• From goggles for pooches to ¬¬¬¬¬¬plastic
wishbones, we count fifteen of the dumbest products and inventions that made millions
for their creators! 15 – Dog Wigs,
• We all know dog owners like to go a little overboard when showing their furry best friends
love. It’s why pet accessories have become a multi-million dollar industry. You can now
adorn your pet with every kind of weird and wacky accessory imaginable.
• Dog wigs are the latest travesty – I mean innovation – by entrepreneurial pet
owner, Leah Workman. Her successful dog wigs brand Cushzilla was inspired by a trip to
Japan. • The stylish headpieces include coloured
pigtails, neon mohawks, blonde curls and imitations of celebrity hairstyles, like the Lady Gaga
or Marilyn Monroe. • So if you thought your Pomeranian–Poodle
cross couldn’t look any more ridiculous, pick them up a fluorescent pink dog wig and
see how wrong you were. 14 – Flowbee,
• Flowbees are a million dollar Nineties idea. They’re basically vacuum cleaners
with hair clippers attached. You run the electric clippers through your hair for a cheap DIY
haircut that’ll probably invite smartarse remarks like, ‘Did you lose a fight with
a lawnmower?’ But, hey, thanks to the vacuum, you at least won’t have any hair clippings
to clean up. • The Flowbee came from Californian madman
Rick Hunts, a carpenter who demonstrated his bizarre product at State Fairs before stepping
it up to late-night infomercials. • By the turn of the new millennium, he
had sold two million Flowbees and was officially invited into the millionaires club.
13 – Pet Rocks, • While neither rocks nor the art of swindling
idiots can be considered an ‘invention’, the pet rock did earn its creator millions
of dollars and was inventive. • Gary Dahl was an advertising executive
from California with rocks in his head – that is, he had the so-stupid-it’s-genius idea
to decorate and market rocks as pets. • Dahl purchased ordinary grey pebbles from
a construction supplier and sold them as pets, spawning a wildly successful nation-wide fad.
Some rocks had painted faces, some had glued-on googly eyes – but all of them had personality,
at least to the kids who bought them. • In a stroke of marketing genius, Dahl
sold his product as the perfect pet, as it never needed to be fed or cleaned up after.
It came with a humorous manual instructing owners how to talk to it and teach it cool
tricks like sit and stay. • The Pet Rock debuted in 1975 at $3.95
– or roughly $16 in today’s economy. In six months, Dahl sold more than five million
rocks, making the equivalent of $56 million in profit – because buying and delivering
the rocks cost him next to nothing. Rock on. 12 – The Beer Belly and Wine Rack Bra,
• Because encouraging alcoholism is cool, I give you the Beer Belly bladder and Wine
Rack Bra! These his-and-hers alcohol concealers are designed to be hidden under clothing so
you can stay blotto during your child’s boring sports games, music recitals and PTA
meetings. • The Beer Belly bladder holds eighty oz
of alcohol, which is more than a six pack’s worth, and makes you look like a fat lard,
while the Wine Rack bra turns A cups into double Ds.
• These products are amazingly successful with those times you want to drink in public,
but feel they can’t because of the pesky law or judgemental society. I’m struggling
with the fact these millionaire entrepreneurs are lining their pockets at the expense of
their struggling alcoholic customer base, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had
my 10 am Mojito yet. 11 – Wacky Wall Walker,
• Wacky Wall Walkers were an enormously successful octopus-shaped toy moulded from
sticky elastomer. When thrown against a wall, these toys could ‘walk’ their way down.
• They were manufactured in the US by Ken Hakuta, who purchased the rights from a Japanese
toymaker after recognising their marketing potential.
• Sales crawled along like an octopus on a wall until a Washington Post reporter wrote
about the product. The article generated so much buzz that over 240 million sold within
a few months, earning Ken around eighty million dollars.
10 – Beanie Babies, • With profits totalling in the billions,
Beanie Babies are a toy fad of cultish proportions. For those living under a pet rock, these are
basically bean-filled sacks with furry ears and cutesy-wutesy names like Patti the Platypus
or Dobby the Derp-Derp. • The toys were an immediate success for
their creator, Ty Warner, with 30,000 sold at their first toy show. Incredibly, Ty built
his empire without any advertising and without selling them through major chain stores, like
Toys-R-Us. Instead of causing his product to fall through the cracks into obscurity,
the toys’ rarity made them more desirable to consumers. Ty also retired certain models
at the end of their initial stock-run, turning them coveted collectibles.
• At the peak of Beanie Baby mania, Ty Warner raked in $700 million in a single year. He’s
now a billionaire, all because of the game-changing idea to fill some sacks with beans.
9 – Snuggies, • The infamous Snuggie is a blanket with
arms that became an unlikely phenomenon in the late 2000s. More than twenty million Americans
purchased a Snuggie between fall 2008 and Christmas 2009, at roughly $20 a blanket.
• Snuggies, and their less successful competitor Slankets, appeal to people who value comfort
over style, and to those who want to freely use their hands while wearing a blanket.
