Marketing 3M & Its Products

Creating the Image, Telling the World

3M promoted its products to a wide variety of markets and used many methods.

Industrial & Commercial Products

Salesmen were the first marketers of 3M sandpapers and “Three-M-ite” abrasive cloth. Following the lead of William L. McKnight and Archibald G. Bush, they went to furniture and automobile factory floors to demonstrate their products and solicit improvements. Building on the inventions of Francis Okie, 3M developed “Wetordry” sandpaper, lacquers, and adhesives for the automotive industry. It developed “Scotch” masking tapes, based in part on the observations of its salesmen. Electrical tape and other innovative tape products followed. Circulars, brochures, catalogs, and product samples reinforced the efforts of the salesmen. Further interest in 3M products was generated by print advertisements in trade journals. The efforts of 3M researchers led to new products for new customers. For example, in 1946, the New Methods Engineers saw themselves as “market makers,” developing markets for 3M abrasive belts. The development of the “Thermo-Fax” photocopying process between 1949 and 1955 by 3M led to a new market in office products. Magnetic recording tape and video recording tape were initially intended for commercial uses but were soon marketed to individuals and families.

Every Employee a Salesperson

3M employees were encouraged to be familiar with standard company products and new products that were being developed. Articles in the 3M Megaphone with titles like “Parade of Products” and “Products of 3M Research” provided useful information about product categories. These included coated abrasives; pressure-sensitive tape; adhesives; roofing granules; color pigments; reflective products; printing products; magnetic recording tape; electrical products; gift wrap ribbons; fluorochemicals; and special products—products that were developed or produced to make other products.


Retail Products

Soon after 3M introduced “Wetordry” sandpaper in 1921, it launched a retail advertising campaign in the Saturday Evening Post. Sandpaper was packaged in small sizes and placed in attractive display cartons at paint and hardware stores. “Wetordry” was marketed to women as a pot-and-pan cleaner that was more sanitary than steel wool and more efficient than cleanser. Household sandpaper featured the character of Sandy Smooth who displayed “The Wonder Sandpaper of Many Uses.” A wide variety of “Scotch” tapes were marketed through retail displays and advertising in popular magazines. 3M used marketing concepts like the “Friendship Tree” to promote the use of “Scotch” cellophane tape to attach greeting cards to Christmas trees. Radio and television spots and print advertising featuring celebrities were all part of the advertising campaign. Plaid packaging and the character of Scottie were introduced in 1945 and 1946 to reinforce the identity of “Scotch” tapes.

Images

Archibald G. Bush

Archibald G. Bush

One of the leading minds of the burgeoning 3M business, Archibald G. Bush, sits at his desk. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

"Three-M-Mite" Abrasive Cloth

"Three-M-Mite" Abrasive Cloth

Early labelling for "Three-M-Mite" cloth, a product marketed for a variety of uses around the home and in mechanical work. | Creator: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Electrical Tape Advertisement Photograph

Electrical Tape Advertisement Photograph

Advertisements showcased both branded packaging and practical applications. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Cellophane Tape 1

Cellophane Tape 1

Early print ad for one of 3M's most recognizable products. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Cellophane Tape 2

Cellophane Tape 2

Another print image of 3M's mainstay Scotch tape. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

3M Print Advertisements

3M Print Advertisements

3M had an active marketing presence, supplementing efforts of traditional salesmen with advertising campaigns in a variety of print media. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Magnetic Recording Tape

Magnetic Recording Tape

Originally intended for commercial use, magnetic recording tape and video tape soon found a market with the everyday consumer. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Sound Recording Tape

Sound Recording Tape

Originally intended for commercial use, magnetic recording tape and video tape soon found a market with the everyday consumer. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Employees Discuss Products

Employees Discuss Products

Employees had to keep up-to-date with 3M's ever expanding catalog of products. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (1)

Product Catalog (1)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (2)

Product Catalog (2)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (3)

Product Catalog (3)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (4)

Product Catalog (4)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (5)

Product Catalog (5)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (6)

Product Catalog (6)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (7)

Product Catalog (7)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Product Catalog (8)

Product Catalog (8)

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

"Sandy Smooth" Advertisement Campaign

"Sandy Smooth" Advertisement Campaign

Sandpaper advertising campaign in the Saturday Evening Post; circa 1920's. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

"Sandy Smooth" Advertisement Campaign (2)

"Sandy Smooth" Advertisement Campaign (2)

3M advertisements touted the many uses of its products; citing applications that targeted both men and women. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Retail Counter, 1920's

Retail Counter, 1920's

A woman browses 3M products at a retail counter in the 1920's. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

"Household Utility Package All Purpose Sandpaper", 1930

"Household Utility Package All Purpose Sandpaper", 1930

A small counter display for 3M sandpaper in the 1930's. | Source: Minnesota History Center View File Details Page

Scotch Tape "Yes!" Ad

Scotch Tape "Yes!" Ad

Scotty McTape appears in an advertisement touting the popularity of Scotch tape with consumers. | Source: Minnesota History Center View File Details Page

Scotch Tape "Don't Forget" Ad

Scotch Tape "Don't Forget" Ad

An advertisement prompts retailers to stock Scotch Tape in preparation for "Back-to-School" shoppers | Source: Minnesota History Center View File Details Page

Scotch Tape "Good News" Ad

Scotch Tape "Good News" Ad

An ad highlighting extra large rolls of Scotch tape for commercial use. | Source: Minnesota History Center View File Details Page

Photo Ad for Ribbon Products, ca. 1950s

Photo Ad for Ribbon Products, ca. 1950s

When 3M developed non-woven "Sasheen," "Lacelon," and "Decorette" ribbons after World War II, it introduced these products to a new retail market. Print ads in women's magazines, attractive store displays, and instructions folders for bow-tying were all part of the campaign. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Marjorie Pearson, Summit Envirosolutions, Inc., “Marketing 3M & Its Products,” Saint Paul Historical, accessed July 26, 2017, http://saintpaulhistorical.org/items/show/382.

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