The story of one dumb product that grossed $500 Million in sales!
A lot of my focus at Darryl Kimball.net is on simple product inventions or innovations that made people very wealthy. Yes I sometimes write about some of the more techy inventions or companies, but it is often to illustrate a point, such as the power of the human mind to create wealth.
But I really enjoy talking about the simple ideas and products that are successful from a marketing and money making standpoint. It’s these products and stories that give the small inventor or struggling entrepreneur the hope they need to keep moving forward with their own product or business idea. Or more importantly, to give hope to those who are in the brainstorming stage- wondering if they have the mental capability or brain power to come up with their own product or business idea.
“We give financial hope away for free every day.”
Consider this story about one dumb little product idea that made millions of dollars, consider it a booster shot of hope to propel you on your own entrepreneurial journey.
Product invention vs. product development or innovation
I have talked before about invention vs. innovation or product development. I tend to use invention pretty loosely to refer to any new product idea. Certainly the word invention has a much stricter definition, particularly to the patent and trademark office. The word invention is defined by The Free Dictionary as “A new device, method, or process developed from study and experimentation.”
What I would really like for you to understand is that not every new product is going to require a patent, which can be a costly and time consuming process. Not every new product or idea can be patented anyway. Sometimes, being the first to market with your product, protecting your brand name with a registered trademark and having an aggressive marketing plan is the way to protect your idea. There will always be knockoffs and copycats. But you have probably heard the saying; Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well it’s true; If you have a good idea someone is eventually going to copy you.
This story is one that you have heard before, but I like to present it in a slightly different context. It involves a TV marketing company named Allstar who took someone else’s dumb little idea, a product already being sold through various outlets, and marketed a cheaper copy of it- to the tune of $500 million in gross sales in 5 years.
Yes it’s the story of that blanket with sleeves we all love to hate, the Snuggie!
How to invent a $500 million Idea; It’s simple really
Before we get to the Snuggie and how Allstar Products Group sold $500 million worth of the blankets with sleeves, let’s go back two years prior to the Slanket and its creator.
Gary Clegg was still a teenager and a freshman in college when the idea of a blanket or sleeping bag with sleeves was born. He was up late one cool winter evening watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien, when he became annoyed at having to stick his arm out from under the warm sleeping bag just to change the TV channel. As the evening wore on Gary grabbed a pair of scissors and cut a hole in the sleeping bag to stick the remote through. Problem solved! That by the way is just how simple inventing a new product can be. It was just a few more minutes when the idea came to Gary that he ought to sew a pair of sleeves onto the blanket. The idea for the Slanket, and really the idea for the $500 million Snuggie Empire was just born.
To be fair, Gary Clegg is likely not the very first person to come up with the idea of a blanket with sleeves as a product known as the Freedom Blanket was also being sold around the same time. But, Gary maintains that he came up with the idea independently and without knowledge of The Freedom Blanket. He also gets credit for being the first person to market a blanket with sleeves, on a national level and through multiple outlets. Essentially he was the first one to commercialize it.
On his next college break Gary enlisted his mother’s help, and sewing machine, and returned to college a few weeks later with his sleeved blanket. It would be more than four years and after graduation before Gary got serious about actually marketing his blanket with sleeves. But he had faith in his idea since he was still using his original blanket with sleeves four years later.
It wasn’t until 2007, at the age of 27 that Gary got serious about marketing the Slanket. He borrowed money from his brother to get the company off the ground, found a manufacturer in the U.S. to make his product and eventually got the Slanket on QVC and in the SkyMall catalog. In 2008 the Slanket had sales in excess of $4 million.
The launch of the Snuggie with its ridiculous TV ads in2008-2009 in some ways helped the Slanket as well. While Gary admits he was originally disappointed when he saw the Snuggie being advertised on TV, he projected 2009 sales for the Slanket to be in the $9 million range. So the launch of the Snuggie actually boosted sales of the Slanket fairly significantly.
How to reach a half $Billion in sales with no patent, and a borrowed idea!
Allstar Products Group is a direct-response marketing company known for their “As seen on TV products.” Scott Boilen, Allstar’s chief executive officer is quick to say that the idea for the Snuggie came to them after seeing other sleeved blankets on the market. Allstar felt they could offer a similar product for a cheaper price, and simply market it to more people.
Allstar did not have to worry about patent infringement because the Slanket was not patented. It is not likely that Gary Clegg could have received a patent on the Slanket anyway, since obtaining patents for what is essentially a big robe, would have been very difficult at best.
After a few months of on air TV commercials the Snuggie began to take on a life of its own. The commercials were a bit on the ridiculous side as the promoter embellished the difficulty of doing simple tasks such as eating popcorn, while snuggled under an ordinary blanket without sleeves. With the help of social media and even parodies posted to youtube, the Snuggie obtained almost a cult like following and became a viral sensation. Even the CEO at Allstar did not foresee the overwhelming success on the horizon.
By March 2009 the Snuggie had sold over $60 million worth of products. The real story here is that Allstar Products Group simply out marketed the Slanket, and the rest is history so to speak. Over the next five years the Snuggie line of sleeved blankets would go on to gross over $500 million in total sales.
(See how did Nick Woodman reach Billionaire status so quickly, and why does he call his cameras GoPros.)
Brilliant idea or Dumb little product
Well if you ask me the Snuggie and the Slanket are both a brilliant idea and a dumb product at the same time. No disrespect to Mr. Clegg of course. That really is the beauty and genius of this story; how an utterly simple, little, dumb idea can really be a brilliant money maker. I am confident that neither Allstar Products Group nor Gary Clegg concern themselves one bit whether anyone ay tothinks a blanket with sleeves is silly idea.
The whole point of this article is to convince you that you do not need a great scientific mind, or a college degree to come up with your own simple product invention or innovation and create wealth. You do however need to be persistent and have a tremendous amount of faith in yourself and the brain that God gave you. You also need to take action. Sitting around all day dreaming up cool inventions has never made anyone a dime. It is only when you take action on your ideas that you can begin to participate in the money making and wealth creation process.
Ways to make money- talking points
Historically there are many super simple product ideas that went on to earn over a $Billion in sales revenue. Some of those are the Band-aid, the Frisbee, the Slinky, Velcro and Spanx; just to name a few. Accept this as evidence that your product idea or invention does not have to be high tech, technical, or even have moving parts. The simpler your product is they greater chances of success and the easier it will be to take it to market.
(See what I learned when I read and analyzed all of the top 20 Google search results for the phrase "How to get rich.")
Don’t overly concern yourself with patents. If you have a truly unique and novel idea, one that virtually no one else has come up with or obtained patent protection on, then yes a patent is probably advisable. Just remember, neither the Snuggie nor the Slanket are patent protected and both have made millions for their respective owners & companies.