Q: Dear Dan: The Snuggie is everywhere. WTF?
Dear Shruggie, if you think you're bewildered about the Snuggie, consider the Chinese people who make a living producing them. ("I make blanket-ponchos for Americans who are too lazy to put on a sweater.")
By the way, did you see the new Snuggie designs unveiled at Fashion Week? Zebra, leopard, tie-dye, camouflage, etc. ("I make blanket-ponchos for Americans who want to look like a zebra.") There's even a Snuggie Pub Crawl, which seems like the best idea of the bunch.
Here's a theory you didn't ask for: Infomercials are great at presenting unexpected solutions to unarticulated needs. You've probably had a Snuggiesque experience—lying on the couch and reading a book on a cold day, and you wrap a blanket around you, but it gets frustrating because you can't hold the book AND keep your shoulders bundled up at the same time. The cruelty of life! Poof—Snuggie to the rescue!
The solution is so novel and simple and ingenious that it's easy to forget a few things: How often do you really have the Cold Shoulder problem? And couldn't you just add a layer of clothes? Or adjust the thermostat? (Or pay your kid to come flip the page every few minutes?)
Sometimes the infomercials present such compelling solutions that they make us forget that they're solving problems that don't exist at all. Take Billy Mays's Mighty Putty, which allows you to do things like attach a garden hose holder to a random wall. ("I make weird adhesive putty for Americans who have unhung garden hose holders.") And if you've got a coffee mug with a broken handle, the Putty can be twisted into a prosthetic replacement. (Are your mugs really elegant enough to require repair? If so, trust me, Mighty Putty isn't the answer.)
So here's the good news—you and I are one unarticulated need and unexpected solution away from getting filthy rich. For instance, ever get frustrated when you wake up in the middle of the night, freezing, because your partner has stolen the comforter? Well, then, what you need is a Headhole Comforter—just slip it around your neck and say goodbye to nighttime thievery! (You may choke, but you'll stay warm, guaranteed.)
[For more on direct-response marketing, check out Gladwell's classic piece on Ron Popeil. Also, I had the good fortune to write a Harvard Business School case study on Idea Village, creators of the Handi-Stitch, the Finishing Touch razor, and many more. And don't miss this Billy Mays parody (warning: it's very foul-mouthed).]
[Image by calmenda]