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Case Video 1 3Ms Post-It Flag Highlighter: Extending the Concept!
I didnt go out to students and ask, What are your needs, or what are your wants? 3M inventor David Windorski explains to a class of college students. And even if I did ask, they probably wouldnt say, Put flags inside a highlighter. So Windorski turned the classic textbook approach to marketing on its head. That classic approachas you saw earlier in Chapter 1says to start with needs and wants of potential customers and then develop the product. But sometimes new-product development runs in the opposite direction: Start with a new product ideasuch as personal computersand then see if there is a market. This is really what Windorski did, using a lot of marketing research along the way after he developed the concept of the Post-it Flag Highlighter.
EARLY MARKETING RESEARCH
David Windorski initially talked to a team of local college students to try to understand how they study, take notes and prepare for exams. He then spent several years working with clay and wood models, a sawed-in-half highlighter, and finally a computer-generated model using the latest laser technology. During this new-product development process, Windorski and 3M did a lot of marketing research on students. Some was unconventional, while other research was quite traditional. For example, students were asked to dump the contents of their backpacks on the table and to explain what they carried around and then to react to some early highlighter models. Also, several times six or seven students were interviewed together and observed by 3M researchers from behind a one-way mirrorthe focus group technique discussed later in Chapter 8. Other students were interviewed individually. And when early working models of the Post-it Flag Highlighter finally existed, several hundred were produced and given to students to use for a month. Their reactions were captured on a questionnaire.
THE NEW PRODUCT LAUNCH
After the initial marketing research and dozens of technical tests in 3M laboratories, David Windorskis new 3M highlighter product was ready to be manufactured and marketed. Figure 1-4 in the chapter only skims the surface of the many research and development, manufacturing, and marketing issues needed to be overcome to introduce the new 3M product.
Heres a snapshot of the pre-launch issues that were solved before the product could be introduced:
. Technical issues. Can we generate a computer-aided database for injection molded parts? What tolerances do we need? The 3M highlighter is really a technological marvel. For the snap fits and other parts on the highlighter to work, tolerances must be several thousandths of an inchless than the thickness of a paper. . Manufacturing issues. Where should the product be manufactured? 3M chose a company outside the U.S., which necessitated precise translations of critical technical specifications. Windorski spent time in the factory working with engineers and manufacturing specialists there to ensure that 3Ms precise production standards would be achieved. . Product issues. What should the brand name be for the new highlighter product? Marketing research and many meetings gave the answer: The Post-it Flag Highlighter. How many to a package? What color(s)? What should the packaging look like that (1) can display the product well at retail and (2) communicate its points of difference effectively?
Price issues. With many competing highlighters, what should the price be for 3Ms premium highlighter that will provide 3M adequate profit? Should the suggested retail price be the same in college bookstores, mass merchandisers (Wal-Mart, Target), and office supply stores (Office Max, Office Depot)?
.
. Promotion issues. How can 3M tell students the product exists? Might office workers want it and use it? Should there be print ads, TV ads, and point-of-sale explaining displays the product? . Place(distribution) issues. With the limited shelf space in college bookstores and other outlets, how can 3M convince retailers to stock its new product?
THE MARKETING PROGRAM TODAY AND TOMORROW
3M has discovered that its highlighter has turned out to be more popular than it expected. 3M often hears from end users how much they like the product. So what can 3M do for an encore to build on the initial success? This involves taking great care to introduce new product extensions to attract new customers while still retaining its solid foundation of loyal existing customers. Also, 3Ms products have to appeal not only to the ultimate consumers but also to retailers who want new items to display in high-traffic areas. Product and packaging decisions for the Post-it Flag Highlighter reflect this innovative focus. 3M recently introduced a broader array of colors in a two-pack with a new Samba Latin color palette of green and purple with metallic sparkle for a fall back-to-college promotion. This expanded the existing 3M line of yellow, blue, and pink highlighter colors. As to packaging, its critical that it (1) communicate the 2-products-in-1 idea, (2) be attractive, and (3) achieve both goals with the fewest words. David Windorski also invented another product for students based on adhesive technology: restickable 3 inch by 5 inch note cards. Their point of difference: They stick to surfaces for brainstorming sessions or notebooks when you want them to and slide across each other without sticking when you want them to do that. Asked by students how its possible, Windorski just smiles. At 3M, promotion budgets are limited because it relies heavily on its technology for a competitive advantage. This also applies to the Post-it Flag Highlighter. So you probably have never seen a print or TV ad for it. Yet potential student buyers, the products main target market, must be made aware that it exists. So Tanious searches continually for simple, effective promotions to alert students about this product. Great technology is meaningless unless the product is available where potential buyers can purchase it. Unlike college bookstores that exist largely to serve students, mass merchandisers and office supply stores track, measure, and seek to maximize the profit of every square foot of selling space. So 3M must convince these retail chains that selling space devoted to its highlighter line will be more profitable than alternative uses. The challenge for 3M: Finding ways to make the Post-it Flag Highlighter prominent on shelves of college bookstores and retail chains. If the Post-it Flag Highlighter is doing well in the U.S., why not try to sell it around the world? But even here 3M faces critical questions: Which countries will be the best markets? What highlighter colors and packaging works best in each country? How do we physically get the product to these market in a timely and cost-efficient basis?
Questions 1 (a) How did 3Ms David Windorski get ideas from college students to help him in designing the final commercial version of Post-it Flag Highlighter? (b) How were these ideas important to the success of the products? 2 What (a) special advantages and (b) potential problems did 3M have in introducing a new highlighter-withflags product for college students in 2004? 3 Visit your college bookstore before you answer. (a) Where would you display the Post-it Flag Highlighter in a college bookstore, and (b) how can the display increase student awareness of the product? 4 In what ways might 3M try to promote its Post-it Flag Highlighter and make students more aware of the product? 5 What are (a) the special opportunities and (b) potential challenges for 3M in taking its Post-it Flag Highlighter into international markets? (c) On which countries should 3M focus its marketing efforts?

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