The year was 1971 and the fresh graduate, Tom Dickson had a tough time looking for a job.
He attended school at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah where he took up a course in engineering and moved back home to California after completing his studies. At the time, there were very few companies open to taking him on and the only job he could find, was at Alza, a company founded by Alejandro Zaffaroni, one of the inventors of the birth control pill.
The company specialized in making birth control and intrauterine devices to help prevent pregnancy, but these products were also toeing the line as abortives. Being a Mormon by faith, it went against his beliefs. The pharmaceutical industry, though lucrative, was just not cut out for Tom.
Having always been interested in bread making as a hobby, Tom was always trying to come up with better ways to store and process grain. He put up a side business called Harvest House Food & Grains, where safer packaging was created to combat weevil infestation which often proliferated when using standard plastic buckets.
At one time he ordered 48,000 pounds of wheat and realized that there were no good low cost grinders with which to make flour. Putting his engineering skills to good use, Tom was able to make a mill with a $10 vacuum motor and realized it produced finer grain with less starch drainage. The new "Magic Mill" did reasonably well and sold 44,000 units in two years. The clientele? people who mill their own grains like wheat, soy, or chickpeas.
Tom eventually went back to Utah where he started BlendTec in 1995. This was where he produced his first home blender.
The product was great, but there was little market awareness. No one knew about it. This prompted Tom to hire George Wright in 2006, another graduate from BYU to help him with marketing. At this time Blendtec's income was so low that George would joke that the marketing budget from his last company was larger than all of Blendtec's revenue.
One day George walked by the lab, and Tom was working on one of the blender designs. The test method Tom typically employed was to basically shove a 2x2 inch timber board into the blenders to test durability and power. Longtime employees were used to all the sawdust and shavings everywhere, but George was new and thought it wasn't normal. He also thought it was awesome.
George pitched an idea to Tom who went, "Who tube?"
Spending only $50, George went out and bought an assortment of everyday items: golf balls, marbles, and a rake. Also included in this purchase was a white lab coat for Tom. He then put Tom and the blender in front of the camera and asked Tom to do the same experiment as he did with the 2x2's. To check if they will blend.
The marbles were not cheap plastic or clay, but were made of tough solid glass, and Tom put fifty of them in the blender before hitting "slow churn." A chaos of marbles bounced around inside the blender making noises like a hailstorm.
After fifteen seconds, Tom stopped the blender and cautiously lifted the top. White smoke drifted from the blender. Glass dust. The blender didn't take damage from the experiment, and like with the two by twos, demonstrated the quality of construction and durability.
The golf balls and rake soon followed, all chewed up and reduced to their respective dust types. George then post the videos up onto YouTube.
The first videos had very little rehearsal and was mostly Tom doing what he normally does, but even so, people were amazed and intrigued by what they saw. The 70's background music had an old school charm. Not to mention the fact that the man in a lab coat was stuffing a rake. A big wooden rake handle, rather forcefully into the blender, in "soup" mode, and guess what? It blends!
iPhone smoke, don't breathe this.
Will it Blend? was an instant hit. What else will blend? People wanted them to test it all out: disk drives, crowbars, BIC lighters. Heck, they even put Chuck Norris and a Ford Fiesta into the mix.
There was a 700% growth in the sale of Blendtec's home products within a span of 2 years and the YouTube series already has a couple hundred million views under its belt. All of this came from a very low average budget for majority the videos, around less than $100 per take, and the humble home blender.
One of the largest factors in marketing is word of mouth and BlendTec was able to accomplish this at a very low cost by seeing the potential in documenting the unconventional testing method that they were already doing in the first place.
Here's the Rake episode:
and the Chuck Norris episode where Tom activates the "Walker Texas Ranger" setting, integrating pop culture into the mix.
Sauer, P. J. (2008, June 19). Confessions of a Viral Video Superstar--viral video--Blendtec. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from https://www.inc.com/articles/2008/06/blendtec.html
Berger, J. (2016). Contagious: Why things catch on. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from https://www.scribd.com/read/224303100/Contagious-Why-Things-Catch-On#
En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Will it blend logo.jpg. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Will_it_blend_logo.jpg [Accessed 15 Jun. 2018].