Monday, January 17, 2011

A better mousetrap?

For some reason, mousetraps are often invoked when the subject of product innovation is discussed. "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door."

I get the concept, but sometimes its application escapes me. Take dental floss. It's the one product I know where only a small bit gets used. You pull off a long string, wrap it around your fingers several times, and then use a little section for just a few seconds before throwing it away.

So how many types of dental floss does the world really need? A lot, apparently, as I found on my last trip down the dental-supply aisle. Once home, a quick search on Amazon returned 864 results for dental floss and flossers (for those who want to add another level of sophistication to the process).

It amazes me to find soooooooo many varieties of something I used to consider a commodity.

There's woven floss and waxed shred-resistant tape. Procter & Gamble's Crest brand sells Glide and a new, improved version -- Comfort Plus -- billed as "Twice as Soft as Glide Original!" Johnson & Johnson sells Reach, a brand that includes a "Gum Care" version embedded with fluoride and "Total Care Plus Whitening," which has "micro-grooves technology plus baking soda" to remove stains "like coffee, tea and wine." 

And let's not forget flavors: mint, cinnamon, even banana (from Monkey Floss, natch).

Talk about brand extensions. Geesh. I don't know if all this innovation has made the orally conscious beat a path to J&J's or P&G's doors, but my own medicine cabinet is messy with samples spilling off the shelves.

I can't believe one type of floss is that much better than another; still, it doesn't hurt to try.

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