The ‘Will It Blend?’ viral marketing campaign demonstrates the strength of Blendtec blenders by blending an assortment of unusual items. In the series of online videos, Blendtec founder Tom Dickson is known to have blended items such as marbles, golf balls and cellphones to show how powerful the machine is. The series began eleven years ago and Tom still travels the globe today blending odd items.
Tom Dickson received a blender as a wedding present in 1968, and as an engineer, he deduced that even the best blenders on the market did not last long enough and could be of a higher quality. “It just didn’t last very long. It had plastic couplings, rubber here and there, and it wasn’t very reliable – no ball bearings in the motor, no ball bearings in the jar. And so I said, ‘Someday I’m going to produce blenders and appliances that will benefit the world and be indestructible,’” says Tom, the founder and CEO of Blendtec.
Blendtec has been building reliable, sturdy blenders and other appliances since 1977. The first machine that Tom designed was a grain mill which grinds grain into flour or corn into cornmeal. It produced flour far more efficiently than its competitors, weighed one-eighth as much, took up one-eighth of the space, and it generated flour twice as fine and twice as fast as the approximately forty other mills on the home market in 1979. This flour produced bread that was fluffier and lighter than usual.
Within two years, Tom sold forty-three thousand mills and essentially put the other mill companies out of business. Today, forty years later, Blendtec is one of the top rated companies in the world for all of the kitchen appliances it makes. Tom’s son now runs the day-to-day business at Blendtec, allowing the founder to travel the world making ‘Will It Blend?’ appearances.
Blendtec has perfected its motor design over time and is proud to build kitchen appliances in its own facilities located in Orem, Utah. It developed a mixer that can make twelve pounds of dough in a four-quart bowl with three times the power of other mixers. It is also able to find the peak in gluten development more quickly and more easily. Within two minutes, when peak is reached, the machine turns itself off.
To achieve this capability, Tom invented the auto-knead feature on the mixers, which no other company in the world has devised. “It shuts the mixer off when you hit the peak in gluten development. If you over-knead or under-knead, the gluten will not develop properly and release the CO2 that is developed from the yeast into the atmosphere,” Tom explains.
When carbohydrates became less popular approximately thirty years ago due to dietary changes, people were not making bread as often at home. However, the blenders and mixers began to find use commercially, which led to the development of the first true commercial blender made by Blendtec. The company was immediately contacted by places like Starbucks because no other blender in the world was as reliable, efficient and powerful.
“We grew with Starbucks and other shops around the world like Baskin-Robbins, Häagen-Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s. We found ourselves in all of those shops because we have the best blender for making ice cream drinks and also smoothie drinks,” says Tom.
Blendtec continued to develop a stronger blender over time and worked to keep the manufacturing in the United States. Tom is a manufacturing engineer who graduated in 1971 from Brigham Young University and has hired approximately forty other engineers to work for the company. It operates out of a 280,000-square-foot facility that has many amenities including a fitness and health center.
Over the years, the company’s competitors have tried to copy its innovations. For example, at one time or another, competitors have tried to copy Blendtec’s motor, its use of ball bearings on both ends of the motor, and its blender jars. The WildSide jar invented by Tom has a unique fifth wall that greatly improves blending efficiency and revolutionized the blending industry. When a competitor copied that design, Tom took legal action and won what was, at the time, the largest patent infringement judgment in the history of the State of Utah.
“I took a bunch of our smaller jars with a three-inch blade, and I glued them together to make a three-quart jar instead of a two-quart jar and added a four-inch blade – effective over four inches because it has winglets on it like airplane wings. You get better fuel economy in an airplane and better blending in a blender with winglets,” says Tom about his patented invention.
The Blendtec blender jar is well worth the price. It has a nearly unbreakable blunt blade, which makes it much safer than competitors’ thin, sharp, breakable blades. The jar is easy to clean and blends fast. Every Blendtec blender comes with a digital counter to keep track of how many times it’s blended, and Blendtec uses commercial-strength motors in all of its blenders, including those sold for home use.
Blendtec’s ongoing goal is to make indestructible appliances that do not frustrate customers and are easy to clean. Its top-of-the-line appliances are not only available to commercial users, but Blendtec also services the everyday consumer.
Five days after uploading his first ‘Will It Blend?’ video on YouTube, there were six million views. Tom had gone viral without even knowing what YouTube was at the time. The ‘Will It Blend?’ marketing campaign did wonders for the company. People from all over the world saw the strength and reliability of Blendtec blenders. It is the best social marketing campaign around and cost the company almost nothing. After 165 videos, half a billion views and a coveted Clio international advertising award, Tom is now recognized all over the world as the face of Blendtec.
In fact, people are often unaware of the connection between ‘Will It Blend?’ and the chief executive officer of Blendtec; many fans think that Tom is a hired actor instead of the founder of the company.
Tom enjoys the feedback from online viewers. At seventy-one years old, he receives compliments stating that he has not aged in ten years, and he particularly appreciates the viewers who worry about his safety and offer advice such as wearing a gas mask when blending such items as iPhones that release battery smoke.
Even after 40 years in the business, Tom is still busy figuring out ways to improve the blending industry. The most recent problem he has worked on is over-portioning by restaurants and smoothie shops.
When too much product is made in a blending jar, the excess has to be disposed of, which usually means pouring it down the drain. The acidity that this adds to the sewers can result in impact fees for companies. Even if companies avoid impact fees by dumping excess into the garbage instead of down the drain, valuable product is still wasted.
Tom’s answer is jarless blending, a technique recently invented by Tom and his engineers to eliminate the need for a blending jar altogether. “Over the last couple years, we’ve perfected the process whereby we can take a twelve-, eighteen- or twenty-four ounce disposable cup and put it in our Nitro Blending System,” says Tom. The system protects the fragile, disposable cup and the product is blended inside the very cup that will be served to the customer. Jarless blending was engineered to make blended beverage service faster and more efficient than before, while also eliminating cleanup and waste.
The company continues to grow. In the past six months, Blendtec appliances have started to appear in Canadian Tire stores, one of the largest retail stores in Canada.