When my great-grandmother grabbed a box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda to bake the weekly bread, I doubt that it crossed her mind that it could also help keep the cat box smelling fresh. Likewise, as I’m standing there sprinkling it in the cat box, I don’t give too much thought to baking with it.
As times have changed, Arm & Hammer has done a great job repurposing its product. I keep an open box in the refrigerator. And per the instructions on the box, at the end of the month, I replace the box and “ … pour the old box down the drain to keep it smelling clean and fresh.” Today you find Arm & Hammer in everything from toothpaste to laundry detergent.
Repurposing is different than line extension. Seldom does repurposing a product cannibalize sales or market share of the repurposed product. Take Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. The invention of Rice Krispies Treats in the late 1930’s helped sell more Rice Krispies. Chex repurposed its breakfast cereal as Chex Mix giving people a reason, other then breakfast, to buy and consume the cereal. And I’m pretty sure a lot of oatmeal sales through the years are a result of the invention of the oatmeal cookie.
Savvy marketers know that finding a new use for their product or, repurposing, can have a dramatic positive effect on the bottom line. WD-40 is another example of repurposing. In addition to getting rid of annoying squeaks, there are hundreds of other uses for WD-40. And WD-40 has joined other iconic brand names as such as BIC, Thermos, Coleman and Victorinox by making their brands available to the promotional market. It may take a minute to wrap your mind around it, but these brands and others have repurposed a retail brand as a promotional product — effectively broadening their market.
In our quest for the next new fantastic promotional item with which to capture a client’s imagination and budget, we often overlook repurposing products we already know and love. While it’s fine and dandy to use a 9” plastic flying disk to promote a children’s event, you can flip it over and use it to hold a paper plate. When megaphones are repurposed, they become pylons for a children’s bicycle safety clinic, start and finish lines for a corporate field day and even centerpieces for a banquet. Silicone wristbands can be used as proof of admission and as a fundraiser. A coffee mug can be paired with flower seeds to create a promotion that delivers months of play. Repurposing can be a fun and exciting undertaking. Sometimes, however, the real thrill isn’t so much coming up with a new use for an old product, it’s realizing just how far an idea can take you.
From a creative standpoint, learning to open your mind to repurposing isn’t hard. Examples are all around us. After all, meatloaf is just hamburger- repurposed. A tire swing is just a tire – repurposed. French fries are just repurposed potatoes. I personally use a 12 gage shotgun and 00-buck as a cutting tool to dispatch with tree limbs I can’t reach.
Repurposing is a concept that can apply to your distributorship as well. In much the same why major manufacturers have come up with new uses for their products to remain competitive, you can develop new uses for your services. Here’s a couple examples.
Almost everywhere I go there’s a garbage can … just begging to be used as advertising space. All it takes it for someone (like you) to put together the program. Roofers and other construction companies utilize dumpsters at residential worksites. Those dumpsters have lots of usable, sellable space on them. That space can be sold to other companies who’d like their name in front of the people in that neighborhood for a week. Face it, if you can show a client or prospect how to put money in THEIR pocket, you can be sure that will put money in YOUR pocket. And all you’re doing is repurposing your ability to put logos and messages on products.
For too long, distributors have relied on suppliers to come up with new and exciting products. As competition increases and pricing pressures continue to erode margins, the make-it or break-it difference could very well be your ability to out-think your competition by developing your own “new products through repurposing. All it takes is the ability to see beyond what is … and grasp a vision of what can be.
Michael Crooks: Since 1984 he's become known internationally for his creative prowess and insightful thinking. He's VP, U.S. Operations of Weepuline, LLC, sole manufacturer of the only product that can legally be called a Weepul™. firstname.lastname@example.org«