Yet as universal as these products have become, their beginnings were far from certain. Looking back, the birth of our Canary Yellow™ phenomenon reminded us of a valuable lesson: persistance can be just as important as inspiration when it comes to bringing an idea to life.
Dr. Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist, was busily researching adhesives in the laboratory. In the process, he discovered something peculiar: an adhesive that stuck lightly to surfaces but didn’t bond tightly to them.
"It was part of my job as a researcher to develop new adhesives, and
What Silver discovered was something called microspheres which retain their stickiness but with a "removability characteristic," allowing attached surfaces to peel apart easily.
For years, Silver struggled to find a use for his invention. But that didn’t keep him from touting the merits of his creation to colleagues.
"I came to be known as Mr. Persistent because I wouldn't give up.”
Meanwhile, Art Fry, another 3M scientist, was frustrated. Every Wednesday night while practicing with his church choir, he would use little scraps of paper to mark the hymns they were going to sing in the upcoming service. By Sunday, he’d find that they’d all fallen out of the hymnal.
He needed a bookmark that would stick to the paper without damaging the pages.
Thinking back to a seminar he’d attended on Silver’s microspheres, he had what he now refers to as his eureka moment. “The one where you get the adrenaline rush." 1
Partnering with Silver, they began developing a product. Once they found themselves writing messages on their new notes to communicate around the office, they realised the full potential of the idea.
Fry decided to make 3M corporate headquarters his proving ground.
3M initially launched the product in four cities under the name Press 'n Peel with mixed results.
Marketers decided to put the product directly into consumers’ hands. The massive sampling effort — known as the Boise Blitz because of its launch in Boise, Idaho — was a runaway success. Ninety percent of those who tried the product said they’d buy it.
The notes spread "like a virus," said Fry. "It was always a self-advertising product because customers would put the notes on documents they sent to others, arousing the recipient's curiosity. They would look at it, peel it off and play with it, and then go out and buy a pad for themselves."
Silver said, that like many ground-breaking innovations, theirs was a product nobody thought they needed until they did.
On April 6, Silver and Fry’s unsung hero debuted in US stores as Post-it® Notes.
Lee Iacocca and other Fortune 500 CEOs wrote to say how much they loved them. Post-it® Notes are introduced in Canada and Europe.
Fry was honored with the company's top technical title, corporate researcher. "My biggest reward," he said, "is to see so many people use and appreciate my product." Post-it® Index were introduced as a new way to organise with colour coding, filing and indexing.
Post-it® Meeting Charts were introduced. Brainstorming has not been the same since.
After 28 years with the company, Spencer Silver, co-founder of Post-it® Notes, retired from 3M with more than 22 US patents to his name.
Both Silver and Fry finished their careers at 3M having won the highest honors for research as well as numerous awards within international engineering.
The main characters in the film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion claim to have invented Post-it® Notes in the time since their graduation.
Post-it® Notes are sold in more than 100 countries. The now famous Post-it® adhesive continues to be used on many 3M products.
Post-it® Super Sticky Notes were introduced with a stronger adhesive that adheres better to vertical and non-smooth surfaces.
In an episode of Sex in the City, Carrie’s boyfriend broke up with her via Post-it® Note.
Post-it® Notes celebrates its 25th anniversary.
In the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd wrote their wedding vows on Post-it® Notes.
Post-it® Notes are now available in more than 150 countries. Collectively, there are more than 4,000 Post-it® Products.
Having seen Post-it® Notes featured in films, mosaic pop art and the daily lives of millions, Silver is blown away. “The fact that they’ve just exploded as a product is more than I could ever hope for."
3M, Post-it and the colour Canary Yellow are trademarks of 3M. © 3M 2016