Failogue: Post-its were Invented by Accident

Post-its are littered all over my house in 27 different sizes. I have the signature yellow Post-It notes, Post-it page markers in the shape of sea creatures on all my battered books, and some cat-shaped ones stuck to the wall behind my desk.

It’s hard to imagine a world without Post-its, but that’s where we would be if not for a series of mistakes.

In 1968, Spencer Silver attempted to develop a super-strong adhesive for 3M, and instead ended up with the Post-it glue. His adhesive wasn’t strong enough for most uses, and he struggled for years to find a purpose for it. Finally, in 1974, a 3M colleague discovered that he could use the glue to keep bookmarks in place.

It took another three years for the Post-it to launch as the “Press ‘n Peel,” but the product didn’t sell due to failed marketing. 3M tried again a year later by distributing free samples of the product then re-branded them in 1980 as the signature Post-it notes that we all know and love.

Today, they are a staple of our modern offices (pun intended). Without them, we’d have to carry around 53 slips of paper with our important to-dos and phone numbers. They have even gone digital.


#Failogue is a series that brings you stories of failure. Failure from those that showed up. Failure from those that took risks. Failure from those that won.

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