Gary Ross Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock, the 70s fad, died this March. It was estimated that Dahl sold over 1.5 million Pet Rocks, each for around $4. For those unfamiliar with Pet Rocks, they’re exactly what they sound like: a plain rock placed into a box with a pamphlet giving instructions on how to “care and feed” it. The Pet Rock is a good example of how far kids will go to fit in, but a better example of how to create market demand from scratch. For brands that compete in oversaturated markets where attention is sacrosanct, there is much to learn from companies like Dahl’s, which successfully generate their own demand.Powell Tate: What you can learn about marketing from a pet rock
Blustering celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay said that he cried for days after losing a Michelin star at one of his restaurants. That’s the power and allure of the Michelin star system. But did you ever ask yourself why the fine dining guide has the same name as the tire company? In the early 1900s the Michelin brothers started a tire company in France at a time when there were only 2,000 cars and a rudimentary road system. The Michelin brothers created hotel and restaurant reviews to draw patrons to far off locations and use up their tires in the process. Today, the Michelin Guide is in 24 countries across four continents, and the Michelin name is just as synonymous with fine dining as tires. The Michelin brothers saw a need, thought way, way outside the box and developed a market where one never existed.
Remember the image of a crudely drawn character that flew in the air with red wings? Red Bull started out as a humble sugary drink with a boatload of caffeine. The product was a hit with consumers but a plethora of copycat companies quickly flooded the market. As a leader in an undifferentiated market, Red Bull was faced with a dilemma: Do they promote the value of drinking Red Bull or do they create a lifestyle brand to tap into how people want to feel drinking their product? Red Bull chose the latter.
To get consumers excited about the feeling of drinking Red Bull, in 1987 the company began organizing extreme sports events: street luge (including jumps getting 90 feet of air), air acrobatics, surfing a 25-foot tidal wave, rail sliding and more. Sales of Red Bull catapulted as they began producing more and more content with extreme athletes pushing boundaries.
Today, Red Bull is a publishing empire that also sells a beverage. They’ve made millions from the articles, videos and photos featuring Red Bull-sponsored extreme athletes. As a result, the company has become the apex of content marketing case studies, embodying the extreme brand they wish to project in every facet.
So does this mean for you? While you might not sell rocks as pets, tires or fizzy sugar water, there is much to learn from companies that have masterfully created demand from nothing.