Some of the best discoveries happen by accident. As a result, many of the world’s most famous brands and products started out doing something completely different to that what they are known for today.
They range from soft drinks that were originally laced with powerful mind-altering drugs to, medicines with unexpected, but profitable, side-effects.
We collected 11 examples of products that have been remarkably successful, despite being intended for a completely different purpose.
Coca-Cola started out as a cure for morphine addiction
Dr. John Pemberton, who invented the original formulation of the black syrupy soft drink in 1886, had been badly injured in the battle of Columbus. After this, he became hopelessly addicted to prescription morphine, according to Jeremy Agnew in his book Alcohol and Opium in the Old West.
Being a trained pharmacist, Pemberton decided to come up with his own addiction cure. This resulted in “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca” — a dink that contained alcohol and cocoa leaf extract — the same ingredient that makes cocaine.
When Coca-Cola was first launched, it was marketed as a nerve tonic that “relieves exhaustion.” Cocaine was removed from the product in 1903.
Listerine started out as an anti-septic
You might be alarmed, but maybe not that surprised to hear that the blue, stinging liquid you have been gargling every morning was originally marketed as as a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea, according to Freakonomics.
Also used as a surgical antiseptic, the product did not become commercially successful until it re-branded as a cure for bad breath. Again according to Freakonomics, the company’s revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million in the seven years after the change of strategy.
Bubble Wrap was originally marketed as wallpaper
Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding had been attempting to devise a new style of textured wallpaper,when they came up with bubble wrap in 1957, according to Forbes.
They created it through sealing together two shower curtains, which made the first layer of the bubbles. Unsuccessfully, the pair tried selling the product first as wallpaper and later as greenhouse insulation.
According to Sealed Air company legend, it was not until IBM launched the 1401 computer in 1959 that bubble wrap was first used for the purpose of keeping products safe in transit.
The slinky was meant to stabilize naval equipment on rough seas
The slinky is one of the most influential toys ever, according to Time. However, the mesmerizing metal springs were originally invented for a much more practical purpose: stabilizing devices on ships on choppy seas.
It was not until the instrument-stabilizer was accidentally knocked off a shelf and appeared to walk across a desk that its inventor, Richard James, conceived of it as a toy, according to Adweek. James once said: “Strictly speaking, I didn’t invent the Slinky. He practically walked into my life.”
Viagra was designed to lower blood pressure
Scientists who developed Viagra, or Sildenafil Citrate, were hoping it could lower blood pressure and treat Angina — a heart problem. However, they were met with a surprising side-effect during clinical trials — the male participants experienced erections, according to The BBC.
Curing erectile dysfunction became an incredibly lucrative side-effect for the drug And in 2007, its original purpose was vindicated. Scientists showed that as well as boosting blood flow to the penis, the drug could also increase the amount of blood sent to the heart and lungs, according to The British Heart Foundation.
7UP was originally a mood-stabilizing drug
7UP started out with a much less catchy label: “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda.” As the name implies, the lemon-lime flavored drink contained lithium — a drug used in the psychiatric treatment of people suffering from bipolar disorder.
According to The New York Times, 7UP contained lithium up until 1950. It is even suggested that the “7” in the name refers to lithium’s atomic mass and “UP” could be to do with an improved mood, after taking the substance.
Hair restoration medicine Rogaine was intended as a blood-pressure treatment
Rogaine is the commercial name for a drug called “minoxidil” — a drug which can help reduce high blood pressure.
It’s second use was discovered by patients taking the blood-pressure medication Loniten (which also contains minoxidil.) They noticed sudden increased hair growth on their scalp, but also in less desirable places like their backs arms and legs, according to Hair Solution’s history of the drug. Quickly realizing the commercial value of this side-effect, Rogaine was made available as a hair loss solution in 1988.
Frisbees were originally pie containers
William Russell Frisbie bought a bakery in Connecticut in the late 19th century, which he called the Frisbie Pie Company. After Frisbie’s death, his company continued to flourish and it 1956 reached a peak production of 80,000 pies per day — according to the World Flying Disc Association. Pies and cookies made by the company came with plate-shaped tin bearing the name “Frisbee Pies.”
Yale students discovered a second use for the tins, and began to hurl them around the university campus. As the flying disk approached its target, the thrower would shout “Frisbie” as a warning. The slightly different spelling “frisbee” is now used for the toy.
Chainsaws were developed as a tool for cutting bones during operations
The earliest mention of the chainsaw comes from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which reveals the original purpose of the chainsaw to cut bone in operations.
According to The History of the Chainsaw, the journal says: “Orthopedics became a specialty with the help of a new instrument, the osteotome, invented around 1830 by the German Bernard Heine. This illustration from a contemporary inventory of surgical tools shows clearly that this clever master of prosthetics had in fact invented the chain aw. The links of the chain carried small cutting teeth with the edges set at an angle; the chain was moved around a guiding blade by turning the handle of the sprocket wheel.”
WD-40 was used for lubricating missiles
WD-40 is most commonly used to protect metal implements from moisture and to loosen tight screws. Around 80% of US households own a can of the stuff, according to the latest census, Adweek reported.
However, originally, WD-40 was used for lubricating (thankfully unused) nuclear missiles during the Cold War era. WD-40 was created by a small San Diego company called Rocket Chemical and its retail name is an abbreviation for “water displacement, 40th attempt,” according to Cracked.
Play-Doh was first used as a wallpaper cleaner
Cleo and Noah McVicker developed the putty in 1933 to help clean up soot-covered walls, according to The Huffington Post. Made from a simple combination of flour, water, and salt, it was meant to be rolled across walls to disrupt dirt. However, the introduction of vinyl wallpaper (easy to clean with just water and soap) meant putty became somewhat superfluous.
But then, younger relation Joe McVicker, who was hired by the company in 1949, discovered that the formula could be used as a pliable modeling clay, according to Ohio History Central. Play-Doh was put on sale for this purpose in 1956.
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SOURCE: Business Insider