there were any other options. He undertook a full review of all the ingredients and all the manufacturing costs. It was then he noticed that the cost of the kidneys was much less than the cost of steak.

S&K

Working with the brand’s development chef and the factory he produced a new pie which increased the ration of kidney to steak but would mean he could keep the price the same.

Nervously Barry and the team sent out the new Fray Bentos pies to the supermarkets.

At first nothing much happened and Barry was relieved but then something strange happened, sales went up. Thinking it was blip Barry didn’t take much notice, then sales went up again, not much but definitely more than they had been and what’s more they stayed up.

Barry was surprised, pleased and above all curious so decided to do a little research.

What he discovered was in hindsight self-evident. People who bought steak and kidney pies, did so because they like kidney, if they didn’t they could buy other steak, steak and onion, chicken pies.

Barry and Fray Bentos had given them more of what they liked so it was no wonder when they discovered it they were pleased and bought more.

Convenient fictions

Convenient fictions

Netflix hastings

Netflix tells stories, but not just the ones it streams.

How it began is a story it likes to tell, only it seems like there isn’t just one version. It’s a story, or rather stories that change depending on who is telling them and when.

The two co-founders, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, have told different stories over the years. Marc Randolph called Hastings’ first version a “convenient fiction”, which may have encouraged Hastings to “conveniently” change it in more recent interviews.

So as Maria in the Sound of Music might sing… “Let start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”

Originally, CEO Reed Hastings said that idea came to him as the result of a fine. Blockbuster charged him a $40 late fee when he was slow to return “Apollo 13”. This, he said, made him think that there must be a better way of renting DVDs.

Co-founder Marc Randolph, who left the company in 2002, not only said that this version was a “convenient fiction”, he went on to tell a different tale that was more collaborative. He said that the company was started in 1997 when he and Hastings decided they wanted to create “the Amazon.com of something”. He said they chose DVDs because customers were willing to buy them online and they were strong enough and small enough to mail.

netflix mail

However the initial test actually involved a CD, as DVDs were more difficult to obtain at the time as they were still a relatively new technology, In Randolph’s account, they mailed their test CD to an address only a few blocks away and when it arrived safe and sound, they decided to start Netflix.

However it seems that Hastings does subscribe to this and his new story claims that the origin of the brand started with a maths problem. The question was about how much digital capacity could be carried on one station wagon and how quickly it could get to its destination. To solve the problem, a person would have to figure out how many tapes/CDs/DVDs could fit inside the vehicle, how much data they could hold and how quickly the car could get to a given destination.

Hastings said that in trying to solve the problem he got to thinking about how much data a DVD could hold and how quickly you could disseminate that information through the mail before wondering if the internet would make it possible to deliver things even faster.

This may or may not explain why the brand started as a mail service, though it is true that Hastings had always been vocal about his belief in streaming video. As early as 2005, Hastings said the company was preparing itself for an internet-based future.

“Movies over the internet are coming, and at some point it will become big business,” he told Inc. at the time. “We started investing 1 percent to 2 percent of revenue every year in downloading, and I think it’s tremendously exciting because it will fundamentally lower our mailing costs. We want to be ready when video-on-demand happens. That’s why the company is called Netflix, not DVD-by-Mail.”

He went on to say that he thought Netflix would have a decade left of dominating DVDs, but the world was clearly changing faster than he thought and the brand introduced streaming content in 2007, just two years later.

And in a final version Hastings seems to claim that there was no real story about the origin of the brand when he said: “Netflix was originally a single rental service, but the subscription model was one of a few ideas we had — so there was no Aha! Moment.”

The question that this begs is why have one story, when you could have four?

 

Finally for any regular readers apologies for lack of recent posts – I’ve been busy completing the manuscript on a new book of brand stories – Inspiring Innovation – which will be published By LID Publishing next year.

Innovation; it’s child’s play

Innovation; it’s child’s play

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Lego has a history of involving its customers and its fans in its innovation. It famously recruited a group of adult superfans when it wanted to develop its Brainstorm 2 product.

So when it recruited a group of children to help it develop a new Technic product, it might not have seemed that this was anything particularly new, but Lego weren’t the only people interested.

The children were shown early drawings and models of a possible futuristic autonomous construction machine and asked for feedback and to come up with any ideas they had which might improve it.

Amongst some other smaller improvements, the group came up with two big new ideas; a mapping drone and something which they called “the Eye”.

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The drone would hover above the vehicle and allow it to have a wider view of its surroundings so it can be ‘aware’ of things that might be out of its normal line of sight.

