Happy Accidents #001 - Play-Doh

A crazy story about invention and re-invention!

Welcome to the first ever HAPPY ACCIDENTS newsletter!

This week we're diving into the crazy tale of a product that was around for over 20 years, but used in a completely different manner, before it accidentally found a new identity.

That's right. We're talking about Play-Doh. Here's how this incredible adventure unfolds...

In 1933, a man named Cleo McVicker, along with his brother Noah, took a real leap of faith when they sold the idea of a wallpaper cleaner product to a retail store chain.

Sure they owned a company name Kutol Products, so it seemed like a natural fit.

The problem? They had never designed such a product before!

But they got to work and eventually developed a solution made from flour, water, salt, and boric acid.

The product was a hit and served Kutol Products well for over 15 years.

But after Cleo's eventual death in 1949, his son Joseph took over the company and found that sales had dried up. By 1953, the company was seriously struggling.

By complete fluke, accident, or maybe fortunate luck, Joseph's sister in-law, Kay Zufall, had an idea. Zufall was a nursery school teacher and decided to use the product with her students to allow them to use their imagination to create different play objects.

The kids loved it!

Once Joseph McVicker saw how popular it was with the children (and with some convincing from his sister in-law) he decided to reposition the product.

In 1956, Rainbow Crafts Company Inc. was established and the product was rebranded as 'Play-Doh'.

And the rest as they say is history!

Some fun facts:

  • In 1960, accessories were added to the Play-Doh line. Including the now famous 'Fun Factory'

  • By 1964, Rainbow Crafts was shipping more that 1 million cans of Play-Doh per year!

  • In 1972, Play-Doh was acquired by General Mills under the Kenner brand.

  • In 1991, Play-Doh was then acquired by Hasbo, who continues to own it to this day.

  • To date, more than 3 billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold since it's transition to a child's toy in 1956.

All due to this ‘Happy Accident’!!!

The lessons here:

  • Don't be so attached to your product or idea that you are too stubborn to pivot

  • Just about anything can be rebranded or reinvent itself. Even wallpaper cleaner!

  • Look to new customer segments or audiences to see how they use your products differently

The Happy Accidents newsletter is brought to you by Dennis Geelen

Author of the best selling book, The Accidental Solopreneur