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Interviews: Blendtec Founder Tom Dickson Answers Your Questions

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the it-blends dept.

Technology 51

A while ago you had a chance to ask blender aficionado and internet celebrity Tom Dickson about viral marketing, and all things blended. Below you'll find his responses to your blender inquiries.Why did you start doing the videos?
by Jim Hall

I'd like to know how you got the idea to do the "Will it blend?" videos in the first place? As mentioned in the summary, it's one of, if not the greatest viral marketing campaigns of all time. Did someone at Blendtec just suggest out of the blue "You should do videos on YouTube", or were you looking for a new advertising idea and a clever marketer had this idea?

Tom: Will it Blend? was developed accidentally by a new marketing director hired in 2006. I have always been one to try to break my blenders to find their fail points and determine how I can improve them. George, the new marketing director, discovered some of the wacky things I was doing to my blenders, including shoving 2x2s into the jars to try to break the blender. With a $50 budget George bought a Happy Meal, a rotisserie chicken, coke cans, golf balls, and a few other items, and they made 5 videos. Six days later we had six million views on YouTube. Six years, 120+ videos, almost 200 million views later, Will it Blend? has been named as the number one viral marketing campaign of all time.



which ones surprised you
by Anonymous Coward

Which things really surprised you by how well, or poorly, they blended?

Tom: Honestly, there were actually few things that surprised me because I have been blending things in my blenders for years. But there have been many really fun, and scary ones for safety reasons. That’s why we make sure to place “Do Not Try This At Home” on all of our videos.



Will It Blend
by Anonymous Coward

What product created the most noxious byproducts after being blended? Have you ever had to get medical treatment or call out a HazMat team after blending a product?

Tom: The line “Don’t breathe this” didn’t get added by happenstance. One of my first blends was glass marbles. The cloud of glass particles that it created really prompted me to say “Don’t breathe this” and it has stuck ever since. But, luckily we have never had to call the HazMat team or visit the ER after a blend.



Worst Warranty Request?
by Anonymous Coward

Did anyone blend something they really shouldn't have and then send in for a warranty repair?

Tom: We actually receive calls into our customer service department all the time from customers who have gone against our call to not try this at home. Just last week we received a call from a customer (well, a customer’s teenage son) who decided to try some “Will it Blends” while his mom was on vacation. He called in asking to receive a replacement jar before his mom returned because he knew his life was on the line after almost destroying his mom’s favorite kitchen appliance after trying to blend a crowbar. Thankfully he was not hurt, but please listen to what we say in the videos: “Don’t’ try this at home.”



Data destruction device
by iced_tea

Have you ever thought about marketing your blenders as Data Destruction devices? Blending thumb drives or Hard Disks?

Tom: We have never really put much focus on marketing these blenders other than for food consumption. Interestingly enough we have also received calls from companies that scrap hard drives and other boards for gold recovery. They have asked whether we recommend our blender for this type of service. Since we really didn’t create our warranty with this type of use in mind we have to direct them to traditional scrap methods. But, this goes to show that people and companies are looking for alternative and fun ways to run their business.



Did it work?
by MyFirstNameIsPaul

Did all those YouTube views, interviews, awards, and features result in increased profits?

Tom: At the same time that we introduced the Will it Blend? campaign we also made a big push for retail expansion as part of our marketing plan. We had been in retail for a few years at that point, but without the driving force of a professional marketing director. It is difficult to directly link sales to our Will it Blend? campaign mainly because the demographic of our WIB viewers is very different from those who actually buy our blenders. However, these 16-24 year-old male WIB viewers are great influencers to their 35-65 year-old moms and grandmas. We do know that our retail growth has been over 800% since 2006.



When the Big Appliance in the sky calls
by paiute

Will you be interred, cremated, or blended?

Tom: This isn’t the first time I have been asked this question. Honestly, it makes sense for me to be blended and that does spark some good ideas for a final “Will it Blend” episode. But in the end, my lovely wife will probably decide against blending.



Why Are Blenders Hard?
by bill_mcgonigle

I've pretty much hated every blender I've owned to date and recognize that there are only two or three blenders on the market that are actually good at their job, and they each cost as much as a new refrigerator. Clearly sticking a viscous blade on the end of a beefy motor isn't all there is to it. So, please explain to the engineers who haunt this site what the challenges are in making a good blender.

Tom: Creating solutions for ordinary and daily problems is what I love to do. That is at the root of all my inventions and the blender is no different. Add an endless desire to put big motors in little things and you have a great recipe for the best kitchen appliances on the market. With that said, there are many challenges that come with creating the most powerful and innovative blender. Some of the most interesting challenges have come in the least likely of forms, like protecting intellectual property from the imitators. When we created a new jar design to solve the problem of cavitation (our wildside jar), this patented design was soon copied by a few of our competitors after they failed to create a unique solution on their own. What I solved over a Holiday weekend couldn’t be solved by their best engineers. Business is cut throat, but in the end we were victorious in protecting our IP and were awarded $24.1 Million from one of our competitors.



