The Stapler Wars

When the gurus at venerable staplermaker Swingline woke up to a sharp business reality in 2001--market share had declined from 65% in the mid-1990s to 60% by the end of the decade--they opted for a measured and scientific response: research. For three years, they plumbed the psyches of stapler users, surveying 2,867 people online and sending four-person teams into the offices of 54 individually selected companies to see how their products were used. "We noticed the nuances of their stapling habits. We saw where they kept their staples and their removers," said Jacklyn Gyoerkoe, marketing manager for stapling.

Meanwhile, in the...

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