What are the 3’M’s in 3M?

The three “M”s in 3M represent their original business title which used to be the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.   That’s what the company started out as, a mining company in Minnesota.  Five businessmen had goals to mine corundum in 1902, but failed because there was none in the area.  Three years later the men changed their business into creating products made from sandpaper.


I’m familiar with the 3M brand because there’s one just 20 minutes from the small town in Northeast Iowa where I grew up.  I know what products they create because my mom is a teacher and one student she had got a variety of his school supplies from 3M.


The business has over 55,000 different products produced by 88,000 people.  I remember those products as being mostly typical home and office supplies, but some were very innovative and creative.  According to the company’s website, they have a variety of office and home supplies, dental products, electronics, medical products, car maintenance products and film.


The website also says the company has $30 billion in sales and has employees in 65 countries.


The 3M company has a history of being innovative, it makes sense considering those 55,000 different products.  They were the first company to make the world’s first waterproof sandpaper.  This was important, according to their company website, because it made manufacturing automobiles in the 1920s safer for the workers.


3M also has ties to war products.  Although it was not said what exactly 3M made, the company did manufacture products for World War II.  This change of products for the war inspired creative thinking for what other products could be useful for America after the troops came home.  These products included some graphic art and even highway reflectors and magnets.



The advertisement below is an example of an online ad for 3M.  The company has specific guidelines for their branding, such as immediate recognition of the business logo, the red 3M.  The company even has a required guideline for what font is supposed to be used for all ads, that font is Helvetica Neue Condensed.  The part about the advertising guidelines I found personally most interesting was the last one; it prompts a question about storytelling.  The guidelines ask if the advertisement tells a story, specifically a visual story about how the elements connect to each other, the product being advertised and the logo.


I’ll end with a story about 3M to finish up this blog post.


The name “scotch tape” came from a painter using 3M tape.  He was annoyed that the tape did not have enough adhesive, and told the company he bought it from to take the tape back to their “Scotch” bosses to fix.  And, the name stuck.


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