Post-It Notes Send Powerful Post Election Messages
In a number of New York City subway stations there are currently walls filled with messages of hope from thousands of individuals written on the one thing that everyone who’s worked in an office knows pretty darn well: Post-it notes. In the wake of one of the most controversial and difficult election cycles in recent history, these notes stand out as a simple way for people to express themselves and their hopes for the future. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, there is one thing that we call can agree: America’s value of free expression is one of the things that make this country so great. What is especially curious is that these thousands and thousands of notes were not put up or coordinated by 3M or any other organization or group. It just happened. And the fact that it did speaks volumes on the power of the simple Post-it.
The Power of the Post-it
Even in an age of smart phones, Google, Siri, Cortana, and a million other ways to keep a schedule or be alerted to practically anything, the Post-it note is still having its day. But how? There must be something special about Post-It notes that have solidified their eminent popularity to this day. Interestingly, there are many papers on this topic. Randy Garner conducted on of the more recent studies at Sam Houston State University, and published it in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Randy was interested in the exact same thing. Why did Post-It Notes continue to be so prevalent in the technological age where there are seemingly numerous alternatives to it? Randy conducted the study by assigning groups of evaluation surveys to 150 randomly-assign university employees. The first 50 surveys were left on employees’ desks with the hope that they would fill them out (instructions were written on the survey itself). For the next 50 surveys, colorful Post-Its were attached to the documents, but nothing written on the notes. And for the last 50, the attached Post-It notes were written with a personal message. The rate of returned surveys for the Post-it-less group was 36%. For the group with Post-its without a message the rate was 48%. And finally, for the group with the message written on them the return rate was 76%. Randy concluded that of all the factors that have led to the Post-it note’s success, the personal factor is one of the strongest. Writing a small reminder to another person, even someone you don’t know, will have a much bigger impact on the request.
Post-it’s Accidental Success
In many ways, most of the things that were responsible for Post-it’s rise were developed completely by accident. In 1968, a scientist at 3M named Dr. Spencer Silver, was attempting to develop a super strong adhesive. Instead he accidentally developed a low-tack, reusable adhesive that was strong enough to hold papers together but weak enough to peel them away. For years he promoted this accidental discovery but with no success. It wasn’t until a colleague Art Fry came up with the idea to apply the adhesive to a little piece of paper to make it easier to bookmark his choir hymnals. The original yellow color was actually a complete accident too. The research lab they were using to print the notes only had scrap yellow paper available.
Most people think that color has a big role to play in Post-it’s success, something that the Post-It makers themselves freely admit to. Imagine if Post-it had rolled out with a plain white note initially. It’s hard to! A plain white Post-it just wouldn’t seem to do the trick. Contrasting color draws the eye and helps it stand out. And like the adhesive and color, size has also contributes to Post-it’s popularity. It’s small enough that it can go practically anywhere! They are a kind of mnemonic, and the messages on them must be short and to the point. Generally speaking the shorter something is, the easier it is to remember! None of these individual details alone can explain the prevalence of Post-it these days. Together though, they get very close. Post-it’s are more than the sum of their parts. Their unique stickiness, size and color, in addition to the personal written touch, all contribute to it’s role inside and outside of the office today.
Post-it walls are sights to see. These colorful walls have shown up after many major events and memorials recently. Post-it note walls (sometimes hashtagged as #empathywalls or #wallsoflove) have shown up all over the world after major events, commemorations and sometimes tragedies. But the power of the Post-it note endures because it is the one office supply that can add a bit of color, personality and care to just about anything. By their simple design, Post-it helps us to consider that extra bit of information that can make all the difference. It makes information more relatable and to the point.
The reasons that Post-its are so enduring are often the same reasons that artists choose to use Post-its as their medium. There are TONS of examples of amazing Post-it note art (just Google ‘Post-it note art’ and see!). Here are some of our favorites. Feel free to comment and post your own thoughts. We haven’t figured out how to make a virtual “Post-it” work just as well as the real one, but we promise to consider your posts as if they were.