Duck (or duct) tape and super glue are two true icons of the latter half of the 20th Century found in most workrooms and junk drawers across the country. So it was interesting to talk to the company that developed the tape as a consumer product and is also a prime marketer of super glues.
Henkel Consumer Adhesives (Henkel CA) sells both Duck Tape® and Loctite® brand super glues in the United States. We started our conversation by asking Valerie Stump, advertising manager at Henkel CA, to tell us about the origin of the famous super-sticky silver tape and clear up the Duck or Duct question.
“It was invented during WWII by the Johnson & Johnson Company as a military tool,” explained Valerie.”GIs would use it to waterproof their artillery cases and it got the code name Duck Tape because water flowed off it & like water off a duck’s back. After the war, during the housing boom, ex-GIs realized the tape had a multitude of applications around the home for general repairs. It then became very popular for use on ductwork and that’s when the name was changed to duct tape. Eventually there were a lot of other types of tapes that were better for ductwork, so ductwork is not synonymous with its use anymore.”
In the mid 1980s the founder of the company (then called Manco) decided to brand its own version of duct tape as Duck brand. It was marketed as a more consumer-friendly brand, so they adopted the duck mascot and logo still featured today on its packaging. As Valerie noted, “It became one of the items people pick up at the store, even if they’re not always sure at the time just how they’re going to use it.”
Today, the Duck brand is more than its namesake tape. The line also includes painting tapes and electrical tapes. There’s also a mailing and shipping division with boxes, bubble wrap, and packaging tapes, and a home solutions business unit that markets shelf liners, bath mats, sink mats, and home organization products.
Henkel Group, the parent company, has its headquarters in Düsseldorf, Germany, with subsidiaries in more than 75 countries around the world. It acquired both the Duck brand products and the Loctite brand in 1998 and eventually consolidated the two under Manco. Then in 2001 they renamed the business Henkel Consumer Adhesives to handle all of the adhesives marketing (including international) for the company.
“We currently market all the glues and the tapes from here in Avon, Ohio.” Valerie detailed, “Our primary focus is on all of the consumer-related adhesives business, and both lines are equally important.”
A line of woodworking glue was launched under the Loctite brand in 2002. Based on Henkel’s extensive line of wood glues sold in Canada under the LePage® brand (unrelated to the LePage adhesives sold in the U.S.), the Wood Worx glues incorporate some of the innovative dispensing technologies developed in Canada.
“One of the things that really sets our wood glue products apart is that we try to answer some of the consumer frustrations about the hassles of working with glues and make our products very user friendly,” observed Valerie, “We have taken the approach of using dispensers that keep the glues ready to use at all times. I think the unique shape of the bottles alone draws attention to them on the retail shelves. And side-by-side with other brands, consumers will realize the potential benefits of our system.”
The company’s super glues have also undergone a recent overhaul. Though it still has a relatively quick setting time, a new repositional formula provides more leeway in placement than earlier formulas. And a new gel formula is easier and less messy to use & especially on vertical surfaces & and is less likely to get on fingers.
“And like our wood glues, we’re also creating new types of dispensing systems that make the super glues easier to use. We have a dispenser that encloses the tube of super glue, so you never touch the tube. A button on the outside controls the flow of the glue.”
Valerie described Henkel, the parent company, as the Procter and Gamble of Europe. Some of their key areas of focus are detergents, cosmetics, adhesives, and an industrial sector – marketed worldwide. In addition to the Consumer Adhesives brands, the company owns the Dial soap brand in the United States.
The Henkel CA Duck Brand web site offers both practical information and a playful take on the omnipresent tape. “Our Choose A Glue” site has become a strong resource for people who are doing any type of glue application,” Valerie declared.”If they are going to glue something to something and don’t know what to use, they can find out what type of glue they need. Some of the questions we get spur our newest product innovations. If there’s something we can’t glue to another thing, then we will do our darndest to figure out a formula that will make it work.”