Magnetic Poetry Box
I co-founded the company that helped Magnetic Poetry Kit become the Pet Rock of our generation. You won't see any reference to Found Objects on the Magnetic Poetry Kit web site, but my ex-wife Janet McKean really built the market for the product's launch onto millions of refrigerators.
I learned many lessons on the wild ride that was Magnetic Poetry. The first box Dave Kapell put his xerox copied magnetic words into was a brittle plastic box with those old ball hinges. The hinges were always breaking. The brittle plastic couldn't take a drop, but you could clearly see words inside the box.
Dave hated the first box because we had so many returns, but there was magic in the box too. The magic was that the customer could see the potential of the words right off. There was no wall between seeing the product and creating the mental image of all the cool fridge poetry you could create. Sitting on the counter at Barnes and Noble, took several years to make this sale but that is another long story, the product flew at the door. Currently over three million people have purchased Magnetic Poetry Kit and all of the first sales in those brittle plastic boxes were due to Janet and Found Objects.
One of the first things David did when he got successful was to redesign the box. He went to Charles Andersen, a well known Minneapolis graphic designer, and created a box that besides being hideous almost killed the franchise. You see Charles Andersen's box covered the entire pack. You couldn't see the words. You could read about the words, but you couldn't see the words.
Seeing something is always better than reading about it and David messed with the original box at his peril. That Andersen design must have cost him dearly as it only made it one season before it was replaced with a box that had a peep hole - this is the one they use now.
Over and over I see evidence that what we think we control - our brands and customer experiences - we do not control. Once a product is in the market control passes to our customers should we be lucky enough to have them. Once the customers are in control you change things at your peril. The problem is in knowing what is important. In my first Real Things Matter article I wrote about a restaurant who changed from Coke in bottles to Coke in cans and how that hurt the experience (at least for me). In this case, David and his advisers decide they are in control of their product and get a V-8 smack on the side of the head.
David was in control of those first xeroxed words with the copied label on the top my ex-wife sold to every museum shop in the country. The brittle box may have been a pain in terms of returns, but it was magic when it came to selling millions of kits. Close in the words and you close out the ability for customers to understand the potential, the opportunity for joy and magic included in every box of words. Think of the simplicity of the idea. Put words where they couldn't go before such as the main meeting area in most homes now - the kitchen - and magical things would happen. Brilliant marketing almost by accident. Real things matter.
Do you have a great story of a company that lost its way and found it again? Do you have examples of real things that matter? Share them here.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Magnetic Poetry Box