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Marketing Lessons from the Trapper Keeper
Who would have thought a folder holder would be a mega hit?
E. Bryant Crutchfield, that’s who.
The genius behind the 1980s staple the Trapper Keeper passed away last month. And if you don’t know what a Trapper Keeper is, you must be young. It’s what Gen Xers and some Millennials would call the OG binder system.
Crutchfield was working at paper company Mead in the 1970s when he devised the Trapper Keeper. “Trappers,” aka folders, needed a place to live so students could have all of their class papers in one place. The “Keeper” held the folders together with a three-ring clip and closed it all up with a metal snap or Velcro flap.
It was, in essence, a folder for folders. But Crutchfield knew his innovation would get high remarks from students.
A Totally Rad Idea
So how did Crutchfield discover the need for the Trapper Keeper? Good old market research.
Part of his job as head of new ventures was to examine trends in the marketplace. His research in the early 70s uncovered a future influx of students with larger courseloads, while research a few years later discovered that folder sales were steadily rising.
Crutchfield realized this could lead to a problem for students, as more academic subjects meant more folders they needed to carry. He knew kids would need a notebook that could hold all their folders from class to class.
“The Trapper Keeper was no accident. It was the most scientific and pragmatically planned product ever in that industry,” Crutchfield said in 2017.
Mead tested the Trapper Keeper in smaller markets before a successful nationwide launch that raked in over $100 million in just the first year of sales. With fun designs from sports to geometric shapes to neon animal print, the Trapper Keeper became a reflection of a student’s identity, and the sales continued.