Saturday, April 5, 2014

Experiment writeup: BottleBuddy

Here's a quick writeup of a little side project which I've spent a small amount of time on over the past year.  It's an excellent case study in exploring something new and fun - and letting an idea go when the numbers don't add up: BottleBuddy!


Background:

 At a birthday party, I was telling a story and had to set my drink down to excitedly tell a story.  After the (no doubt uproarious) punchline, I looked back, dismayed to see that I'd set my beer down among others of identical brand, and similar level-of-consumption. Impossible to know which beer was mine, I realized there might be a market for a tool to identify different people's beers, similar to wine glass charms/tags for dinner parties.
Wine charms, from HowAboutOrange
I started out by designing a prototype, doing a bit of market research, and protecting the idea.  Here's the path I took, graphically, and then the steps I took, below.

The general path I was on during development.

Prototyping:


I drew up some early designs incorporating a feature that would both identify the beer, and provide a bottle opener function:

BottleBuddy, revision1
This was obviously too clunky, didn't offer much useful advertising space, and most importantly, would be very expensive to manufacture, due to mold sliders.  So on to revision 2:
BottleBuddy, revision 2 (adds a bit of branding space, injection moldable)
(I realized that I'd need a metal insert to provide strength for opening cans, as below.)


On to revision 3 to start to maximize the advertising space, and add a few features at minimal/no cost.  Extra advertising space, to lay against the vertical wall of the beer bottle, and act as a dust cover on top of the beer:
BottleBuddy, revision 3 adds a living hinge, and a dust-cap lid.




I made some prototypes along the way, first with a Dimension SST printer, and second with RedEye's awesome 2-material co-printing abilities (VeroWhite plus with a 40 Shore A Black soft overmold).



BottleBuddy, revision 3, prototype.


Researching:

I didn't see many competitors in the marketplace - this was a double-edged sword: either I was saving an industry in need of a solution, or there simply was no need for the tool in general.
The closest thing to a competitor.
They decided to charge a premium, rather than to give advertising space.

I conducted some internet research about how free promotional items / giveaways are brought to market, sold in batches and then distributed to users, called up a few people in this space and got their feedback.  While none had seen anything similar, they all questioned whether I could make it for a low enough cost - between 20 and 40 US cents a piece in large quantity.  


I drew up a few images with actual branding to act as a testbed - this product is not affiliated with Leinenkugel brewing in any way. I wanted to test a very long, wide beer name, but one with a round logo (figuring I could put "Bud" in the same space fairly easily).





I solicited quotes from tooling manufacturers as well as final part manufacturers, and it looked like the cost of each part would only drop to about 50 cents each, before any silkscreening or shipping.  Yikes.

I wasn't worried about the mold cost; I would amortize it myself (rather than having the molder put it into the per-piece cost.  Depending on the quality of mold, the grade of material, number of cavities, I found quotes between $2k and $10k.  I knew that I needed to be selling 10's of thousands of Bottle Buddies, and so I figured with any real margin, this tooling cost would be paid back.

Finally, I put up a small, simple website, just to see if people would come based off of google adwords, etc.  (Short answer, a few did.)  You can find the website here.
The small, simple website for tracking visitors / web interest.  BottleBuddy.me!


Patenting:

I thought up a few different usage cases, penned them down, and combined with some detailed drawings.  You can access my provisional patent filing here.


A few images from it appear below, along with what is claimed. There are more images, as well as the use cases, etc., in the text of the application (above).





What is claimed is:

  1. A multi-function bottle identifier tag for use with bottled beverages comprising a bottle opening device with a means of identifying the beverage from other beverages without the tag, via identifying marks on the device.
  2. The identifier tag of claim 1, wherein the device has personal user identification marks, temporary, or permanent.
  3. The identifier tag of claim 1, wherein the device has promotional or other commercial branding indications including trademark or copyrighted color, text, logo, tactile shape, or other unique marks.
  4. The identifier tags of claim 2 or 3, wherein the device has an (or multiple) additional flexible protrusion(s) with the dual purpose of temporarily securing liquid from exiting the bottle, and more commonly, providing additional identifying features as mentioned.

Addendum: some tidbits from my notes

Why not add something else to object:
key ring
whistle
pen
knife
lighter
double use as pony tail holder?

Add a magnet under the lip to catch the beer bottle caps!


1. Offer personalized engraving as an extra cost
2. Include stickers with letters in the pack (a block of 26 letter stickers), so you can label it yourself
3. His & Hers Bottle Buddy pack (World's Best Dad, etc.)
4. Add a simple metal loop for a keychain attachment, so you always carry it on your keychain until you're at a party, then you remove it & put it on the bottle
5. Deluxe versions: a larger one that has brass knuckle loops, so it gives your beer bottle brass knuckles - call it the Chuck Norris Bottle Buddy - also the hand grenade Bottle Buddy with removable pin

Brainstorm #2
What else goes with drinking?
Smoking: Create a deluxe version that has a lighter on it.  Now you have your bottle opener and a fancy lighter to show off.
How about a rubber extension cap that you can wrap over the top of the beer that covers the top so if you leave your beer for a bit, it is fully covered & can't spill. (optional add on)

"If you like it, put a ring on it" --Beyonce

General diameter of bottle holder:
 Lip width: 1.06 - 1.12
 Min stretch: 1.1
 Max stretch: 1.4
 Bottom of neck: 1.48

Existing bottle openers:
 Magenta: Width: 0.480
 Shotgun: Width: 0.622
   (Shotgun tab: Width: 0.630, Thickness: 0.023")

Names:
  The Bottle Buddy
  Drink ID (DID)
  NeverLost
  SecureDrink
  BevFriend

Conclusion

In the end, I decided not to take the project forward, as it was simply not worth the time and effort for an industry-outsider.  Drop me a line, if you're interested to take BottleBuddy forward, I'm happy to let you!