2000 Uses; One Great Marketer

July 31, 2009 at 7:31 am Leave a comment

wd40On July 3, John S. Barry, one of America’s great marketers, passed away at 84. Today, terms like brand equity and brand community are bandied about as companies spend untold sums on flashy products and flashier marketing campaigns. Before the buzzwords or the Internet, Mr. Barry accomplished these branding ideals with a product that made no pretense of being cool, just useful: WD-40.

The New York Times chronicles Mr. Barry’s achievements in turning a lubricant/protectant originally designed for the military into a true household name. His legacy reads like a marketing textbook:

  • Changed the name of the parent company to the name of the flagship product–the brand belongs on the building as well as the can
  • Shipped 10,000 samples per month to Vietnam to help troops keep their weapons operational–a laudable donation tied to a major issue of the day
  • Sold WD-40 in supermarkets–a change in “place” strategy to accommodate buyer behavior
  • Refused Sears’ request to supply a version of the product under their name–shades of Apple in the 1980s vetoing Mac clones, preserving its brand
  • Pushed into overseas markets–going global before the term was popular
  • Encouraged consumers to send in their unique uses for the product–fostering brand community and promoting new applications to update a mature product. Today, WD-40 has an online fan club as its official social media platform
  • Neutralized a primary competitor–in 1995, WD-40 bought 3-in-One Oil and maintained it as a separate brand

Forbes cites Mr. Barry’s contention that WD-40 is a marketing company, not a manufacturing company. Frankly, every company is a marketing company and every CEO is marketer-in-chief. John S. Barry understood that.


Entry filed under: Branding, Creativity, Leadership, Marketing, Social Media. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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