It’s wintertime but instead of turning on the heater, people are turning to sleeved blankets-a.k.a. “Snuggies”-as a cheap alternative for warmth. Two years ago the term “Snuggie” was relatively unheard of in the United States, but now it’s a household name.
The Snuggie was a copy of the invention “The Slanket,” which was created by a freshman at the University of Maine named Gary Clegg. He came across the idea when he cut holes in a thick blanket in order to be able to change the channel on his television without having to move. Clegg originally tried to get a patent but the product wasn’t patentable because it was too simple of a product- it would be like trying to patent a t-shirt. The Snuggie explosion started in late 2008 when the direct response commercial aired and received much attention from TV personalities such as Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and more- mocking the ghost-like robe.
Who would have thought a backwards robe would be one of the best-selling direct response products of all time? We look at three reasons why the Snuggie beat out the competition and what small business owners can glean from the phenomenon.
1. Create a viral movement. Allstar Product Group, an all-in-one direct marketing company, created a full direct marketing campaign that involved creating a name and commercial that would go viral. People thought that the commercial was a joke at first and it received a lot of media attention mocking how funny the product actually was. The joke turned into a phenomenon that spread across the U.S. and received 25 million sales within two years of the product launch.
2. Don’t Run from Criticism. Instead of reacting harshly to parodies that people created on YouTube and comments that were made by TV personalities, the company believed in their product and went forth with their marketing efforts. An example of what NOT to do: The Smirnoff brand’s swift reaction to shut down “Bros Icing Bros,” a website created by college kids that displayed a viral drinking game featuring Smirnoff Ice. Traditionally the target market for Smirnoff Ice wasn’t males 18-25 but through this viral drinking game Smirnoff would have expanded into a new market; instead the brand chose to kill the website because they thought it devalued their brand.
3. Innovate your product. After Snuggie realized its success, the brand didn’t stop at one product offering. Snuggie created designer prints and multiple different styles as well as versions for dogs and kids so that it could hit multiple markets.
Conventional wisdom says that you need to find a need in the market place in order for a product to be successful. However, sometimes it’s best to defy conventional wisdom and put something on the market that is unique and use marketing to drive the sales. Clearly there wasn’t a need in the market for the Pet Rock or the Chia Pet but due to an effective marketing campaign both of those products were successful. So as we kick off a new year, how will you get innovative in your business and create something viral?