Persistence Pays Off For Driven Product Marketers and Inventors of WD-40

Along with duct tape, probably the most common product handymen keep in the garage for tackling household chores and repairs is the ubiquitous lubricant spray WD-40. I am a mechanical klutz. But when something needs fixing in my home, I simplistically grab the duct tape or a can of WD-40 for use in my first line of attacking the problem at hand.

WD-40 is a classic example of a product innovation that defines the persistence required of successful inventors and entrepreneurs when facing hurdles. WD-40 was invented by the three owners of the Rocket Specialty Chemical Company of San Diego. The team was attempting to develop a product that would prevent corrosion on aircraft and aerospace components. It was first successfully used on the Atlas missile.

Norm Larsen is the scientist most often credited with inventing the essential molecular formula necessary to perfect the superior lubricating properties of WD-40. WD-40’s famous navy blue spray can, with the yellow shield and red plastic closure is one of the most recognizable consumer product packages in modern marketing. Initially WD-40 was sold solely for industrial uses. The original aerosol can presentation of WD-40 was introduced into the consumer product marketplace in 1958 and has sold strongly ever since.

Most interesting is the provenance of the brand name, WD-40. The W stands for water. The D stands for displacement. The number 40 represents the number of experiments Mr. Larsen conducted to perfect the chemical formula necessary to produce WD-40. How many people give up on a task long before they make 40, or 30, or 20, or 3 stabs at finding a proof for a problem?

This level of commitment and the passion for finding answers to difficult hurdles is endemic in all successful product creators. Larsen and his Rocket Specialty Chemical Company team, I am sure, would have made 140 more attempts to find the answers they were seeking. The reward for their efforts was a wonderful product that decades later is still enriching their estates and making neophyte DIY practitioners like myself a little better at successfully completing their chores.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.