Curiously strong product modification and usage extensions

One of the best compliments a brand could get is consumer modification–It is another tangent off of the Brand-out-of-control-fear that keeps encouragement of type of activity at bay. But imagine, a customer loves your product so much that they want to put their own mark on it, that they want to have it around more often Me+Brand=Loyalty– Like the recent example of the Altoids tin .mp3 player.

Brands that encourage modification and innovation are candidates for customer collaboration. Basics and building blocks from Ritz crackers to Lego rely on inspiration and customization in the nature of the product and in the messaging. CPG basics now come with various herbs, toppings that build in subtle mods.

In some ways, even putting stickers on phones or computers is territory-marking and could deepen the connection to a product by putting effort into the quality of the experience.

In addition to the branding and the uniqueness of the product, Altoids has tremendous community-centric value:
1. The Altoids tin has an inherent value outlasting their initial contents
2. Mints are meant to be shared/offered and are therefore viral
3. The Times article reveals an executive who is amused and respectful of alternate use. (I can imagine some companies trying to make it illegal and penalizing the customer.)

Here are some additional uses for your Altoids tins (We found so many more than this- Apparently it is a cult, and collectors abound:
via jduek

    1.      Use them to catch the fat grease from your grill
    2.      Kitchen and bathroom decorations
    3.      Holds all that loose pocket change – increases jingling sound
    4.      Tray for computer screws during an upgrade
    5.      Line your garden with Altoid tins instead of bricks
    6.      Archive old sales receipts
    7.      Insert in soles of shoes to make yourself look taller
    8.      Don’t attach blinking lights and leave them laying around suspiciously at airports. Attach blinking lights and leave them suspiciously at other places, but not airports.
    9.      You could, however, attach a little handle and check it as luggage on your next flight. The best part comes in the claim area when the tiny Altoids suitcase comes down the chute…
    10.      Target practice for gun owners
    11.      Tape them together to create a suit of body armor
    12.      People named “Al”: cover up the T-O-I-D-S and use as a name badge
    13.      Better yet, if your last name happens to be Altoids, tape it to your mailbox.
    14.      Short-term piggy-banks — easy to open, 0% APY
    15.      Makes for some good-looking ham radio electronics
    16.      Punch holes in them, use for keeping insects and small animals such as hamsters
    17.      Leave them on the street downtown and watch people foolishly pick them up and find that they are empty. (Even better: glue them to the sidewalk.)
    18.      Fill with plaster, fasten shut: hockey puck
    19.      Return to your local grocery store for a nickel (your mileage may vary)
    20.      Tie them to your fingers to help you remember things
    21.      Test the theory of evolution: place two unmodified paper clips inside, and shake vigorously for two billion years. See if they ever link together as a result of this process.
    22.      Fill with hand lotion and carry it in your purse.
    23.      Great candidates for subjects of modern surreal art (in fact, do any of these and take some photos; you should have no problem obtaining grant money from the NEA)
    24.      Insert in boxes of wrapped gifts; the added noise when shaking the present will confuse the recipient as to what’s inside
    25.      Tape to your dog’s tail for interesting effects when it wags
    26.      Just married? Tie them to your car’s bumper instead of tired old Campbell’s soup cans
    27.      About to get married? Drop on one knee and present the engagement ring to your girl in an Altoids tin! [Turns out this has been done! See the Addendum.]
    28.      Use as spacers for table or chair legs on very unlevel surfaces
    29.      Has anyone tried seeing if they do anything nifty in a microwave?
    30.      Callard & Bowser would like to keep this a secret, but these little tins can actually hold M&M’s too!
    31.      If you’re camping and you catch a small animal such as a rabbit, fish or ferret, you can cook the raw meat by putting pieces of it in Altoids tins and placing the tin in the glowing hot embers of your campfire for awhile.
    32.      When hiking through the forest, leave a trail of tins to prevent getting lost.
    33.      Great for housing that tiny new web server
    34.      You could place a microphone inside an Altoids tin and use it for espionage; it is likely, however, that the tin will be picked up and opened if seen.
    35.      While it’s still full of mints, stick it inside your tennis shoes or gym bag to offset the odor.
    36.      Goldfish coffin
    37.      Cry into them when you realize you’re paying almost 3 cents per mint.
    38.      Such a simple tin; / It could surely inspire / many a haiku
    39.      Fill with emergency spare cash and tape securely behind your knee or under your arm
    40.      Open the tin and look inside the lid: handy low-resolution travel mirror!
    41.      Use as bookmarks in heavy volumes such as the Yellow Pages
    42.      Stress reliever for the kind of people for whom those little spongy balls just aren’t enough
