We spend a lot of time talking about how important it is to research and sell into a hungry market.
It’s often the deciding factor in success or failure. But, every once in a while, something odd happens. Someone comes along and creates a solution to a problem we never knew we had. And, in doing so, they literally create a market, a hunger, out of thin air.
According to Super70s.com, in 1975…
Advertising executive from California named Gary Dahl. Not content with traditional pets, which he considered too messy, costly, and misbehaved, he had taken on a clean, cheap and well-behaved rock as his pet. When told of his choice of pets, his friends first thought was that he was stoned. However, they soon agreed it was a good idea and Dahl spent a few weeks preparing a Pet Rock Training Manual. Topics included: “How to make your Pet Rock roll-over and play dead” and “How to house-train your Pet Rock.” Little did he know that fame and fortune was just a stone’s-throw away.
Dahl packaged the rock with his manual in a cardboard box designed to look like a pet carrying case and began selling them at $3.95 each. He introduced them at a gift show in San Francisco in August of ’75 and, as an ad executive, was savvy enough to create a press release which he sent out, complete with his picture, to virtually every major media outlet. In October Newsweek carried an article on the fad and dozens of local newspapers picked up the story. Soon even staid Neiman Marcus was carrying them. Dahl’s personal 15 minutes of fame culminated with an appearance on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show!
By Christmas of that year, depending who you ask, somewhere between 1 and 5 million pet rocks were sold and the trend came to a screaming halt.
Not a bad way to score quick millions and have some fun.
But, the bigger lessons here are:
- For every rule, there is an exception – Selling into an existing market is far easier than creating a new market. But, if you have the backbone, the bank account and the idea, creating a new market or going “Blue Ocean” can often be far more lucrative, but…
- If you’re going to create a new market, do it with a unique, protectable solution – Creating new markets is almost always extraordinarily hard work, often takes a lot of money and comes with a huge educational burden (you need to teach your prospects why they can’t live without you). If you can surmount these challenges, you can create near uncontested market space. It’ll take years for anyone else to catch up. Unless…
- If you create a new market with a fast & fungible product, expect a short lifespan – On rare occasion, the burden and work needed to create a new market is minimal, as was the case with the Pet Rock. All it took was a wacky idea, a few weeks’ work and some great PR. That’s cool, a small team of people had a lot of fun and made a few million bucks in a matter of months. Just know, the easier it is to create a market, the faster that space will be contested. This is the basis of pop-trends. One person kicks them off, a week later a million others knock them off. So be ready to strike hard and fast, then move on.
So, got a Pet Rock in YOUR pocket?
Join our Email List for Weekly Updates
And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...