May 23, 2006


Unlocking the potential for growth at WD-40
Today's Wall Street Journal had a nice piece by Gwendolyn Bounds (reprinted here) on WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge's interesting approach to marketing since taking the job in 1997. It is a tough job to bring significant growth to a company that Mr. Ridge called a "Johnny one-note" outfit. Nobody wanted to see a New and Improved WD-40. Customers liked just as it was; why risk a New Coke problem.

Once every man in America that was ever going to use WD-40 was already doing so, Ridge went for selling the ladies, introducing a WD-40 'pen' applicator. Then he brought out a can featuring a permanently mounted red straw that couldn't get lost. A bigger sprayer was added when farmers, ranchers and others who used WD-40 to prevent rust on large equipment asked for it. Now these users keep two cans of WD-40 in the shop! Not to mention that the stores must stock yet another repackaging of the same product

Mr. Ridge also likes to ballyhoo the myriad of uses people find for WD-40, originally invented to displace water from surfaces. They claim to have 2,000 uses listed on their web site, but you have to join the WD-40 Fan Club before these mysteries are revealed. At least one initiate must have squealed, you can see all 2,000 of them on the 'net. There is no shortage of web sites offering Wacky Uses for WD-40.

The wackiest use I have personally witnessed was a 40 lb. lake trout taken on a gigantic Five of Diamonds that had been deliberately sprayed with WD-40. There had been a great deal of scepticism, even subtle jeering in the boat when RD sprayed his lure. But after seeing the results, every one of us sceptics sprayed our lures thereafter. Does it cover human scent, as some say? Why would fish be put off by human scent, anyhow? Why wouldn't WD-40 put them off the bite, same as they say gasoline does? I believe it to be a fish attractant, rather than a scent mask. Otherwise, skunk piss would work, as it does on traps. The controversy rages.

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