PopSockets Are The Latest Invention You Didn't Know You Needed
Brad Monton and Elisabeth Brier

Just like laptops, cars and even cheeseburgers were upon their first introduction to society, PopSockets are the latest invention people don’t know that they need.

Able to be used as a phone stand, an ear bud holder and a tool for seamless selfies, PopSockets have slowly but surely been making their way into mainstream culture.

Yet, as is the way with all new products whose function doesn’t necessarily serve an urgent need, gaining acceptance from the masses is no easy feat.

Brad Monton, PopSocket’s Head of Results, explained to TechDay what strategies have gone into bringing this funky phone adornment to the forefront of society and even into the hands of some of the world’s most A-list celebrities.

PopSockets boast near countless value propositions from acting as a phone stand to just being fun to play with. However, upon the product's inception, what was it's original intended purpose?

In 2009, our founder, David Barnett was looking for a way to stop his earbud cord from getting tangled, and he achieved this by gluing two buttons to the back of his phone and wrapping the earbud cord around the buttons. As ugly as the buttons were, they worked. In the course of improving on the idea, he developed about 60 different prototypes, eventually making the buttons expand and collapse via an accordion mechanism, so that they could function as both a stand and a grip. In 2012, Barnett started a KickStarter campaign for an iPhone case that would have two PopSockets grip-stands integrated into the case. In addition to getting successfully funded, the KickStarter campaign enabled Barnett to show the world his dancing prowess. During the process of developing that iPhone case, Barnett started developing an individual PopSockets grip-stand that would attach to most phones and cases by way of a thin reusable sticky-gel pad. This individual PopSockets grip-stand went on to become the flagship product of his company.

What specific aspect of the PopSocket do you believe drove it to go mainstream?

The primary reason our company is growing so much is due to word of mouth – once people put a PopSockets grip-stand on their phone, they like it so they keep using it; other people see it on their phone and ask what it is, and as a result we experience strong organic growth. My favorite comment I ever saw from a customer was "Dear PopSockets company, please sell more PopSockets so I can stop explaining to people what this is on the back of my phone." We're getting closer to that stage where people can be expected to know what our product is.

Having a high-quality selection of graphics for people to choose from, for their button design, is I think key as well. In addition, some people really value the custom-upload feature (where they can, for example, put a picture of their dog or boyfriend on the button).

Is there a unique aspect of modern culture that you believe can be directly attributed to society's fascination with PopSockets?

People like to personalize things they own, and PopSockets grip-stands provide an easy and useful way for people to personalize their phones. Also, people are sick of dropping and breaking their phones -- we're glad to provide a product that helps solve such a ubiquitous problem.

How has celebrity culture played into PopSocket's success and how has the current sort of 'golden age of social media' played into this?

We are happy that various celebrities have been spotted using PopSockets, including Joe Biden, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Jared Leto, Ryan Seacrest, Serena Williams, and Reese Witherspoon. It's hard to measure how much of an impact that has had on our success, but we presume that it has. Celebrities, like most everyone else nowadays, like taking selfies, and PopSockets grip-stands make it much easier to take a selfie. So when someone takes a picture of a PopSockets-using celebrity taking a selfie, or when the celebrity takes a picture of themselves in the mirror, and such a picture gets posted on social media (as they typically do), then lots of people get to see our product in action.

What would your advice be to startup founders whose product is primarily for fun and doesn't necessarily serve a ~dire~ need?

Our main advice it to get your product in the hands of others -- if they like it, they'll keep using it, tell their friends, and you'll end up being successful. For a low-cost product like ours, we've found that online advertising is less effective. Early on in our company history, we used tomoson.com for one month as a way to get our product in the hands of bloggers. Nowadays lots of people post on social media about us on their own accord, so we don't need to actively seek mentions.

We do work hard on having our own fun and active social media accounts so we can regularly communicate with fans of our products.

What's next for PopSockets?

We're in the process of developing more products -- we've recently come out with our aluminum series, our wood series, and our diamond series (where the button is faceted the way a diamond is). Maybe someday we'll release a PopSocket with actual diamonds. :) We're also working on licensing deals -- we currently sell PopSockets with graphics from Pokemon, Best Fiends, and musical.ly, with more in the works.

A new goal for 2017 in our company is to increase net happiness in the world by 0.01% in five years. This is providing a new focus for our philanthropic efforts. Part of the way we want to increase net happiness is by selling products that people like, and part of the way is by helping effective non-profits further their missions.