 

 

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The ‘Eye’ was an adjustable camera boom mounted on the top of the vehicle which would will show exactly where the vehicle’s “attention” was being directed. This means it can make “eye contact” with people in and around the building site and acknowledge their presence.

What made this so different is the fact that with most autonomous machines, people can’t see all the sensors that it uses to steer itself and navigate around both stationary and moving objects. The Eye solved this problem, making the ‘interaction’ between humans and machine as safe and intuitive as possible.

volvo-concept-wheel-loader-zeux-lego-original-imaf68rwd5m2zgqj

Both ideas are being incorporated in the new Lego technic Zeux Concept Wheel Loader product that will be launched in August.

The twist however was that Lego were not the only ones interested in the results, the project was in fact a joint venture between Lego and Volvo.

As Arvid Rinaldo, Brand Communication and Partners Director at Volvo said: “They thought they gave feedback on a Lego model, but at the same time they actually gave feedback on a real construction machine…the Zeux paves the way for our future construction machines.”

It is a wonderful example of harnessing different thinking and working in partnership with other brands and your customers – present and future.

La fleur au flacon – or Why Chanel No.5 is worth its weight in roses

La fleur au flacon – or Why Chanel No.5 is worth its weight in roses

most-fragrant-english-roses-english-roses

Recently a number of U.K. food manufacturers have started to talk about “From farm to fork” the process they go through from harvesting their crops to you cooking and eating it. It’s their way of talking about the authenticity and quality of their products.

The French phrase ‘la fleur au flacon’ – the flower into the bottle – predates this and relates not to food but to perfume, and to the legendary Chanel No.5 in particular.

However the extraordinary attention to the detail involved in the production of Chanel No.5 helps explain both its uniqueness and perhaps its price too.

It’s a process, perhaps better called a recipe that starts in Joseph Mul’s fields near Pégomas. The fields have been in the Mul family since the early nineteen-hundreds and are where the Rosa centifolia or “hundred petal” roses grow. Their frilly, dishevelled heads often bow under their weight of all those petals but they produce a clear, sweet, honeyed scent. A scent that is as distinctive as the aroma from a French wine from a particular region is to a Master of Wine.

When the roses are in full bloom, often in late May, the entire fifty acres must be harvested in two weeks. Seventy pickers and four videurs have to cull over thirty tons of flowers. Each and every head picked in a particular way – “One finger over, one finger under, then twist! You can hear the snap” explains Mul.

Once harvested, the oils from the roses must be extracted quickly as once picked they start to ferment. Even after two or three minutes, the smell starts to subtly change.

Three to five hundred rose heads make a kilo and the videurs fill sacks of ten kilos apiece. These are then immediately loaded them onto a flatbed truck. Within an hour, the roses are delivered to an on-site factory.

The sacks of roses are transferred into a giant metal vat and workers use pitchforks to even out the piles before two thousand litres of hexane, a colourless liquid solvent is added and heated it to exactly sixty-eight degrees Celsius. The vat is reopened and the petal have changed from pink to brown.

From here the remaining liquid imbued with the essence of all those roses are turned into a waxy solid known perhaps surprisingly as concrete before being distilled in an absolute, a highly concentrated oil that goes directly into the perfume

And this is just the roses.

Each thirty-millilitre bottle of Chanel No. 5 contains the scent from a thousand Pégomas jasmine flowers, twelve Pégomas roses and a number of other carefully selected and prepared ingredients too.

Olivier Polge, Chanel’s head perfumer, or “nose,” has said with an unplanned reference to ‘from farm to fork’ “A living material gives you an identity that no synthetic can give. People think of perfume as something elusive, but I really like this feet-in-the-mud side to it.”

From beads to boards to becoming a billionaire

From beads to boards to becoming a billionaire

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Nick Woodman was failure, or at least his first two entrepreneurial attempts were.

His first attempt was an e-commerce brand –  EmpowerAll.com – which aimed to sell electronics products for a mere 2% mark-up. Unfortunately it tanked, and fast.

His second start-up, for which he managed to raise $3.9 million was Funbug, “a gaming and marketing platform that gave users the chance to win cash prizes.” Like so many tech start-ups of the early 2000s, it didn’t gain traction and burnt through its money fast.

Nick needed a break, to lick his wounds and, like any good Californian, to go surfing.

The problem Nick encountered was close to heart and his love of surfing. It was how to capture the thrill and excitement of riding a ‘barrel’ – the cylinder inside a wave. Surfing is usually filmed from afar, often from the shore or maybe a boat or jet-ski. Nick wanted to have images from the inside out not outside in.