What is next for blender R&D?
by Aristos Mazer

Blenders do not seem like an area of technology with a lot of room for innovation, but I've been surprised before (Sears has a "hammer research division" that is kind of amazing). What do you see as the next big thing in blending? Perhaps plans for a reassembler?

Tom: If you think the blending world is short of room for innovation you haven’t watched us too closely. Innovation is in almost every aspect of our blender, but especially in our new designs. There is no need to look further than our pre-programmed cycles and our square jar and single-blade technologies to see innovation. After all, how many home blenders do you see with these amazing innovations? But, let’s focus on our new designs for just a minute. Our new Designer Series blender for the home and our Stealth blender for commercial both have our latest technologies in their capacitive touch screens and both have super quiet designs. In fact, our Stealth has received numerous awards for being the quietest blender on the market as well as having a USB interface to quickly load new recipes for seasonal recipes. Both can be found at Blendtec.com.

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3D printers (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183007)

Your company should make a blender specifically designed to shred 3D printed objects that people will want to throw back into a filament making machine. That means a blender targeted at shredding ABS and PLA objects of various densities.

Re:3D printers (5, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183029)

Wow. You got first post, stayed on-topic AND managed to slip in something about 3D printers just to piss everyone off.

What next? A shredder for Arduinos?

Re:3D printers (4, Funny)

cgimusic (2788705) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183139)

Yes. It also mines Bitcoins.

Re:3D printers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183157)

You're just jealous.

netcraft reports John McAfee to play Kevin Mitnick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183175)

I want to use a Blendtec blender to recycle old ::Cue::Cats and Sony copy protected (rootkit) CDs. I will use the plastic to 3D print bitcoins which I will then then shred in the blender, thus destabilizing the finances of the netBSD foundation.

Re:netcraft reports John McAfee to play Kevin Mitn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43187591)

What, no Columbine reference? I'm disappointed.

Me, I want a Beowulf cluster of blenders, naked and petrified.

Re:3D printers (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183185)

Wow. You got first post, stayed on-topic AND managed to slip in something about 3D printers just to piss everyone off.

You're right, this is momentous. You should 3D-print his post out and hang it on the wall.

Re:3D printers (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183223)

You just gave me an idea for a juicer that mines bitcoins.

Re:3D printers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183521)

Anyone here know where I can get a 3D model of Stallman's big cock?

Re:3D printers (0)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183805)

Just take it out of your ass where you left it.

Re:3D printers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183843)

Nowhere. He's got a really tiny one.

Re:3D printers (1)

Jon Abbott (723) | about a year and a half ago | (#43184335)

Check out the Filabot [filabot.com] .

The Final Blend (5, Funny)

cruff (171569) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183023)

While it might be a fitting way for Tom to go, I'd hate to be the one to do that blending, talk about gory. Sounds like the chipper scene in Fargo.

Re:The Final Blend (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183345)

While it might be a fitting way for Tom to go, I'd hate to be the one to do that blending, talk about gory. Sounds like the chipper scene in Fargo.

He'd most likely be cremated prior to blending. Blending is actually usually a part of the cremation process.

Re:The Final Blend (1)

ichthus (72442) | about a year and a half ago | (#43185603)

Actually, Blendtec is located in Utah County (home of BYU). Statistically speaking, he's probably not an advocate of cremation (or postmortem blending) -- most mormons aren't.

LOL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183025)

Business is cut throat, but in the end we were victorious in protecting our IP and were awarded $24.1 Million from one of our competitors.

Cue the butthurt freetards! Doesn't he know that patents and IP are ebil! Information just wants to be free!

Re:LOL (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183173)

Patents on actual mechanical inventions his company makes and sells? That's what patents are for.

Re:LOL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183193)

Plenty of software patents are on things the company makes or sells. Nice hypocrisy, though.

wrong thinking (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183403)

software is just a pile of algorithms. allowing patenting of math and logic is a very bad idea. we have copyright instead to protect specific written works of software, that's all that's needed as long as the copyright period isn't too long. 17 or 25 years is plenty.

Re:wrong thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43185493)

What about a physical object that was just designed by the clever application of algorithms? The shape of something could just be expressed by some basic formula, that was derived by logic and math applied to a problem. Both can be solving a problem, the only difference is the physical object had the formula/shape sent to a machinist, while the software one had it sent to a coder.

