Oct 28, 2007


Some days ago, Paulo sent me an interesting article: "Dumb But Profitable. 10 Million Dollar Ideas That Shouldn't Have Worked". I must confess that I find the article very amusing but a bit naive.

Since the Industrial Revolution it has been less and less about the product itself and more and more about a combination of things, being those things the market, the target, the positioning/communication, the marketing... and of course also the product, but the product has become just one small part of a bigger equation..., at least in the more complex/developed markets.

That is the catch with the artcle's list: those are purely "First World" products. They may look impossible to sell in my native country (Argentina), in Singapur, or in Nigeria, but if you just observe carefully the US market, you would find most of them not so hard to sell.

Let's pick a couple of examples from the list and run them through a vision of that combination I was talking about...

Product # 2 in the list is PickyDomains.com. According to the original article, "Hire another person to think of a cool domain name for you? No way people would pay for this. Actually, naming domain names for others turned out a thriving business, especially, when you make the entire process risk free. PickyDomains currently has a waiting list of people who want to PAY the service to come up with a snappy memorable domain name. PickyDomains is expected to hit six figures this year. "

Why "no way"? I guess the author doesn't know there is a complete and suppousedly profitable business around owning "good domains", so if you want to start a real business (not just being a domain speculator) finding a good domain has become really difficult. If to that you add the fact that the US is a fast pace economy with little time to "think" AND that politically correctness and watered down education is making the average individual less and less creative, it makes all the sense in the world to pay someone to find that good, catchy, easy to remind URL that I so desperately need.

Another ideas in the list are the Doggles ("Create goggles for dogs and sell them online? Boy, this IS the dumbest idea for a business. How in the world did they manage to become millionaires and have shops all over the world with that one? Beyond me.", says Dmitri in his blog) and the PositivesDating.Com idea, an idea that I personally find BRILLIANT, but that Dmitri sees from the standpoint of "How would you like to go on a date with an HIV positive person?".

Now, lets look into both ideas from the US or the First World point of view. Europeans are having less kids and more pets. In both the US and Europe the expenditure on pets has increased steadily, and (sadly) pets are in their way to be products themselves, that owners want to "accesorize" (if you have doubts they are products, remember the hypoallergenic cats!). So for one reason or another, because the dog is our baby or because is another accesory, we may be willing to spend on goggles made for especially for them. Of course if you live in China, where dogs are sell on the street food market because they are also on the menu, that product doesn't make sense. If you live in any third world where dogs are loved but still considered our helpers it will not make sense either but for economic reasons. In most of those countries, U$ 20.00 is far too much money to spend on our loved dog if it is just about a fashion statement and not their health.

Positives Dating is a great idea but also more First World than Third World, just because the expectancy of life for HIV positives in the developed countries as well as the quality of that life, is way better in the 'first world' than in 'non developed' countries. Is that difference in quantity and quality in htir life that will give some HIV positives the time, willingness and means to use a site for dating purpouses.

The USA is for us, the outsiders, the ones coming from non developed countries, Generousland. And GenerousLand is not just about the famous American Dream, but also about a mix of rich economies, spoiled individuals, different timing and boring lives that give good and 'bad' products an equal chance to sucess.

If you agree with the author of the article thinking that these ideas shouldn't have made it... think again! Think in terms of market, niches, target, and communication, place them in the developed world and last but not least remember that in the '70s a rock sold as a pet was THE thing to have. If that could make someone a millionaire, why wouldn't any of these products?

Paulo-->email--->MadConomist---> Original Article (Dumb but profitable...)

1 comment:

Zed said...

Well all i can say is that I am glad such a product hit the market (even if it does seem useless to many). Doggles came really handy to me and my dog, and it was not a matter of fashion. I ensure you that my dog, after many miles as a biker-doggy, really needed them to protect his eyes. I just wonder how many ppl out there have biking dogs forcing them to wear something that they really hate to, and have a big difficult time getting used to!
As for me... I'm still searching that unique idea that will make me a millionaire too :-) Any suggestions are welcomed ;-)