Post-It Notes – A Brilliant Accident

January 7, 2016 / Print & Direct Mail

Our featured HOT PRODUCT is extremely popular in homes and businesses around the world, and it turns out was invented by accident! Don’t believe me? I have proof…

The year was 1968. Spencer Silver, a researcher at 3M, was attempting to create an extremely strong adhesive (supposedly for airplanes) but instead created the exact opposite – a very weak glue that was easily peeled off without damaging the object it was adhered to. He called the sticky substance ‘microspheres’. His invention was deemed useless (at the time), but Silver never let go of the dream that his creation would one day serve a purpose (he just couldn’t figure out what that purpose might be!).

Six years passed. Silver talked about his invention to anyone who would listen.

In 1974, Art Fry, a coworker who had attended Silver’s lecture on the sticky paper, had an epiphany.

Fry sang in a choir, and would mark passages in his hymnbook with bookmarks, which would eventually fall out. If only there was an adhesive that could stick to the pages to mark them, but with a bond weak enough so that the adhesive could be removed without harming the pages! Fry knew who to turn to for help.

It took another five years to perfect the product. Initially, the glue was coming off the paper and sticking to the object instead. Plus, the head brass at 3M had yet to be convinced that there was a market for these sticky strips of paper. In the late 70s, after a failed roll-out in select cities, 3M distributed the sticky notes (at the time, called “Press n’ Peel“) to secretaries, who came up with hundreds of uses for the “useless” product. Thus, the Post-It Note was born!

In 1980, 3M introduced Post-it® Notes, which created a whole new category in the marketplace and changed people’s communication and organization behavior forever.

Watch CNN’s interview with Silver and Fry, where the duo  tell the tale of how Post-It Notes came to be and how the two were compensated for their efforts.

Still think this is an elaborate ruse? Snopes confirms the story is true!

Today, over 50 billion of 3M’s Post-it Notes are sold every year. They are a desk-top staple, as common as a pen and a stapler. And to think, they were once deemed useless. Now, they are one of the top-selling office supply products in the world. 3M even built a website around its iconic Post-it-Note (check it out for some novel ideas!).

BONUS! Here’s a quick excerpt explaining why the original sticky notes were yellow (although today you can get them in almost every color imaginable).

Dan Zambonini of The Januarist tweeted to 3M in 2010 to find out why Post-It Notes were originally yellow. It turns out there was scrap yellow paper in the lab at 3M, so that’s originally what was used when the product was being perfected. When the yellow paper ran out, Silver and company asked if there was any more laying around; they were told to buy their own yellow paper! And so they did…

Contact us for branded Post-It Notes and all your promotional product needs!