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iPod vs. Velcro -- Battle of the Super Products´┐Ż

I'm a sucker for a good battle. Not an all-out war, mind you -- just a good tow-to-tow, one-on-one slugfest. Think Holyfield vs. Tyson, Alien vs. Predator, or Ashley Simpson vs. anyone with ears.

I'm also a sucker for ingenious products. So in the spirit of combining these passions, I'm acting as the Don King of products to put the Apple iPod up against Velcro, for the title of All-Time Super Product.

Category 1 - Impact on Other Industries
Once it was released, Velcro had clothing manufacturers scrambling to try it out. This led to the creation of Velcro flies, Velcro pocket fasteners, and, of course, the Velcro shoe fasteners you still see children wearing today. Other industries adopted the product as well.

But the iPod has touched a greater number of industries in a shorter time. Just type "ipod products" into any major search engine, and you'll see what I mean.

Electronics companies like Bose have developed iPod docking stations, speakers and other peripherals. Clothing manufacturers have created iPod pockets in some of their garments. Even car manufacturers have jumped on the train. And then there's the media impact the iPod has had -- "podcast" anyone?

** Point goes to the iPod **

Category 2 - Memorable Features
A product with memorable features will succeed for a number of reasons. Shoppers are more inclined to remember it, recognize it, and relate it to others in casual conversation. This leads to buzz, "mindshare," popularity and profit.

iPod enjoys a great product name -- catchy and easy to remember. It also has a memorable look and feel.

Velcro, on the other hand, has never been duplicated, and so it enjoys complete uniqueness in the mind of consumers. The sound alone is one of the most memorable product features of all time. Open a Velcro fastener, and that sound will be recognized anywhere in the civilized world.

** Point goes to Velcro **

Category 3 - Inventiveness
The iPod has partly evolved from MP3 players, and from walkmans before that. Velcro, on the other hand, was adopted from nature.

George de Mestral got the idea for Velcro while walking his dog through a Swiss meadow in 1948. He and the dog returned home covered with burrs, those prickly plant husks that cling to animal fur as a means of seed distribution.

Intrigued by the seed sacs, Mestral examined them under a microscope. There he found the secret to their clinging power -- a series of hook-and-loop fasteners.

Mestral took an idea from the plant world and turned it into a viable product that became a multi-million-dollar industry.

** Point goes to Velcro **

Category 4 - Marketing
George de Mestral overcame a lot of skepticism with his hook-and-loop fastener. He said it would rival the zipper, and people laughed. When it actually did rival the zipper, he sold it as fast as he could produce it -- a marketing success story, to say the least.

Apple kept the iPod shrouded in secrecy during its development, and released it amid a flurry of media attention. Within days, every person in every industrial nation had at least heard of the iPod, if not actually seen or purchased one.

** Point goes to the iPod **

Category 5 - Longevity
Perhaps longevity is an unfair category, given the iPod's young age. But I'm the Don King of product battles here, and I say it goes. To be fair, we can revisit this category down the road a decade or two (to see if the iPod is still around).

But for now, it's an easy point for Velcro, having endured for nearly 50 years with no end to its popularity in site.

** Point goes to Velcro **

Category 6 - Cultural Impact
Velcro changed the way we think about fasteners. But are fasteners part of our culture? Granted, Velcro enjoyed a brief cultural thrust when some parenting groups argued it would lower the intelligence of children (letting them "get off easy" by not having to tie their shoes). But that's about it.

The Apple iPod, on the other hand, has changed the way we think of music and mobility. And those things are definitely a part of our culture.

** Point goes to the iPod **

The Results Are In - It's a Tie!
If you were expecting a lopsided victory, I'm sorry to disappoint. Both products have had a major impact on the world around them. So they share the title of All-Time Super Product. And maybe they're not meant to compete anyway. Maybe they're meant to live in harmony and complement one another.

Take those jogger's armbands for example. Velcro holds the armband firmly in place, and the armband holds the iPod firmly in place. The end result is a more enjoyable experience for the jogger.

And if that's not harmony, I don't know what is.


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Copyright 2010, Brandon Cornett. You may republish this article as long as it is left intact with byline, author's note and website address / hyperlink. iPod is a registered trademark of Apple Computer, Inc. VELCRO is a registered trademark of Velcro Industries B.V.

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