Sticky Idea

Sometimes the innovation is right in front of you.  Staring you in the face.  So simple.

That’s the case for Nexcare first aid tape from 3M.  What’s so special?  Well, do you recognize the dispenser?  You should, because it’s the same one that 3M has been using for its Scotch Tape since I was in kindergarten.   And even at that young age, it was clear to me that Scotch Tape dispensers were one of the most useful inventions ever.  (If you’re not in complete agreement, try using a roll without a dispenser.)

Now think about first aid tape, like the kind you may have purchased from J&J for years.  It comes in something vaguely resembling a two-piece miniature metal tire.  Not very convenient.   3M had a better idea, if not a new one.   Put the tape in the classic dispenser we all know and love.  And voila—a successful innovation.

To be fair, this wasn’t the first time someone had thought of this.  But the product guardians historically had concerns about keeping the tape sanitary.  Personally, I don’t see a little air exposure as a big issue, since the tape typically goes over sterile dressing of some sort.  And if I was germaphobic, I’d simply discard the first inch of the tape before each use.  That’s a small price to pay for convenience.

Why we love this innovation

  1. It’s so simple: Make first aid tape easy to use.
  2. It’s a combination of two known products.  There are plenty of big successes that did the same thing—such as coffee in fast food outlets (ala Starbucks), or speakers in sports helmets (Skullcandy).
  3. It’s nice to see 3M still innovating after all these years!

About Bill Aho

Bill Aho is a partner with The SagePoint Group, hands-on consultants that develop innovative products, services and marketing concepts. Bill has worked in marketing, strategic planning, general management and innovation in Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Darden Restaurants and ClearPlay. He has appeared and been quoted in multiple TV, magazines and newspapers, including Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, MSNBC, BBC, PBS and others.
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