InnovationEdge strategy update helps grease WD-40′s wheels

Posted by Cheryl Perkins on March 2, 2012
WD-40 vision for success

WD-40 vision for success (Photo credit: illuminea)

In my recent newspaper column, I shared a great story about how we recently had the privilege of helping WD-40 update its 60-year-old brand to make it more relevant with its end users by creating a pipeline of new offerings.

Specifically, they reached out for help in creating a new strategy that could evolve them successfully into new channels and.

With more than 2000 uses for the unique product that comes in the familiar blue and yellow can, few brands can match the popularity and customer loyalty of WD-40.

Silence a squeaky door hinge? Yes. Clean crayon from walls? Check. Remove scuff marks from floors? Absolutely. Dissolve rust from metal surfaces?

Well unfortunately, not so much.

Focus group and crowd sourcing feedback showed that a good solution to the problem of heavy rust was nowhere to be found, but was desperately desired.

The challenge and opportunity was not only to identify, but also to actually find new solutions that fit the brand and the company‘s capabilities. This is never an easy task.

To tackle this, a strategy process was leveraged that balanced an evaluation of the company with an assessment where consumers, customers, and partners were engaged in uncovering needs and developing solutions.

Most all rust solvents are acid-based, and require a great deal of “elbow grease” to remove the rust. Also the existing products are generally harmful to skin and corrosive to plastics or polymers that might come in contact with the solvents during the removal process.

A safe and effective rust mitigation solution would be a great fit with the already successful perception of the WD-40 brand. The tricky part is making it happen.

Many times in open innovation we seek the company that has the skills, solutions and team offerings that we do not have within our own four walls. The hurdle here was to identify who could offer something differentiated – a high-performing product that was not acid-based.

In this case, the right partners were discovered through open innovation efforts with other like-minded companies and through an individual inventor we discovered through networks at my organization. These partners had not only developed an acid-free rust solvent, but also one that is fast acting and environmentally safe.

Working with an individual inventor posed some different challenges and required adjustments in policies and practices to meet the needs of both parties, but in this case the partnership produced valuable insights and eventually led to a branded new product line that is now in the process of being launched.

These new products include a liquid Rust Remover Soak and a Rust Inhibitor that deliver on WD-40 promise of performance.

This new line holds promise in continuing to build the WD-40 brand value among industrial users and “doer enthusiasts” around the world. Thanks to open innovation efforts and a lot of hard work we can add a few more solutions to that can of WD-40 brand product.

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