    43.      Enhance your clarity of speech by placing an Altoid tin inside your mouth while you repeat simple phrases
    44.      Create your own checker board 2′ 8″ on a side (each location 4″ square) and use them as checker pieces (use tins from cinnamon or wintergreen Altoids for the black pieces).
    45.      Fill them with sand and stack them up to mitigate flooding
    46.      Tie them together to create a wind chime
    47.      Pop the tin into a scanner, scan it into your computer, fool around with it in an image program, and put the results on your web site.
    48.      With the red and green colors, they are excellent Christmas ornaments.
    49.      Find anagrams for “Altoids”: TAIL SOD, SO TIDAL, SODA TIL, IS A DOLT, SAD TOIL, and SAIL DOT
    50.      Status symbol
    51.      Put some wheels on them, fill with metal weights and have an Altoids Derby Race.
    52.      Tie on the end of a long string to create a plumb line; you can hang it from the top of a building to see if the building is tilted at all.
    53.      Carry case for the Pentax Optio S digital camera.
    54.      Use them to store small condiments such as olives or chopped onions when you run out of Tupperware
    55.      Show that you support halitosis research by wearing one on your lapel
    56.      Find anagrams for “Callard & Bowser”: A SCREWBALL ROD, BOLD EAR SCRAWL, and LARS BE RAW COLD.
    57.      If you work at a bank drive-thru and for some reason those plastic tubes break or are lost, use Altoids tins instead!
    58.      Learn to juggle them and balance them on your chin for parties
    59.      Altoids tins stay wrinkle free without ironing!
    60.      Make the top halves of the tins into light switch and outlet cover plates
    61.      Put it up to your ear: you can hear the sea!
    62.      If, like many in my extended family, you accidentally lop off a finger in the workshop, keep it in the tin until you get to the clinic.
    63.      Makes excellent, durable roofing material
    64.      Tape them to the back of your telephone handset to make it easier to rest it on your shoulder while talking.
    65.      Casually take the tin out of your pocket and look at the reflection in the lid to see if there’s anyone suspicious behind you.
    66.      Find out the depth of a cave pit or the height of a building by dropping the tin from the top and counting the number of seconds until it hits the bottom. Like other physical objects on Earth, the tin accelerates at 9.8 meters/sec/sec.
    67.      Use it as a hopscotch thingie. It can even hold the chalk when you’re done.
    68.      Ever notice those hip, tiny new backpack/purses? Take this fashion trend to its logical conclusion and strap an Altoids tin to your back for those trips to the mall.
    69.      Saw off one end and make a pocket protector
    70.      FBI agents: instead of those little wallets, put your badge and ID inside an Altoids tin. Looks great when you flash it at people for whose houses you have a search warrant.
    71.      Hide them inside snowballs for an added punch
    72.      If you’re shipwrecked and on a deserted island, why not send a message-in-an-Altoids-tin, rather than a message-in-a-bottle?
    73.      Or, use the underside of the lid to reflect the sun and signal to passing ships and airplanes.
    74.      Create a weekly pill organizer: label seven Altoids tins with the days of the week.
    75.      Bake muffins or other pastries in them! (Talking of which, has anyone explored the culinary possibilities of the Altoids themselves?)
    76.      Look for cultish insignia or other signs of conspiracies on the tin
    77.      Punch holes through them and stick them on the spokes of your bicycle’s wheels
    78.      Spook a friend by placing a tin under their sheets (this only works for very excitable people)
    79.      Rumor has it that placing a pile of three or four on your electric meter will slow it down, lowering your electric bill
    80.      Sniff the leftover dust for a “high” almost as invigorating as that of Kool-Aid
    81.      Fill them with ice, and place them in your pop cooler; they help keep the cans cold for longer lengths of time and the cooler doesn’t get all full of water when the ice melts.
    82.      Plus, if someone gets injured at the picnic, you can use them as ice packs to reduce swelling.
    83.      If you filled them with something hot, such as Cream of Wheat, you could use them to warm your feet on cold winter nights.
    84.      Put them in the food-shelf bin at your grocery store. (Mean and cheap, you say? I don’t think so! Look how handy they are!)
    85.      If you attend a small church, have the ushers pass Altoid tins down the aisles instead of offering plates
    86.      They sure beat spoons for digging your way out of prison
    87.      They won’t hold your sunglasses, but they work great for monocles
    88.      Seperate the top and bottom halves, tape them together on one of the short edges, and use as a sleep blinder for bus and airplane trips.
    89.      Use them to scratch off your lottery ticket (if you actually buy lottery tickets)
    90.      Start your campfire by striking pieces of flint against it
    91.      They make good phylacteries
    92.      Use as a makeshift ruler (they are about 2.25″ by 3.75″)
    93.      Make and sell doll furniture. And stay away from me.
    94.      Walk around with them balanced on your head to improve your posture.

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