The Story of WD-40


Few products have succeeded and lasted like WD-40, the rust-prevention solvent and degreaser invented in 1953 by a company called “Rocket Chemical Company.” The company experimented with a variety of formulas to get their product to displace water. On the 40th try they succeeded, thus the name “Water Displacement-40” or “WD-40” as we know it today.

Originally designed for the aerospace industry, the product was never intended for a consumer market. But employees who used WD-40 and saw how well it worked, snuck the product out to use on their own machines and vehicles. Word spread and eventually the company put the product in aerosol cans and sold them to consumers. That’s when the product really took off. In 1993 the company learned that 4 out of every 5 households in America have a can of WD-40 in their home or vehicle —something the inventors never planned, but were willing to pursue when the opportunity presented itself.

There are thousands of uses people can come up for your product if you encourage them to. Consider the “rock guard” on the bumpers of RVs. The device looks a little like an industrial sweep broom. Its job is to stop fast moving rocks and road debris from hitting the vehicle it’s towing. Farmers, noticing the ability of the device to absorb the energy of the rocks and debris started buying and altering the guards so they could attach them to their tractors to keep rocks from kicking up there as well. For the salesman who learns about alternative uses (planned or not) for their product, the opportunity to double your sales overnight by expanding your market and clientele is huge.

Think about it. What other uses can your product or service meet in a non-traditional or planned way?


“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
—Thomas Alva Edison

photo by blakeemry

9 thoughts on “The Story of WD-40”

  1. Good idea! I need to do more of this.

    Meanwhile, I once gave my brother a head lamp (which LL Bean adapted from a miner’s helmet to use for camping). My thought was he could use it for hands-free light when working on the boat.

    By the way, I love the quotes you’re using.

  2. You know I’m huge on values Bob and recently wrote a book on the subject. It never even crossed my mind that these could be useful for business owners setting their company values.

    Or even that you could take that a stage further in working out your ideal client, until that is a client told me so. Doh!

    1. At one time I worked with client companies to align values of their management with their sales team. When a manager changed, we always had to recheck or suffer the possibility of value incompatibility and sales failure.

      This is a sales blog so don’t be shy. Tell us the name of your book and perhaps provide a link? I’m told that one or two of my readers have a few bucks saved for such things.

    1. It is fantastic to see how things work. I would have been a bad engineer but I love creating things and letting someone else figure out how to make it actually work.

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