Trap-Ease America: The Big Cheese of Mousetraps
If a man [can] ... make a better mousetrap than his neighbor ... the
world will make a beaten path to his door.
As Martha House, president of Trap-Ease America, contemplated the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson framed on the wall of her Costa Mesa, California office, she wondered whether Emerson knew something that she didn't. She had the better mousetrap - Trap-Ease - but the world didn't seem all that excited.
IF YOU BUILD A BETTER MOUSETRAP, WILL IT SELL?
The Trap-Ease is a clever device that traps mice with simple efficiency. A mouse smells bait inside the trap, and enters a tube through an open end. As it walks up the angled bottom of the trap toward the bait, the mouse is trapped after a hinged door swings closed. The mouse can then be disposed of alive, or it can be left alone for a few hours to suffocate in the trap.
Trap-Ease has many advantages when compared with traditional spring-loaded traps or poisons. Consumers can use it safely and easily with no risk of catching their fingers during loading. It poses no injury or poisoning threat to children or pets. Furthermore, with Trap-Ease, consumers can avoid the unpleasant cleanup mess associated with violent spring-loaded traps. Finally, consumers can reuse the trap or simply throw it away.
These advantages were quickly recognized, with Trap-Ease becoming a "celebrity" product of sorts. It won first place among 300 new products at the annual National Hardware Show. People magazine wrote an article about the mousetrap, and numerous talk shows and trade publications featured it. Despite this attention, however, expected demand for the trap never materialized.
Martha's initial first-year sales forecast was five million units. However, in the first four months of operation, the company sold only several hundred thousand units. Martha wondered if most new products got off to such a slow start, or if she was...