Play-Doh is a childhood memory, synonymous with all things kindergarten. It’s a wonderful substance most of us have very fond memories of, but it wasn’t created to be a child’s toy. The salty, doughy mixture is non-toxic and has a very odd smell to it.
The entire story began with Joseph McVicker, who was having a conversation with a teacher friend of his. This person taught art, and found modeling clay to be an awful substance to work with. It was hard to clean up, difficult to form and even harder for the new artist to grasp.
Joe, being part of a family who owned a chemical company, saw an opportunity in that moment. They sold a clay-like substance which was marketed as a compound to clean wall paper. It was not very attractive looking, but it was very pliable and could be formed into shapes. So Joseph, with the blessing of his uncle Noah, sent a box of the stuff off to the art teacher for review.
His kids loved the stuff. This was an early example of viral marketing, where kids began to tell parents about the wallpaper cleaning game they’d played at school. Soon, the Kutol Chemicals product was selling like wildfire. The owners were astonished that this was really happening, but they soon spun a company off called “Rainbow Crafts.” That’s when Play-Doh first debuted, along with the standard RGB of its lineup.
General Mills bought the Play-Doh brand in 1965, merging it with Kenner in 1971, and the rest is history.
About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Facebook.