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Post-it Notes are one of the world’s favorite office supplies. Here’s a little fact about those sticky notes that might shock you though: They were invented by accident. That’s right. If it wasn’t for a simple mistake made by 3M researcher Spencer Silver, the Post-it Note might not be used in more than 150 countries today.
The story of the Post-it Note starts in 1968. Silver had the job of developing adhesives for 3M, and although his mission was to create a stronger, more reliable adhesive for the aerospace industry, Silver ended up with something that wasn’t that. He created a weak adhesive that could be removed easily without leaving behind a residue. The glue also kept its stickiness when applied with pressure and was reusable.
The ‘Aha Moment’ that Led to the Invention of the Post-it Note
But the story of the Post-it Note doesn’t end there. Initially, 3M couldn’t find a use for Silver’s invention, and it wasn’t until six years later that the adhesive was put to practical use.
In 1974, another 3M researcher and chemist, Art Fry had a problem. He kept losing his place in the hymnal books at church. He dreamt up a bookmark that could stick to the pages, but that could also be easily removed without damaging the paper. That’s when Fry remembered the adhesive invention of his colleague, and he had an “aha moment.” The adhesive would be perfect, he thought, and Fry then started developing the notes using Silver’s adhesive for 3M.
Yet, still, one more accident would help shape the future of the Post-it Note. When Fry and his team began developing the product, they could only find yellow scraps of paper to experiment with. The signature Post-it Note yellow of today can be traced back to this “accident.”
From Sluggish Sales to International Office Supply Item
After developing the product, 3M released the Post-it Note during a 1977 test run in four cities in the U.S. At the time, they were called “Press ‘n Peel” notes, and sales were discouraging. Customers just didn’t know what to do with this new product, and eventually, 3M decided to pull them off shelves.
Yet, in 1979, 3M re-marketed the Press ‘n Peel notes as Post-it Notes. To re-launch the product, 3M gave free samples to offices throughout the Boise, Idaho Metro Area. The plan was known as the Boise Blitz. The result: More than 90 percent of offices that received a free sample re-ordered them.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
3M released Post-it Notes nationally in 1980, and expanded distribution into Canada and Europe the next year. Since then, Post-it Notes have become a nearly universally known office supply item, and today, 3M produces and sells more than 50 billion individual notes per year.
More Surprising Facts About Post-it Notes
Since the launch of the original yellow sticky notes in 1980, Post-it Notes have evolved greatly. They’re no longer available in just one color. They can be purchased in more than 25 shapes and 60+ colors.
Plus, sticky notes are now fully customizable. Pads can be shaped in just about any shape – from a schoolhouse, to a golf ball and everything in between – and they’re commonly printed with fully personalized business messages. That’s why custom Post-it Notes make great promotional gifts and they’re widely used for marketing purposes.
So there you have it. Post-it Notes have only been available since 1980, but in just over three decades, they’ve achieved international stardom. Sticky notes are now used for large-scale art installations, they’re used for business networking games and brainstorming, and they’re still in-demand in offices around the world.
In other words, without Silver’s “accident” discovery and Fry’s persistence to create his “bookmarks,” we probably would still be without the sticky note in the office.
Are you looking for custom post-it notes? Feel free to checkout our products to see if they might fit what you’re looking for!