Five Ideas No One Thought Much About — Until They Changed the World

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There are some products that people think they can’t live without because they are such a part of everyday life. However, many of the products that are such a part of our lives were originally thought to be too different, too expensive, or too odd to even be successful. Because technology and the public mindset changes so rapidly, it can be hard to tell what type of product will be the next big thing.

While it is hard to determine at first if a cutting edge product is ahead of its time or just isn’t practical, there are some products that no one thought would be ones that people couldn’t live without in the future.

iPods and MP3 Players

Most people thought the compact disc was the end-all-be-all in music storage. They didn’t think a device that stored digital music files would ever replace the CD player or portable radio, particularly one that was so small and only had a headphone jack. However, the iPod came out and was a success with athletes and runners as it was lightweight and didn’t have the problem of skipping due to being jarred like portable CD players.

A few years later, it is nearly impossible to count the number of iPods and mp3 players one sees every day. No longer the territory of athletes and runners, this technology has changed the way we listen to and access our music. It also paved the way for the technology that is used to store and access music files on our smartphones– who would have thought we’d listen to music on our phones?


What began as a small bulletin board type site for Harvard University students has mushroomed into the largest social networking site and the grand-dame of social media with well over a billion users. When Facebook was first conceived, no one thought it would ever go past the walls of Harvard. In fact, it was created to rank and critique the attractiveness of Harvard students. It turned out, people immediately became addicted to anything posted about themselves and Facebook quickly grew to encompass other colleges in the area, then high schools, then the general population in the Boston area. Soon, the rest of the world were logging in and setting up profiles.

As it has grown up, Facebook is still a social site, however it has helped to usher in the idea of social media management for businesses as a part of their overall marketing plan. Not having a Facebook site is akin to committing marketing suicide in today’s business world. However, when the site was young, no one could conceive of the idea that it would become as important as it is in today’s world.



As the capabilities of mobile phones improved, people had cameras with them literally all the time. The quality of these photos was poor and there really was no way to improve it. People used their mobile phone cameras but the photos weren’t thought of as being as “real” as those that were printed out from film or a digital camera. Online photo sites weren’t widely used and no one ever thought they would replace a photo album with it’s printed out photos.

When Instagram began, it was picked up on by kids as a way to instantly share photos with their friends. As more adults began to discover it, they also began to learn the photo editing software that was available through the program itself. Instagram now is a widely used photo sharing and social media site allowing users to share photos and discuss them. Since it’s now integrated with Facebook, Instagram is just too easy to incorporate into your other social activities.


Formerly the territory of only cheerleaders and dancers, Spanx hit the market at a time when shape-wear was still clunky and uncomfortable. Most people thought that for pantyhose and shape-wear to work it had to be uncomfortable and unattractive. At the onset, few stores wanted to carry these pantyhose and shape-wear items because they were different than what the industry was offering. The company owner went on the road to promote the product and build a grass-roots network of support for it. As more people found out about this product and how comfortable it was, distribution grew. With some star-power behind the brand and a lot of women raving about the comfort of the designs, Spanx is a top-selling national, and international, brand in the women’s intimate apparel market.

Burt’s Bees

When Burt’s Bees started out, the co-founders thought their success would be limited to the small area where they were based and their only outlets would be fairs and craft shows. At the time, competing in a national market was nearly impossible for a small start-up company with such a specialized product such as lip balms made from beeswax.

As the company grew and more people found out about this specialty product, sales and word spread, eventually leading to a write-up in Allure magazine. It was also at this time that the organic movement was becoming a force in the marketplace and people were looking for natural alternatives for all products, including those in the health and beauty area. Burt’s Bees was able to take an all-natural product that was truly a niche marketed item and turn it into an international best seller. Not bad for an artist, a beekeeper, and a hive of bees.

A good idea is a good idea – even if it is a little before its time. What makes these ideas great is that they take what we know about similar products or processes and changes it up into something no one has ever seen before.

Once the public learns how these products go far above and beyond what they are used to, loyalty is built and the buzz begins to grow around them. It is at that time that an idea that no one thinks could ever be successful can quickly turn into one that we decide we can’t live without.

Justin NorrisJustin Norris is a professional blogger that provides tips and information on franchise opportunities and investments. He writes for Franchise Expo, the place to find the best franchise opportunities available.

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