Audra Krell

On Purpose

Brand Marketing 101 with WD-40

Marketing genius John S. Barry of WD-40 has passed away at the age of 84. When the product was created in the 50's, Mr. Barry marketed WD-40 and made it into a timeless product that no one could do without. Here is an excerpt of some of his best practices, taken from a New York Times article by Douglas Martin.

"Mr. Barry brought marketing coherence and discipline to the company. He spruced up the packaging and increased the advertising budget, but most of all he pushed for distribution. He emphasized free samples, including the 10,000 the company sent every month to soldiers in the Vietnam War to keep their weapons dry.

Within a little more than a decade, Mr. Barry was selling to 14,000 wholesalers, up from 1,200 when he started.


He kept tight control of the product. When Sears wanted to package WD-40 under its own label, Mr. Barry said no. When another big chain wanted the sort of price concessions to which it was accustomed, he refused.

He pushed to get WD-40 into supermarkets, where people buy on impulse. He also began an aggressive effort to sell WD-40 in foreign countries.

“We may appear to be a manufacturing company,” Mr. Barry said to Forbes, “but in fact we are a marketing company.”

 7 tips to best market your book or your brand from Mr. Barry's innovative marketing of WD-40.

  •  Bring coherence and discipline to your company, even if you represent the sum total of employees
  •  Make your packaging sizzle 
  •  Take dollars from somewhere else to increase marketing budget
  • Make distribution your top priority
  • Give thousands of free samples of your product (Book excerpts, e-books)
  • Keep tight control of your product. Writers, this doesn't mean self-publishing. It means thoroughly reading and negotiating your contracts with editors, agents and publishers.
  • Aggressively place your product in stores where people make impulse buys. Work hard to get your product into International markets.
  • Realize that you may "appear" to be manufacturing something, but at the end of the day you are a marketing company.


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7 thoughts on “Brand Marketing 101 with WD-40

  1. Hey there! It’s been awhile…I love this post. It’s exactly what I need right now. My take-away would be “make packaging sizzle” and “maintain tight control of my product”. Thanks. Great stuff as always.

  2. And it’s not just WD-40…
    It has me thinking – how does this apply to my life, or more – what I want to accomplish with my life. Great stuff to think about – and about how to market it all.

  3. @Heather – great to see you!
    @Lance Continue to make it sizzle Lance!!

  4. What an interesting and inspirational post; thanks for sharing this! I sent it on to a friend who is working on doing some marketing at the moment.

  5. Great tips from an amazing business man. Thanks for the post!

  6. If I ever actually finish my mystery novel, I’ll have to remember these tips, since I’ll probably self-publish.
    I once heard that the reason it’s called WD-40 is that there were 39 previous attempts at the formula, which didn’t work! Talk about never giving up!

  7. Thanks Jonathan and Christian Leadership.
    @Mom2fur Hi! How have you been? You are correct, it was only on the 40th try that the formula worked. It is inspiring, makes you want to be certain that you don’t give up too soon!

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