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This question has been answered, and points have been awarded.
Why Did The Pet Rock Do So Well?
2/9/2004 at 5:27 PM ET
Why did the "Pet Rock" do so well?
Is it possible for something like that to happen again?
2/9/2004 at 5:49 PM
These "hypotheticals" are very thought provoking, keep it up, Jett, AndrewS, and everyone.
You know, the sad part to me is that I find Starbucks Coffee is bland and boring compared with the real Italian version. Yet it attracts a massive price premium - around 70 - 90% above the superior tasting, un-franchised product in my home town of Melbourne, Australia. It's all in the positioning and packaging.
I can remember when McDonalds first launched in London, England. It was a phenomenon and people queued to taste it. It wasn't cheap, and look how bland it has become.
Is the pet rock repeatable? What about the Cell Phone Ė isnít that a modern equivalent? Thing is, we can live without a pet rock, but how many of us would have withdrawal symptoms if we had no cell phone...
2/9/2004 at 6:55 PM
Sometime people need to have to care for something. When the Tamagotchi was ats zenith, people were having to see grief counsellors when the Tamagotchi "died".
That's a prime example of fulfilling something that marketers would not classify, normally, as a need.
One person's need is another person's product benefit, perhaps?
At least a pet rock never died...
2/10/2004 at 1:26 AM
The genus of ideas is sometimes trite:)
"Gary Dahl, as California advertising man, was having drinks with his buddies one night in April 1975 when the conversation turned to pets. As a lark, Mr. Dahl informed his friends that he considered dogs, cats, birds, and fish all a pain in the neck. They made a mess; they misbehaved; they cost too much money. He, on the other hand, had a pet rock, and it was an ideal pet - easy and cheap, and it had a great personality. His buddies started to riff with the off-the-wall idea nd pretty soon they were al tossing around the notion of a pet rock and all the things it was good for.
Dahl spent the next two weeks writing the Pet Rock Training Manual - a step-by-step guide to having a happy relationship with your geological pet, ..."
The context the Pet Rock was born is elaborated here:
[inactive link removed]
'75 was quite an eventful year, and ad man with a few drinks in his belly, a press release or two, and...
Maybe the Pet Rock was an antidote to the seriousness of the news and public environment. Maybe there's a lesson there in making something like that happen again.
[Moderator: Inactive link removed from post. 2/17/2011]
2/10/2004 at 10:42 AM
A walkman ... OK maybe not modern version of it, but another version of this concept of providing something no-one needed, until it hit the market.
i would love to know the psycological issues behind such products. Although the success of the walkman is said to be down to the Japanese manufacturers giving their distributers all the product information and getting shipments figures back to Sony quickly.
2/10/2004 at 11:29 AM
The pet rock worked because it was a damn stupid idea that people cottoned to for just that reason. It cannot be replicated. It cannot be proceduralized. It cannot be ascribed to anything but the category of "who the hell knows why people go for things like that?"
It would be nice if it were different. If it could be proceduralized and replicated like a soft drink forumula. Then we'd all be rich as could be inventing totally inane products.
But it isn't.
Yea it will happen again. Somewhere. Sometime. Someplace. Like Tamagotchis.
Sometimes people just get lucky. You don't plan on it. You don't prepare for it. And you, unfortunately, learn very little from it about marketing.
2/10/2004 at 11:02 PM
As JR notes, the pet rock is the classic example of Fad marketing. My belief is that it's success was due to a combination of understanding human psychology (as mentioned already), and also undertanding the product life cyle of fads (extremely rapid adoption followed by extremely rapid decline).
The question is what causes such explosive early adoption? A few theories from a non-consumer goods marketer: a novel "buzz-worthy" concept (something that people just "have" to tell others about and that the media will love to report on), a connection with basic human needs (friendship, comfort & humor in this case), mass market appeal, a product that is exceptionally easy to understand, a low price point, and multiple rationales for purchase (i.e., lots of people are interested in the product for different reasons).
Will it happen again? Of course. Look at Beanie Babies. In fact, given that it's been 30 years, the time might be right to launch "Pet Rock Classic." You can win on the nostalgia thing for the Boomers and the fun/outrageous aspect for the younger generation.
For a good idea as to how you can create your own fad, check out Seth Godin's "Unleshing the Ideavirus."
Thanks for making me think!
2/11/2004 at 7:20 AM
What about dancing sunflowers? I mean, those things were totally useless... But funny.
Talking/Singing Bass - another case in point.
Dancing soda cans... same thing.
Man, we're surrounded by successors to the damn Pet Rock and we hardly even notice them!
Not only did the Pet Rock not die on you, it didn't need batteries, either!
2/16/2004 at 5:27 PM
For an unrelated reason, these two web sites passed through my reading material in the last couple of days.
Made me think of this discussion. Thought I'd pass them on.
I enjoyed them, but the first was my favorite.
2/16/2004 at 5:53 PM
Cool! Thanks tjh!
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