Re:wrong thinking (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#43185549)

software is just a pile of algorithms. allowing patenting of math and logic is a very bad idea. we have copyright instead to protect specific written works of software, that's all that's needed as long as the copyright period isn't too long. 17 or 25 years is plenty.

Problem is where one ends and the other starts.

Let's say hypothetically that their patented low-cavitation jar relies on special software algorithms to operate efficiently. What do you patent - the jar? Not really - it doesn't do the job completely on its own. The software? Ditto. The jar and software? Quite possibly.

So the question becomes where does the patented invention stop because it's software...? It's a problem that's been vexing the courts for some time now. Especially since these days, embedded computers are mated with hardware, so general innovations come as a result of both hardware and software (firmware).

Re:wrong thinking (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about a year and a half ago | (#43187191)

Those are all real (as in non-trivial) problems which could be resolved by legal process.

Before deciding what makes a software a software or whether or not software can be patented at all, let's first require that patents including software 1) actually describe an algorithm and 2) are non-obvious to reasonable computer scientists.

Recall also that the current legal justification for software patents is the physically incorrect assertion that your CPU is literally mechanically rearranged into a new machine every time you run a program on it. Let's deal with these problems and if we still have troll issues we can consider next steps...

Re:wrong thinking (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year and a half ago | (#43187363)

The blender's parts are just algorithms put through a manufacturing process [which someday will be done by 3-d printers].

Re:wrong thinking (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43281681)

wrong. it matters not whether any algorithm is used to make a physical object to be patent protected. the law has already decided the criteria, your sophistries are of no import

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43184661)

Plenty of software patents are on things the company makes or sells

And plenty of them are on things like "means for doing this thing" where the patent holder sat around for 10 years while everyone else did this thing, then suddenly starts suing everyone demanding money whether they even "do this thing" using his "method" because it costs around 6 figures to get to a Markman Hearing to prove you don't "do this thing" or you do it with some other "method" at which point the patent holder starts whining about Doctrine of Equivalents and running up the bill another 6 figures.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43186493)

What's funny is that you probably actually believe that.

To put it bluntly, there is no hypocrisy, because you are comparing apples to oranges. To quote a relevant part of TFS:

When we created a new jar design to solve the problem of cavitation (our wildside jar), this patented design was soon copied by a few of our competitors after they failed to create a unique solution on their own.

See, the patent here is on the a particular method of solving a particular problem. Solve the problem in a different way, and there is no infringement. And that is how it should be.

But in the world of software patents, they are granted on the concept of solving a particular problem. Meaning it doesn't matter if you come up with a different method of, say, implementing a shopping cart for a website. The concept of having a shopping cart is what was patented.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43188017)

Theoretically patents are supposed to provide an incentive for people to publish the design of capital intensive inventions.

His example was that he designed something overnight which others stole. That may be unfair (in a kindergarten "I did that first" kind of way), but it's hardly a reason to support a systematic, government imposed restraint on freedom for the benefit of a monopolist.

Generally speaking, the theoretical foundations for patents are unsound. The actual political support comes from people's childish sense of fairness, which in this case everybody assumes is okay. It's like somebody who thought up a great name for their first born and are pissed that a neighbor also took it. How unfair! I know, let's pass legislation to fix this injustice!

Whaa?? (3, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183037)

which ones surprised you
by Anonymous Coward

Which things really surprised you by how well, or poorly, they blended?

Tom: Honestly, there were actually few things that surprised me because I have been blending things in my blenders for years. But there have been many really fun, and scary ones for safety reasons. That’s why we make sure to place “Do Not Try This At Home” on all of our videos.

Who. Friggin. Cares.
Way to tell me nothing. If I was a teacher and this was submitted to a free response question on a quiz, I would give an F.

Re:Whaa?? (5, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183217)

Most of the 'answers' were of the same quality, more of a sales pitch than anything. You'll learn more by just watching the videos.

Re:Whaa?? (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183459)

I appreciate Tom taking a stab at my question, though lawyering procedure wasn't what I'd hoped engineers would be interested in. By searching on 'wildside jar blendtec' I wound up at the specifications page that says "Patented 5-sided jar that produces a better blending vortex", and Tom mentioned cavitation - so I'm assuming that a standard 4-sided jar like I have now sets up a cavitation in the fluid and that the asymmetrical 5th side is the invention that interrupts the cavitation, imparting more energy into the blending itself. I think I learned something!

Maybe next somebody will read the patent and/or this thread can wind up being a geek-out about blending mechanics.

Re:Whaa?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43184623)

You should be able to look up everything in US Patent 7281842 [google.com] . (He's got several other patents, but all the ones with "cavitation" in them are in the same continuity chain as this one and should have the same disclosure.)

