Walker had the genius to trademark a date, and those numbers
have made more numbers - this time with dollar signs in front
Typically, doodles are those little scribbles in the margins
of our day planners; useless stuff that fills up time as we take
mental breaks from our "productive" work.
Ken Walker felt the same way - at least, he did until one of
his squiggles started raking in millions of dollars.
Back in 1994, when he first heard about the possible computer
glitches related to Y2K, he wanted to understand the problem.
So, in his terms, he "started doodling" on a piece
of paper. As president of WalkerGroup/Designs, an architectural
and design firm, he had always been a visual thinker. He scribbled
12.31.99 to signify the last day of the year, and then jotted
down the next day. "I liked the way 01.01.00 looked,"
he says. "In it, I saw the computer glitch, and the language
of the next millennium - those zeros and ones. It's an abstract
mark, language-independent, not relying on a word jumping out
Recognizing a potentially hot business idea, Walker decided
to register the symbol 01.01.00 and see what he could do with
it. He trademarked his doodle, a process that took three years
and $500,000 in what he recalls as "a long, hard, expensive
process, requiring three law firms. We registered 14 categories
in 30 countries, each with a different set of rules."
However, the results were worth it. He forecasts sales of over
$100 million from his patented items by the year 2000. Since
1997, WalkerGroup/Designs has licensed "The Mark of the
Millennium: 01.01.0011" to 60 companies. Items tagged 01.01.00
are sold across the USA, Europe, Japan, Canada, Korea and The
Philippines. "They're everywhere from Bloomingdales to Wal-Mart,
and in duty-free shops worldwide," says Walker. "We're
While they have the obvious clocks, watches, caps and t-shirts,
the company has also created higher-end, more unusual items with
the trademarked tagline. Among these are a leather bomber jacket
($250) a silver mini-purse ($700), and items made by such famous
names as Nicole Miller, Salvatore Ferragamo, Josie Natori and
Adrienne Vittadini. Whimsy also sells. "A lot of fun things,
like our countdown gloves (about $15), sell well. My favorite's
the snow globe with an exploding computer," admits the company
president, who's also partial to Millanimals, a line of plush
Why do so many consumers want things tagged 01.01.00? "The
millennium will be the greatest celebration in our collective
lifetime, a point in time everyone will remember. Your grandchildren
will ask where you were," Walker believes. Low-key and softspoken,
he's very proud of coming up with the 01.01.00 idea. "It
takes people a second to get it; then they feel good for catching
on. I love the smile that comes on people's faces as they say,
'Why didn't I think of that?"'
In fact, he's so confident that he's trademarked the numbers
01.01.00 through 01.01.10, but isn't yet: sure what he'll do
with them. Knowing the U.S. Patent Office received over 1,500
applications with millennium or Y2K in the name, he exults, "We
have the lion's share of millennium merchandise. We're the only
ones who did it globally, the only ones who created a brand for
He's not the only one to notice that fact, either. Walker and
his 01.01.00 line have been featured in People, Harper's Weekly,
Forbes, The New York Times and other print publications, as well
as on Good Morning America and CNN. Getting on such shows wasn't
just vanity; it was shrewd marketing. "Press coverage was
a necessity, on several levels. It educates consumers that this
is something special, giving retailers the confidence to buy
our merchandise, knowing shoppers read about it."
Articulate and engaging, Walker also benefited from 25 years
of good media coverage at his first firm, WalkerGroup/CNI, the
world's largest architecture company specializing in retail design.
He sold it to WPP Group in 1987, staying on as CEO/Chairman.
"When potential clients see your work in print, it carries
a lot of weight," he says.
Walker's retail background was a boon for selling 01.01.00.
His team visualized millennium shops within department stores
and showed retailers sketches of how boutiques could look. Walker
designed special elements like a large countdown clock - a key
in convincing Bloomingdales to install America's first millennium
shop. For the launch, on August 19,1999, Walker suggested a giant
countdown clock over the Third Avenue entrance. "A great
visual, and an early millennium event, it was on TV all over
the world," Walker grins.
Walker promotes his brand wherever he can. An avid amateur race
car driver for 38 years (with Akin Motor Sports), he put a large
01.01.00 logo on the 53-foot rig that carries his cars all over
the country. His race car's number is 00, with 01.01.00 on the
back. You'll also find him driving between his historic Long
Island home and his office in Manhattan's trendy Flatiron district.
His vehicle of choice? A Mercedes with a vanity plate reading
- what else - "MR.01 01 00."
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