Back in the 1950s, a toothpaste company was trying to increase its revenue. Basically, they needed to sell more toothpaste — no surprises there. They held a contest, inviting all their employees to come up with ideas to boost sales. They were expecting campaign slogans, or perhaps suggestions for a celebrity spokesperson. But the best idea had nothing to do with marketing. It was four words: Make the hole bigger. Back then, toothpaste tubes had pretty small openings for squeezing out the paste: 5mm. If the diameter goes up even by 1mm, you’ll be squeezing out a lot more with each use. You run out of toothpaste quicker. So you buy more. That idea cost almost nothing to implement, and brought a 40% increase in sales. Years later, Wrigley’s wanted to get the same result — but they went with marketing. Suddenly people in Extra adverts started popping two pellets of gum in their mouths instead of one. The hope was that the audience would go ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ Most didn’t. Some did. But not enough for a 40% increase in sales. To be fair, switching to the two-pellet demo wasn’t the worst way to go about it. It was cheap, at least. (Although, who knows how many packs of gum actors go through on a typical Wrigley’s shoot) But that was far less elegant and far less effective than ‘make the hole bigger.’ So next time you consider throwing money at marketing to fix something, ask yourself:

Could it be a design problem?


Solved is a problem-solving blog for entrepreneurs, creators, and anyone else who uses their brain for a living. 


Some articles are anti-BS action plans to help your business grow. Others are questions that help you crack problems laterally and creatively.

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