When you think of bubble wrap you imagine how it protects goods and keeps your newly online purchases gadgets safe as they are sent across the country. Hopefully, it stops your new iPhone from breaking when the courier throws it on your front porch, and surely this is what bubble wrap was made for, no? The answer could not be further from the truth.
Bubble wrap’s original purpose when created in 1957, was an attempt at making a textured wallpaper. An engineer Al Fielding and a Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes were trying to make what they believed would be the next cool interior design: 3d wallpaper. To do this they took two shower curtains and sealed them tightly together, ensuring air bubbles were captured, what this did was give the wallpaper the impression it was sticking out.
As you can imagine, the wallpaper did not really sell very well, mostly because people did not want to lose space to thicker wallpaper. Still, Fielding and Chavannes were adamant that they were onto something great so remarketed their invention as greenhouse insulation. Well, it did sort of offer an insulating method, this idea did not really become popular either.
Finally three years later when they had all but given up on their original invention, a marketer who worked for Sealed Air which was the company that manufactured it, figured out the real use of their product. Frederick W. Bowers was aware that IBM was in the works of releasing a new computer and he immediately knew that bubble wrap would be the perfect packaging solution to protect the delicate computers while being shipped.
He was able to pitch the idea to IBM so well that they started to purchase bubble wrap immediately to protect their computers and other fragile products that they sold and shipped. And from there Sealed Air made huge leaps in annual sales, about $400 million in bubble wrap sales per year, all because of a product that was originally supposed to be used for interior design.