Bringing a new product to market can be a long, difficult process. If you’re feeling discouraged, try reading these stories of how some of the products we all know and love came to be.
We all love to pop those little pockets of air on those sheets of bubble wrap, and, oh yes, to use those sheets to wrap our valuable items in when shipping them. But bubble wrap is an interesting product because it was not initially designed to do what we use it for now.
It was actually originally designed as a form of wallpaper, essentially as two shower curtains attached together. But once that idea fell flat, one of the inventor’s had a moment of inspiration during a long flight and realized that the pliable, porous material could be used to protect fragile items during transport.
The potential lesson here is that if a product you’re developing doesn’t seem to be working in one area, it might work in another. It’s important to be flexible about the ideal use for what you’re creating.
Athletic Training Bands
These elastic bands that are used both in fitness and for physical therapy seem to have come out of nowhere a few years back, but the idea actually originated with a Navy SEAL named Randy Hetrick. Hetrick took an idea that the SEALS use in training, where the soldiers learn how to sew in order to repair their equipment, and expanded on it, so to speak, by using those skills to create a small set of fitness bands to help him exercise while out on a mission where no gym or exercise equipment was available. In fact, the first “training band” was made of a jiu-jitsu belt and surplus webbing from a parachute.
Hetrick later took this innovation, refined it and used it as the basis to form a company called TRX that still sells some of the most popular lines of training bands in the world.
Warby Parker Eyeglasses
This line of stylish, affordable eyewear didn’t emerge from a situation as dire as Randy Hetrick’s TRX products, but it certainly must have seemed vital to the company’s founders.
Warby Parker was created because its founders were broke college students who needed new eyeglasses and couldn’t afford them. One of the students lost his glasses on a hiking trip and desperately needed a replacement, but the pricing without vision insurance was prohibitive.
So he and his friends did some digging and learned that prices were high largely because there was little competition; one company essentially dominated the market.
So Warby Parker was founded not just to provide a service, but to provide a disruption in the market to bring prices down in general.
This perennially popular children’s toy is another example of a product that started for an entirely different purpose. Play-Doh was originally conceived as a cleaning product for wallpaper during the era when homes were mostly heated by coal, leaving residue on the walls.
But as more and more homes started using different methods for heat, the company adapted to the changing market, taking out the detergent from their cleanser, adding some coloring, and creating a sensation for kids.