Today: How Earle Dickson invented the Band-Aid.
An employee of Johnson & Johnson, Earle devised the Band-Aid to solve an everyday problem at home. He and his bride Josephine Knight were married in 1917.
In 1917, a homemaker was confronted with many tasks we in the industrialized world think little about today. For example, most meals weren’t prepackaged; they were often fixed from scratch meaning one had to be handy with knives.
Bread had to be baked and sliced, meat had to be tenderized and sliced and fruits, vegetables and potatoes were often peeled and sliced.
This meant Josephine, like many other homemakers, was regularly getting cut. Treating the cuts was cumbersome, involving gauze and tape, which then got in the way of using one’s hands.
To solve this problem, in 1921 Earle took a piece of cotton, stuck it into a small piece of adhesive tape and then covered this bandage in fabric to keep it sanitary until it was needed. He then cut this bandaging into various sizes so Josephine could select whatever size she needed.
After Earle’s little creation worked wonders for Josephine, he saw huge potential in households everywhere.
Excited, Earle brought his new bandage to his boss and they in turn made presentations that took it all the way to company president and co-founder, James Wood Johnson. The company was so impressed with Earle’s creation that in 1921 it risked its reputation and its money to introduce the Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandage to America.
It was a great idea and there was nothing else on the market like it. But Band-Aid failed, with first year sales of just $3,000. It was embarrassing for all those who were associated with it, starting with Earle, who had convinced the company to back it.
But Johnson & Johnson believed in the product and refused to give-up on it. They adjusted their sales strategy and tried something different. They gave it away free to the Boy Scouts of America for their medical kits and to butchers, both for a limited period of time.
Soon the Boy Scouts and butchers were using Band-Aids and so were their families. The word spread and Band-Aid sales skyrocketed. Johnson & Johnson continued to improve the product and also developed ways of mass production which slashed the costs to produce it.
It became extremely profitable and Earle, who when he invented the Band-Aid had been a cotton buyer in the procurement department subsequently rose right up the promotion ladder to a Vice Presidency, with top level compensation. He was also named to the Board of Directors, where he served until his retirement in 1957.
Today Band-Aids are a global product, a staple in hospitals, households and in medical kits and they sell in the billions. And it all began in Josephine’s and Earle’s kitchen.
Success Tip of the Week:
If you have a great idea for a new product or service, do as Earle did and act on it. It can’t become a success as long as it lives only in your mind.
The idea for this piece came from reader and Irvine, CA realtor Ariel Feir from a piece he published about Earle in his Ariel’s AbodeNews, June of 2011. www.feir.com.
In the next KazanToday:
A successful businessman and lawyer who in middle age became a major Hollywood character actor.