Will it Bend? or Blend? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183077)

He mentions the teenage retard that tried to blend a crowbar, but what I'm interested in is.. ..Did it blend?

Re:Will it Bend? or Blend? (2)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183211)

It did not.

Logic (or rather a lack thereof) (1)

tech.kyle (2800087) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183261)

Why did this teen think beefy steel crowbar versus metal blender blades would work? Round two, titanium?

Even if it had worked, it seems like everything would have tasted a bit off after that.

Re:Logic (or rather a lack thereof) (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year and a half ago | (#43184449)

Perhaps because Tom Dickson (and isn't it crazy that the CEO of a blender maker is a household name?) is shown sticking a crowbar into a blender in the intro of the WiB videos? They've even done some gags about it.

Watch it Shred! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43183235)

Another interesting set of videos is Watch it Shred: http://www.ssiworld.com/watch/

Besides ripping off other people's viral marketing, they make industrial shredders and film themselves shredding things such as car engine blocks, torpedoes, railroad ties, cars, and more

Marketing, customer service, and patents (5, Interesting)

tepisch (180481) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183313)

We have a Blendec. As a result of the Will It Blend? videos.

When Blendec received money from their competitor as a result of infringement of an actually innovative patent, what did they do?

They poured that money right back into customer service, by giving away (well, we paid $12 for shipping) one Wildside jar to their existing customers. Which I am now turning that goodwill into more free marketing for them.

This is brilliant on several levels.

Yes, their product is expensive. Yes, the quality is high. The value, in our house, greatly exceeds the cost. Thanks, Tom!

Re:Marketing, customer service, and patents (2)

mjr167 (2477430) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183665)

Is it better than a vitamix?

Re:Marketing, customer service, and patents (2)

geekmux (1040042) | about a year and a half ago | (#43184029)

Is it better than a vitamix?

Without starting a flame war here, chances are that is a difficult question to answer for either product.

Clearly the average consumer does NOT push either of these machines anywhere near their actual capacity, as Tom has so wonderfully shown us with many, many videos.

What is better, a Lamborghini or Ferrari? Only 1% of the driving community can even try to answer that. Same likely applies here.

Re:Marketing, customer service, and patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43185525)

You would not only need someone pushing them to their limits, but have made regular use of both. I would hope that such products last a decent amount of time, so there shouldn't be many that bought the other brand after the first broke, and it would come down to who has friends or families with competing brands or has worked some place with the need for more than one blender.

My question (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183555)

Do people buy your products, or just watch the videos?

Re:My question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43184397)

We do know that our retail growth has been over 800% since 2006.

I would say people are buying them... I see them all the time in restaurants. Usually in some sort of sound enclosure and smashing ice...

Crowbar (3, Funny)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#43183781)

Just last week we received a call from a customer (well, a customer’s teenage son) who decided to try some “Will it Blends” while his mom was on vacation. He called in asking to receive a replacement jar before his mom returned because he knew his life was on the line after almost destroying his mom’s favorite kitchen appliance after trying to blend a crowbar.

The customer service replied: what are you doing, Gordon?

Internet blending (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43184393)

Any chance of WIFI or Bluetooth enabled blenders in the near future? No idea what they could be used for but everyone knows that everything is better with Bluetooth.

Re:Internet blending (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | about a year and a half ago | (#43184475)

No, but as he mentioned they do have one that is programmable through a USB port. I thought he was shitting us, but then I looked it up [blendtec.com]

Re:Internet blending (1)

Zordak (123132) | about a year and a half ago | (#43184879)

But does it run Linux?

Re:Internet blending (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | about a year and a half ago | (#43184971)

Ha! I don't know, but I bet it'll blend the hell out of it!

Re:Internet blending (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43185271)

More importantly, does it run Blender? [blender.org]

Re:Internet blending (2)

Zordak (123132) | about a year and a half ago | (#43185905)

Yo dawg! I heard you like blending, so we put Blender on the Linux on your Blend-Tec Blender so you Blender while you blend!

Demographics (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | about a year and a half ago | (#43185301)

I think there is more to the demographics than he mentioned. Quite likely that younger generation will only know the Blendtec brand (versus other brands of blenders), so when they are older and equipping their own kitchens they will purchase a Blendtec, possibly most especially the ones that did not manage to convince their parents to purchase one.

Impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43186513)

I've always been impressed with the "Will It Blend" videos.

My mother has a blender that we never managed to destroy (I think it was Oster ?) over the or probably 30 years now she has used it. But I have to wonder why there haven't been any improvements in safety.

Like, containers are made of glass or polycarbonite, but there's still a lack of ways of being able to "push" the material in the blender down (I sure hope nobody has ever been stupid enough to stick their fingers in)

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