Many of the ideas I teach today were formed in my early licensing experience with Applause. They asked me for many ideas, and soon enough, I could simply send over some pictures of my idea to see if they liked it and wanted me to make the product. Kind of like a sales sheet. And eventually, I needed only to send over a couple of lines describing my idea – my one-line benefit statement. I hadn’t read any books or done any research; I simply took the process one step at a time and tread carefully.
Although I licensed many products to Applause, I wasn’t satisfied. Because my ideas were seasonal, I constantly had to come up with new ones. The designs would sell for a very limited time and cease to exist. It was tiring and I wanted to create something that would last much longer.
I went down to the marketplace (Toys R Us) to check out different categories. I immediately visited the basketball aisle. I’ve loved to play basketball since I was a kid. Most of the products looked the same. They had a square backboard and were pretty plain. There were about three primary manufacturers, whose names I took down to contact. I returned home and started playing around, drawing weird concepts and asking myself, “What if?” I sent my drawings to Ohio Art – the prototype was so simple, terrible really. I had taken an image of Michael Jordan and made that the backboard, so it was no longer square. I called it “Hoop Hoop Hooray”.
My wife wasn’t so wild about it.
Three days later I had a licensing contract. The product sold for ten years at WalMart. It even had a commercial, in which Michael Jordan was quoted as saying, “It’s the best backboard I’ve ever seen.”
It was another learning experience. I’d gotten into WalMart, which was great. I started creating more and more products for the toy industry, and slowly bridged into others. I sent more ideas, but the process was always the same. I studied the marketplace, created an idea, made a cold call, and sent it in.
The industry didn’t require any patents. Products moved in and out so quickly it just wasn’t necessary. But the next idea I came up with, did. The rotating label was an entirely different beast. And an entirely different story.
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