You may have seen our previous Q&A post with Blendtec founder/owner Tom Dickson; if you haven’t, check it out: Q&A with Tom Dickson—Part 1. In today’s post, we continue our conversation with Tom to find out more about his company and the Will It Blend? series he has so much fun with.
Me: What was the inspiration behind the Will It Blend? series?
Tom: Will It Blend? was developed accidentally in 2006 by a new marketing director. I’ve always been one to try to break my blenders to find their fail points and determine how I can improve them. George, the marketing director, discovered some of the wacky things I was doing to my blenders, including shoving wooden 2x2s into the jars. With a $50 budget, George bought a Happy Meal, a rotisserie chicken, coke cans, golf balls, and a few other items, and then our video crew made five videos. Six days later, we had six million views on YouTube. Six years, 120+ videos, and 219 million views later, Will It Blend? is considered the number one viral marketing campaign of all time.
Me: Why do you think the Will It Blend? series is such a success?
Tom: Will It Blend? has been an ongoing success because it tells a basic story to such a broad audience. The essence of Will It Blend? is to prove to the world that this made-in-the-USA blender can blend literally anything. The audience loves it. On the marketing side, Will It Blend? has proven to be a wonderful way to take our message to many different audiences with minimal cost.
Me: What’s the secret to creating a successful viral marketing campaign? Is this something any small business owner can replicate?
Tom: I’m not arrogant enough to think that we have all the answers, and there are many, many factors that contribute to a successful viral marketing campaign. One of the keys is that the material has to be organic and original—and not something that can be easily replicated. Timing and luck also important. Businesses should always strive to create great video content to post on their social channels. If everything aligns to create something viral, the business needs to commit the resources to maintain that momentum.
Me: What has been your favorite, most memorable item to blend?
Tom: My favorite Will It Blend? episode is the one on glow sticks, but the most memorable is an off-camera blend of 100 razor blades. This experience was very exciting, to say the least. The camera man and I ran for our lives as small razor blade pieces shot through the jar and hit everything in sight. We were lucky to escape unscathed.
Me: What challenges are unique to your industry, and how are you overcoming them?
Tom: One of the unique challenges we have encountered is protecting our intellectual property. Because we place engineering and innovation at the top of our priority list, many of our competitors have decided to copy our designs. While we do not take action against all of those who copy us, we have to draw a line somewhere. We recently succeeded in protecting one of our most valuable inventions: our WildSide jar. The details are found in these two news releases:
- 2011: “Court Awards Blendtec Largest Infringement Damages in Utah State History”
- 2012: “Federal Circuit Court Upholds Blendtec’s $24M Patent Infringement Award”
Me: What do you hope to achieve in your business in the next 12 months, and where do you plan to be a year from now?
Tom: We have many aspirations for becoming a mainstream brand in the kitchen-appliance arena. We want to be known for more than making the most powerful blenders. From our consumer blenders to our other products yet to be released, we hope Blendtec will become known for being the most technologically advanced, highest-performing and easiest-to-use brand for the kitchen.
Me: You’ve blended things like iPhones and glow sticks. Have you ever had any mishaps while filming any of the videos?
Tom: The most dangerous things to blend are lighters and razor blades. Because of what happened with these two items, I was more than afraid to blend our most-requested item: another Blendtec blender. Why was I afraid? Because we think we may have created a rip in the fabric of the universe. And insurance just doesn’t cover that.
- Lighters: In the lighter blend taped by Discovery Channel’s Time Warp, we were in a controlled environment. When I did the blend on the set at Blendtec, I burned off the hair on my hands and arms. And when I got home, my wife asked why my eyebrows were all singed. The video clearly shows that I was standing in a 4-foot ball of fire for a split second. Ouch!
- Razor blades: This story is just too good to write down. Only those close to me will know the details of the time I barely survived on the Will It Blend? set.