History of Post-it Notes Timeline
Post-it Notes haven't changed much since they first came on the market. Although technology is more advanced than ever, we still rely on these memo sheets for our daily reminders.
Published: May 19th, 2021
Sticky notes are faithful friends, giving us a nudge about groceries we want to buy, tasks we need to do at the office, and homework we can't forget about. With so much use, your mind might be blown to learn that these tiny pieces of yellow paper were invented totally by accident!
If you have time, stick here as we get into the crazy journey of the Post-it Note. It's a tale that involves makeshift bookmarks, chemical labs, and a brilliant marketing strategy known as the “Boise Blitz.”
Dr. Spencer Silver created the adhesive that came to be used on the back of Post-it Notes. His initial invention wasn't taken seriously by the scientific community.
Arthur Fry, a scientist at 3M, took Silver's adhesive and stuck it to the back of paper. His initial reason was to mark passages in his hymn book during Wednesday night choir practices.
3M marketed the sticky notes under the name "Press 'n Peel." The product was successful due to a marketing strategy known as "Boise Blitz," which had employees handing out free samples to a focus group in Boise, Idaho.
After sampling in 11 states across the country, 3M officially released the first Post-it Notes. They were a massive success right away, resulting in over $2 million in sales after only a year on the marketplace.
Post-it Notes started being printed with company logos. 3M's marketing manager at the time, Graydon E. Thompson, believed businesses and non-profits would benefit from advertising on Post-it Notes.
Post-it Flag Highlighters made their debut and have since received high praise from students. It's a two-in-one office product that makes it easier to mark pages and take detailed notes.
Tablets and cell phones have special apps where you can create digital sticky notes. Even in this tech-centered world, classic office supplies like Post-it Notes never go out of style!
The 30th anniversary of Post-it was celebrated in Sweden with limited edition boxes. The box contained 500 sticky note sheets and was decorated in a retro-style that referred to the brand as the "vintage Twitter."
3M enlisted the help of 16 design students to create limited edition Post-it Notes. The ones pictured here were designed by Madalyn Fusco, who at the time was a senior at Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Post-it Extreme Notes are designed to withstand tough conditions. They're built from water-resistant materials, making them good for indoor use in the kitchen and outdoor use at places like construction sites.
Sticky notes, or Post-it Notes, are made at the 3M factory in St. Paul, Minnesota. 3M is one of the biggest companies in the U.S. and is well-known for not just Post-it Notes, but also Scotch tape, Nexcare medical supplies, Ace bandages, and Littmann stethoscopes.
3M is huge in the world of office supplies and medical equipment, but that wasn't always the case. They actually started out with a focus on mining, specifically for a mineral that was used to make sandpaper. It didn't take long for the company to set their sights on new growth opportunities, leading their scientists to experiment with different materials and applications. By 1968, all this innovation led to the accidental creation of the Post-it Note!
You are hard-pressed to avoid using 3M products today. They're a global conglomerate with an estimated net worth of $5 billion and a reoccurring spot on the Fortune 500 list.
Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver are credited for inventing the Post-it Note. Silver created microspheres completely by accident in 1968. Fry then stuck these strong sticky orbs to paper and used it as a bookmark in church. The rest is history!
Fry shared the sticky paper with his co-workers, family, friends, and other members of Wednesday night choir practice at North Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Nobody really understood what all the fuss was about. With some marketing magic from 3M, however, 20 pads of sticky notes were being used per person across the United States by the end of 1974.
Unfortunately, Spencer Silver passed away in May 2021. The best way to honor both his and Arthur Fry's legacy is by writing plenty of memos on your favorite Post-it Notes!
Sticky notes are usually yellow because that's the type of paper that was lying around at the 3M factory when they were first created in 1974.
Dr. Geoff Richardson, an executive at 3M, allowed his employees 15% of their working hours to dedicate to personal projects. Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry used that time to combine the sticky microspheres with the paper they had on hand, which was canary yellow scrap sheets. 3M loved the product and eventually became interested in selling it.
The color may not have been chosen on purpose, but it definitely worked out in the long run. You can see that neon yellow a mile away, which makes for a much more effective reminder than a color that blends into the background.
The Post-it was invented totally by accident. Spencer Silver was working in the lab one day, and without meaning to, created microspheres – sticky orbs that wouldn't dissolve or melt down. At first, 3M didn't have a plan for the microspheres, but after seeing how much people loved Arthur Fry's sticky paper, soon began to have it created at the factory.
