Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Next Pet Rock

The other day I overheard several people talking over lunch about the need to have a great sales idea.  They were talking about the “Pet Rock” as the perfect example of a crazy marketing idea that was outrageously successful.

For those of you who weren’t with us in the 70’s a Pet Rock was a collectible that was sold for a short time and was very profitable.

In April 1975, the creator Gary Dahl was in a bar (which is now Beauregard Vineyards Tasting room in Bonny Doon) listening to his friends complain about their pets. This gave him the idea for the perfect "pet": a rock.

A rock would not need to be fed, walked, bathed, groomed and would not die, become sick, or be disobedient. He said they were to be the perfect pets, and joked about it with his friends. However, he eventually took the idea seriously, and drafted an "instruction manual" for a pet rock. It was full of puns, gags and plays on words that referred to the rock as an actual pet. The original Pet Rock had no eyes.

The idea and packaging was the perfect combination for this collectible. 

The first Pet Rocks were ordinary gray stones bought at a builder's supply store. They were marketed like live pets, in custom cardboard boxes, complete with straw and breathing holes for the "animal." The fad lasted about six months, ending after a short increase in sales during the Christmas season of December 1975. Although by February 1976 they were discounted due to lower sales, Dahl sold 1.5 million Pet Rocks and became a millionaire.

A thirty-two page official training manual titled The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock was included, with instructions on how to properly raise and care for one's new Pet Rock (notably lacking instructions for feeding, bathing, etc.). The instruction manual was the real product: it was full of gags, puns and jokes. It contained several commands that could be taught to the new pet. While "sit" and "stay" were effortless to accomplish, "roll over" usually required a little extra help from the trainer/owner. "come," "stand" and "shake hands" were found to be near-impossible to teach, but "attack" was fairly simple (also with some additional help from the owner). The owners/trainers also found that potty-training their pet rocks was fairly simple, given that they were, in fact, rocks. Dahl's biggest expense was the die-cutting and manufacture of the boxes. The rocks only cost a penny each, and the straw was nearly free. For the initial run of booklets, Dahl had a printing job for a client and "tacked" the pet rock booklet onto the main job. This resulted in a batch requiring only a cut and trim, at almost no cost except some labor.

What is your idea for the next Crazy Collectible?

This is one of those ideas that need to be under the banner of “Just Do It.”  Call MI Printing to have your surveys printed.

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MI Printing 
Phone: 623.582.1302