Believe it or not, these are true stories
Million-dollar ideas are literally floating around everywhere, waiting for clever folks to pick them up and run with them.
For instance, the following three entrepreneurs capitalized on rocks, wood, and paper to make lots of cash— even millions of dollars.
(Sounds like a riddle, but it isn’t. These are all totally true stories)
The following are actual business ideas that literally made their inventors tons of money and garnered massive attention. No kidding:
1. Pet Rocks
The Pet Rock was a collectible created by Gary Dahl in 1975.
Dahl literally picked up smooth stones (from a Mexican beach) put them in customized cardboard boxes with straw and breathing holes, and marketed them as “pets,” complete with a 20-page manual on “The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock.”
He made over $4 million in about six months.
2. A 128-page book that contains no words (and is not a journal)*
The title of this book by “Dr. Alan Francis,” first published in 1989?
“Everything Men Know About Women.”
For a book that doesn’t say anything (at least not in words), this tome has been a perennial bestseller. It has even spawned a few knock-offs of its own.
3. The Brooklyn Bridge*
In 1983, Paul Hartunian observed workmen repairing the Brooklyn Bridge, and came up with a (dubiously) brilliant idea:
He bought the rotting leftover wood for $500, then cut it into one-inch square pieces, with an official Brooklyn Bridge certificate he designed himself.
Using a press release reading:
“New Jersey Man Sells Brooklyn Bridge for $14.95.”
Hartunian was on the radio, in the magazines, on CNN, the Johnny Carson Show, and just about every major newspaper in the country.
So, what do these three enterprising individuals teach us?
Million-dollar ideas are everywhere
Literally. Rocks are everywhere. Paper is everywhere. Opportunities are everywhere. You just need to be a little creative to make something work out.
(And hopefully, your million-dollar idea doesn’t have to be as useless or borderline-unethical as pet rocks or rotting wood.)
Both the pet rocks and an empty book titled “Everything Men Know About Women” play on humor.
They are silly ideas, but silly ideas appeal to us, because we all have a whimsical child in us, somewhere.
Spin doctoring/product placement is critical
If the pet rocks had been sold as just plain “rocks,” no one would have bought them. The fact that they were placed in a “pet carrier” and included a certificate made them more “valuable/desirable.”
Would people have bought a pet rock without an adoption certificate, a piece of rotting wood without a Brooklyn Bridge certificate, or “Dr. Francis’” book without its title?
Words matter, people. A lot. They are worth millions just on their own.
Psychological marketing tips really work
If you’ve ever read Cialdani’s Infuence or Jonah Berger’s Contagious, you’ve learned about the reasons why people buy things. Some of these tips range from social proof to novelty, and all of them play a role in the success of the three bizarre products above.
And last but not least…DON’T BE SUCKERED INTO BUYING THINGS THAT YOU DON’T REALLY VALUE
If you don’t realize how important your money is, you may be tempted to waste it on things as inconsequential as rocks and rotting wood.
(At least the empty book can double as a journal…although you can always buy journals for $1 at the local dollar store)
Money isn’t just money. It’s your life. Think about it — the time you spend earning money, you will not get back. So use your time to make money to spend on things that really increase value in your life.
If a pet rock really makes you that happy, then yes, I suppose you could buy a pet rock.
…but it might be better to pick your own rock from the sidewalk and create your own pet carrier and certificate 😉
*The Brooklyn Bridge and empty book ideas are from The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen
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