> wwjd braceletOnce I relocated to Holland from Chicago, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the new city I was living in, and what better place to look for this information than Wikipedia.org (since it is always 100% factual). But Wikipedia is a great resource it gives you a quick snapshot and then you can dive in and do some more research to verify or clarify what you read on the site. My digression aside, one of the more interesting tidbits I had found out about Holland on Wikipedia was that the W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do) craze was started in Holland. It is my city’s claim to fame (well besides the Tulip Time festival which was featured on the Simpsons, or this heartwarming story of Tulip Time pirates). The thing is I never really bothered to look into this story much more than that. Occasionally, it would come in handy when I was bragging to my Chicago friends about how cool Holland is, but I often just left it at that. But now with West Michigan Business Blog, I actually have a reason to do some more research.

charles-sheldon2Surprisingly the whole What Would Jesus Do? Began back in Topeka, Kansas, in the 1890s, where a preacher named Charles Sheldon began using this phrase as a centerpiece of a series of sermons stories he had created for his followers. The main characters in the stories would always ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” when faced with difficult situations. These sermons were eventually compiled into a book called “In His Steps”. In the 1990’s a youth minister at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland named Janie Tinklenberg had her youth group read the book and begin discussing it. Tinklenberg wanted her group to have a constant reminder of “What Would Jesus Do?” so they could make the right decisions, and changed it to W.W.J.D. and had a company (Lesco Corporation) imprint it on bracelets. Interesting enough she had thought of other chotskies to print it on like pencils, pens, T-shirts, but settled on the bracelets since friendship bracelets were popular back in 1990s (just like those “Live Strong” yellow rubber bracelets, and those metal snap bracelets…note to self wrist fads are quite popular, develop a new one… WWWMBBD perhaps?)slap-13


After having a company in Lansing called Lesco to produce 200 of the bracelets, they quickly ran out, as the bracelets caught on. Lesco sold about 300,000 within the first seven years, but then they got a lucky break when in Paul Harvey mentioned the bracelets on his radio show in 1997 and sales exploded to 15 million bracelets sold in 1997 (link). It was also at this time that other companies got in on the WWJD craze, and this message began proliferating onto anything that could be imprinted, screen-printed, or silkscreened.

Amazingly Janie never got a penny of the WWJD explosion. She had failed to try to copyright the phrase until the summer of 2000. The US Patent and Trademark Office said that the logo had become too commonplace and that it was public domain, so she had no claim on it. I do find it surprising that Lesco did not try to copyright that phrase since they were the primary manufacturer and distributor of the bracelets for a good length of time. Here is the story about some of the legal debate on the whole WWJD thing and conflict of marketing Christian items.

So what can we take out of this story… Bracelets are a good fad to try to start… If you have a good idea or product, trademark and copyright it… Holland is cool, even with the way the police department handled that pirate snafu.


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