Even a silly idea—supported by great marketing—can be a big success

By Ernie Wood   |   April 4, 2015

It’s about the marketing—and the timing. So the popular wisdom goes. But this time it was true. Really, really true.

No innovative product. No superior service. Simply a rock. It just sat there. And it made money.

Gary Dahl, the inventor of the Pet Rock®, died earlier this week. He trademarked the term, so I’ll give him a ® out of respect. It was probably the silliest idea ever to make its inventor rich, but there was a stroke of genius in it.

It was 1975, and I was a newspaper reporter in Raleigh. I hadn’t migrated to advertising and marketing yet, but even a journalist could understand the importance of marketing—and in the case of the Pet Rock, packaging. Such a weird idea certainly couldn’t make it on its own.

We’ve all had ideas like this. In the era of the Pet Rock, I had one that involved monkeys cooking. That’s all I’m going to say. I still might be able to make it work someday. I did use the idea in a screenplay as part of a conversation between two guys in a bar. They never got their idea off the ground. My screenplay never got made into a movie either.

Gary Dahl was a copywriter who got his idea in a bar. He sold 1.5 million of the critters. Later, he wrote the book Advertising for Dummies. All of which proves that you never know where ideas will come from. But it also proves that once you hatch an idea, you’ve got to know how to sell it. Or it’ll just sit there. It won’t make a penny. Just like any other rock.

by Ernie Wood


Ernie Wood

About the Author

Previous Managing Copy Director of DeLaune & Associates, Ernie is an author with more than 25 years of technology writing experience.

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