• Although the fad has died down somewhat in recent years, sales remain strong – particularly
for kids and, err, pets. They’re often seen on airplanes and at sporting events, and have
even inspired ‘Snuggie pub crawls’, where drunken blanket-people stumble from bar to
bar trying in vain to get laid. 8 – Big Mouth Billy Bass,
• Big Mouth Billy Bass is a singing wall-mounted animatronic fish that helped reel in the dough
for its Texan novelty toy creators Gemmys in the late Nineties.
• Invented by Joe Pellettiere, this singing fish was a hugely popular gag gift and stocking
stuffer in the early 2000s. Stores sold hundreds of the annoying things each hour and struggled
to keep up with demand. Sales topped a million in the year 2000 alone and a whole host of
imitators soon flooded the market. • Billy Bass sung songs like ‘Don’t
Worry, Be Happy’, and anyone unfortunate enough to work in a store that sold them is
probably still undergoing therapy from having to hear it all day every day.
7 – The Happy Smile Trainer, • Forgotten how to smile? This legitimate
Japanese sensation will teach you how again in just five minutes a day.
• Consumers use the Happy Smile Trainer to enhance their mouth and jaw muscles and
create perfect Joker-style smiles. By biting down on the silicone mouthpiece for five minutes
once a day, they’ll allegedly improve the angles and balance of their face and cheeks,
and strengthen their teeth and gums. • The science is unconfirmed, but one thing’s
for sure: at $52 US a pop, this product’s creators from the Japanese Trend Shop are
smiling all the way to the bank. 6 – Head On,
• Head On is a controversial product that claims to relieve headaches. Since virtually
everyone gets headaches, the target audience is the entire human race – or at least the
gullible majority. • Head On gained notoriety in 2006 because
of its repetitive commercial that consisted only of the tagline ‘Head On’.
• The instructions say to apply it directly to the forehead three times in succession.
Apparently it worked for some, but this is most likely just a placebo effect.
5 – The Slinky, • The Slinky has been as ubiquitous as Mickey
Mouse since its 1945 debut. • The toy was invented by naval engineer
Richard James, and came upon the idea by accident after dropping a tension spring he was working
with and watching it slink away across the floor.
• The first four hundred slinkies sold out within ninety minutes, and the rest is history:
two hundred and fifty million sales later, Richard and his $1 toy lived very comfortably
– except for a little rough patch where he suffered a mid-life crisis, left his wife
and joined a cult. These eccentric inventors …
4 – Antenna Balls, • Antenna balls are a strangely popular
car antenna decoration that was especially popular in the Seventies and Eighties, when
tacky ornaments were cool. • The history of antenna balls or toppers
can be traced back to the 1960s when Union Gas started putting out an orange ball with
the logo ‘76’ on it. Disney also produced a Mickey Mouse one in ’91 and, in 1995,
Jack in the Box began its smiley face antenna ball campaign.
• With a few inventors credited, this humble little ball has made many people very rich.
One lucky entrepreneur, Jason Wall, has made millions through his company, In-Concept Inc.,
which manufactures more than 500,000 custom antenna balls a month.
3 – iFart App, • iFart is an iPhone app that replicates
nature’s oldest and crudest joke: flatulence. It has a range of farting sounds to suit every
mood and occasion, and features a stealth trigger for remote farts. It’s a favourite
for annoying siblings. • The app was launched in December 2008
by Infomedia, a technology company owned by internet marketer Joel Comm. Joel’s inspiration
no doubt came from a heavy night of Mexican food.
• The app was enormously popular in the lead-up to Christmas 2008 – the farting
season – and took the number one spot in the iTunes app chart for several weeks. At
the peak of its popularity, the app brought in more than $10,000 a day for Infomedia.
2 – Doggles, • Doggles are goggle-style sunglasses for
the pooch that knows style. • Although these are super cool, they also
come with some alleged health benefits. As Muttley from Wacky Races can attest, they
protect pet eyes from the sun’s glare; keep out dust, debris and wind; block UV rays;
and assist in relieving ocular medical conditions, such as a rare autoimmune disorder that prevents
dogs’ eyes from producing tears. • Apparently, Doggles are even used by American
working dogs in Iraq. The goggles helped protect their eyes from windblown sand. It’s likely
search-and-rescue dogs may use them in the future, too.
• Doggles, LLC has sold millions of pairs at $19.90 a pop. The company has also featured
on popular news shows like CNN and The Today Show.
1 – Plastic Wishbones, • You know when you finish a roast dinner
with your loved ones and there’s that momentary squabble about who’s going to get to do
the wishbone? Ken Ahroni, founder and inventor of Lucky Break Wishbone Corp., knows all about
this. That’s why he conceived a revolutionary advance in plastic wishbone technology.
• Now, thanks to this strange plastic innovation, everyone, even vegans, can have a wishbone
all their own. Ken had to fracture hundreds of furculas to successfully create a plastic
that would break like bone. It took hundreds of hours of R&D to create a plastic that could
replicate that satisfying snap instead of just snapping into a thousand tiny shards.
• Ken’s company sells millions of plastic wishbones at four for $3.99 or, if you do
a lot of wishing, four hundred for $195.99. It’s certainly an original idea. I’ll
give him that.