Advertising & Marketing

How the Invention of the Post-it® Note Changed Branding for the Better

Who is behind the invention of the Post-it® Note? Like Velcro®, Gorilla Glue®, erasable ink, and motor-operated airplanes, curiosity about the Post-it Note origin story may ebb and flow, but never disappears. An itch that must be scratched, if you will, and we’re here to help! Below we answer all your questions about the ubiquitous Post-it Note including the history of Post-it Notes, the Post-it Note inventor, and how Post-it Notes paved the way for promoting small business.  

Definition of a Post-it Note

A Post-it Note is a piece of paper (typically smaller sized) with adhesive along one side of the back of the paper. It’s defined by the unusual molecular structure of the adhesive, which is strong enough to cling to objects but weak enough to allow for a temporary bond.1 The adhesive allows the note to be stuck, unstuck, and even re-stuck, without leaving adhesive or damaging the object to which it’s attached.  

Post-it Notes can be lined or unlined, and come in a plethora of size and color options—26 colors as of 2019.2 There’s even a Post-it Extreme Note that’s designed for outdoor use. There is also a Post-it Note developed exclusively for the paperless set: Virtual Post-It Notes were created for computers in the form of online desktop notes. 

Difference Between a Post-it Note and a Sticky Note

The name Post-it Note was patented until 1997 and remains trademarked today. Conversely, the term “sticky note” is neither patented nor trademarked. Like tissue vs Kleenex® or lip balm vs Chapstick®, sticky note refers to the type of product and Post-it Note refers to the 3M brand in particular.    

The Practical, Pragmatic Professional Who Invented the Post-it Note

Arthur Fry can be thanked for the sticky wonder we call a Post-it Note. The Post-it Note inventor was born in Minnesota in 1932 and spent his career at 3M, where he invented the Post-it Note and a bunch of other stuff as well, including art materials, tapes, decorative ribbon and gift wrap, and metal surface-finishing laminates. Fry originally intended the Post-it Note as a kind of temporary, removable bookmark for marking multiple pages at once without the markers falling out. In 2010, Art Fry was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. 

Date the Post-it Note Was Invented

Fry’s invention of the Post-it® Note dates back to 1974. Along with Post-it Notes, other notable inventions from 1974 were the Rubik’s Cube by Ernő Rubik and the Heimlich Maneuver by Henry Heimlich. As for Post-it Notes, 3M took them to market in 1980 and the rest is adhesive history.  

How the Post-it Note Was Invented

If you suspect the answer is close to “by accident,” you’re right! The low-tack, reusable adhesive in Post-it Notes was created by accident by a scientist at 3M named Dr. Spencer Silver, who had been after something super strong, not decidedly weak. He called the uncalled-for adhesive a “solution without a problem”.   

Meanwhile, fellow 3M employee Arthur Fry, who was aware of the adhesive, was in his church choir and marked pages with numerous bookmarks. He found that the bookmarks fell out of his hymn book constantly. It struck him that this temporarily sticky stuff, when affixed to a piece of paper, could act like a bookmark that would stay put, without damaging the notoriously delicate pages of a hymn book. And voila! A solution without a problem becomes a problem with a solution.   

How to Leverage the Post-it Note Brand to Promote Your Own

Post-it Notes have unique characteristics that make them ideal branding vehicles for business, schools, non-profits, and special events: 

  • Visibility: Post-it Notes are designed to be seen. The bright yellow (or any other of the 26 color options) paper stuck to the top of that contract to be signed, book to be read, project to be edited, or homework to be done, gets noticed first and the note contained takes priority. They can be stuck to multiple surfaces including paper, file cabinets, appliances, doors, and more.
  • Urgency: Post-it Notes say “read this, do this, sign this—now!”. With heightened awareness of what’s on the note, your ad message gets more awareness, too.
  • Usefulness: When you give a Post-it Note, you know it can find a home on a work desk, school desk, kitchen counter, customer service counter, or business meeting. For a giveaway that you can count on to get kept, Post-it Notes come through (and stick around).
  • Double the Exposure: With Post-it Notes, your brand gets seen by the note writer and the note reader. Those notes, along with your ad message, often remain posted for weeks, months, and even years (think of the passwords, to-do’s, and reminders we jot down on Post-it Notes and stick to our monitor or desk, quickly becoming part of our permanent décor).

Best Post-it Notes for Branding Your Business

Post-it Notes can be customized to include your name, event, image, or other messaging. Pick the style that matches your brand, budget, occasion, and use case. With myriad options such as a calendar Post-it pad, cube pads, or a highlighter pen with Post-it flags, we’re confident you’ll find a solution that works perfectly for you. A few of our favorites:

25 Sheet 3″ x 10″ Post-it® Custom Printed Organizational Notes: Great for weekly planning and easy to position in a visible spot such as a computer monitor, desk or keyboard.   

Full Color 2 3/4”x 2 3/4”x 2 3/4” Cube Post-it® Notes: The full color cube keeps your name on display from any angle, and the cube shape puts your messaging in the spotlight on any surface.  

Full Color 3″x 2-7/8″ 50-Sheet Post-it® Notes: With your full color image and messaging on every sheet, this pad of Post-it Notes promises to keep your name top of mind.  

Final Thoughts on the Note of All Notes, the Post-it Note

Congratulations! You’re now an expert on the invention of the Post-it Note, the history of the Post-it Note, and all the ways you can customize a pad for your promotional purposes. Enjoy an easy, practical gift to distribute among customers and prospects alike. Stick, post, and promote all day long! 

Tip: Shop our entire collection of Post-it Notes and other products to find the perfect personalized Post-it for your business. And if you still can’t get enough of all things sticky, browse our full assortment of custom sticky notes


Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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