3M's sticky paper, the “Press 'n Peel,” was offered in 4 cities around the U.S. in 1978. It received mixed reviews and not a ton of attention. The tables turned, however, when 3M tried a new marketing strategy – the “Boise Blitz.”
This involved changing the name to “Post-it Notes” and offering free samples to focus groups in Boise, Idaho. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the sampling continued in 11 other states. At the end of the campaign, 90% of consumers were interested in 3M's new product.
By the end of the year, Post-it Notes were sold nationally, earning more than $2 million in sales. Today, the Post-it is available in 27 sizes, 57 colors, and 20 fragrances in more than 150 countries. They offer a total of 4,000 products and continue to grow!
3M's marketing manager in the mid-80s, Graydon E. Thompson, explored ways to increase the Post-it Note's exposure. His idea was to start customizing sticky notes with company logos. These could then be used as giveaways or gifts at trade shows and other promotional events.
With new color and size options, it was easy for Thompson to pitch Post-it Notes to promotional products distributors. It was a product with a good track record and people of all ages were using them at home, school, and work. It only made sense for companies to print their logo or advertising message on each sheet for additional brand exposure.
It's now difficult to imagine corporate events, meetings, and trade shows without Post-it Notes. They have become one of the most popular advertising giveaways of all time and helped catapult Post-it to stardom!
The world of organization wouldn't be the same without sticky notes. People use them to write to-do lists, study for school, and keep track of tasks at work. They can even be used to change the world and lift people's spirits!
Here are all the ways sticky notes are used:
Post-it Notes have come to define the culture of a typical office building. If you watch the show “The Office,” there's even an episode where Michael Scott (played by Steve Carrell) pretends to fire his receptionist for sticky note theft. Almost every company is attached to the sticky notes in their supply closets!
One of the highest ranking schools in New York, Staten Island School of Civic Leadership, relies on sticky notes to increase reading comprehension. Giant sticky note charts are used to identity students that need guided instruction on a certain skill or strategy.
Maybe you need to remember to thaw the chicken, or you have a dentist appointment around the corner. The Post-it Note is a hero for those simple things we don't want to forget about in our personal lives.
Colleges, insurance companies, realtors, and more can print their logo or company name on sticky notes. These work great as advertising giveaways or as little gifts for your clients.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a woman wrote funny messages on Post-its and stuck them throughout Walmart. This was a clever, easy way to make people smile during a difficult time.
Follow in Arthur Fry's footsteps and use a Post-it to mark your page while reading. It's way better for the book than dog earring the corner!
If you're feeling down, try writing notes of self-love or inspirational messages on Post-its. You can then stick these to their mirror and remind yourself every day of how awesome you are!
Why buy a fancy labeling machine? You can simply use a Post-it to label your random cords, or the folders that you want to keep organized.
Artists use sticky notes to create beautiful works of art, or as a way to provide commentary on an important topic. The wall pictured here was set up by Matthew “Levee” Chavez, a 28-year-old artist living in New York City. People in the city wrote their feelings about the 2016 election and stuck them to the wall.
Customers at Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia can write their purchase on a Post-it Note and stick it around town. This paper can later be redeemed by a homeless person for a free slice of pizza. More than 70,000 slices have been handed out since the idea was born.
The Post-it Note is a huge success story thanks to a combination of hard work and smart marketing. Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry worked relentlessly on perfecting the adhesive, and 3M did everything they could to market the Post-it. The end result was an office supply that we couldn't imagine living without.
It's even got to the point where we'll refer to any sticky note as a Post-it, even though there are knockoff versions on the market. You really know your brand has catapulted to stardom when it becomes a generic term in our language!
People still use regular old Post-it Notes, but there are also many apps that allow you to create them on your laptop, phone, or tablet. This has made the sticky note more accessible in the digital age.
Take for instance Sticky Notes 8, which was created by Microsoft. You can easily write notes and move them freely across your screen. It's a lot better than making an entire Excel for something simple!
3M has also collaborated with Evernote to design a special app where people can upload photos of their physical Post-it Notes and extract the handwriting to create digital files. Whether you jot down notes on a paper or create a memo on your desktop, you'll always rely on the Post-it to stay on task!
Post-its can boost productivity and even create social change. Whether you need to remember a meeting at work, can't forget that weekend doctor appointment, or want to create the next great work of art, they'll always stick by your side!
Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.
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