His solution was to attach a camera to his wrist and his first prototype was made out of a broken surfboard leash and rubber bands and allowed him to dangle a Kodak disposable camera to his wrist for easy operation when the perfect wave hit.

Woodman

Brad Schmidt, a friend who would later become GoPro’s creative director, met Nick in Indonesia and made some suggested improvements including the need for a more durable camera, one that take the wear and tear of the sea.

Returning to California Woodman felt he was really onto something this time.

He borrowed $200,000 from his father, $35,000 and a sewing machine from his mother, which he would use to sew the different camera straps he tried while experimenting with early designs. He and his future wife, Jill generated an additional $10,000 by selling shell necklaces they bought in Bali.

Finally he had something he was happy with and he took his first product to market, a combination of a 35mm film camera developed by Hotax, Woodman’s custom wrist strap and camera housing and the new GoPro name and logo.

This time round Nick and his new brand were to prove a success.

It was to prove the right thing to do in more ways than he expected. While recharging his batteries he would identify a problem and in solving it would create the basis for a multi-million dollar brand.

In 2004, Woodman made his first big sale when a Japanese company ordered 100 cameras at a sports show.

Gopro QVC

In 2005, Woodman appeared on QVC to sell his GoPro Hero.

Sales soared and by 2012, GoPro was selling over 2 million cameras a year. Along the way, the products have evolved and now include compact digital cameras that supports WiFi, can be remotely controlled, have better waterproof housing and record to a micro SD card.

In December 2012, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn purchased 8.88% of the company for $200 million which set the market value of the company at $2.25 billion making Woodman, who owned the majority of the stock, a billionaire.[

On June 26, 2014, GoPro went public – closing the day at $31.34 a share.

In 2014, Woodman was the highest paid US chief executive, paying himself $235 million while GoPro earned profits of $128 million – not bad for a ‘failure’.

From Biomimicry to Metonymy via Portmanteau – a vocabulary lesson that doubles as story of innovation

From Biomimicry to Metonymy via Portmanteau – a vocabulary lesson that doubles as story of innovation

burrs and velcro

Georges de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, used to take his dog with him when he went out hunting in Alps. After these days out he would often have to spend some time pulling off the burrs that clung to his trousers and his dogs’ fur.

He was curious to understand how and why this happened, so he took one of the burdock burrs and out it under a microscope. He could now see the hundreds of tiny “hooks” that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing, animal fur, or hair and he started to wonder if he could somehow turn this natural phenomena into something useful.

Luckily de Mestral was patient man because he took him nearly eight years of trying before he could successfully reproduced a form of natural attachment system. He used two strips of fabric, one with thousands of tiny hooks and another with thousands of tiny loops. It was to become one of the most famous examples of what is called biomimicry – an invention inspired by nature

Over the long period of experimentation he had plenty of time to think about how it could be used and identified its potential to fasten things together, to do things up but which could then be un-done. It was an idea that would be described as ‘The zipper-less zipper.’ He also decided on a name for his new product, like the product itself he chose something that had two separate elements which when combined created something new. He chose a portmanteau word, comprising the words “velvet” and “crochet” and created Velcro.

velcro

He formally patented it his invention in 1955.

The first Velcro was made out of cotton but de Mestral soon discovered that nylon worked better because it didn’t wear with use.

Sales of Velcro took off, or rather blasted off when in the early 1960s the Apollo astronauts started using it to secure pens, food packets and equipment they didn’t want floating away.
The resulting PR encouraged all sorts of other applications – Hospitals used it on the straps of blood pressure gauges and on patient gowns. It was used in trains, planes and automobiles as fasteners for floor mats, slipcovers, seat cushions. In 1968, Puma became the first major shoe company to offer a sneaker with Velcro fasteners.

puma velcro

In 1984, David Letterman interviewed Velcro USA’s director of industrial sales while wearing a Velcro suit. When the interview was over, he launched himself via trampoline onto a Velcro wall. Another new use for Velcro was created – outfits for “human fly” contests.

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By the late 1980s, Velcro original patent had expired and companies in Europe, Mexico and Asia started making their own versions of the product and while there is only one brand that is legally allowed to call itself Velcro, many of the others are often referred to as Velcro.

velcro logo

Velcro had joined that select band of metonymy brands where their name is, in common parlance, used to refer to an entire category of product. Others include Ziploc, Sellotape and Guinness.

So now you know how Velcro began and may have had your vocabulary increased too!