Inventication of "Pet-Rock II"

Go to the Inventicator App

In a few short weeks Inventors will be able to set odds on their inventions like Jimmy the Greek Snyder with a new product called the Inventicator™. The Inventicator™ is an analysis tool that collects 62 weighted data points in 8 categories to tally up a score that is benchmarked against other inventions. It is a development of our 25+ years of successes and failures with new products. We are the guys at trade shows with a hot new product that has crowds filling the aisles. Sometimes those products succeeded, sometimes not. Trade shows are great but being the hot product at one does not predict future success. With the Inventicator™ we can make a much better guess on what will happen before any trade show and long before we spend the time and money to launch the product into the marketplace.

The Inventicator™ is now a part of our Brutally Honest Review. It is heartbreaking by design with the intent of breaking hearts early so they can mend quickly (and avoid ill-fated expensive weddings). As part of the testing process I ran different invention ideas through it ranging from Google Search (blows it away) to the Segway Scooter (a sobering fail).

For fun I decided to try the original Pet Rock, the one created by Gary Dahl. Here's Wikipedia's description of how Dahl came up with the idea:

In April 1975, Gary Dahl was in a bar listening to his friends complain about their pets. This gave him the idea for the perfect pet: a rock. A rock would not need to be fed, walked, bathed, or groomed; and would not die, become sick, or be disobedient. He said they were to be the perfect pets, and joked about it with his friends.

This is a classic description of a great invention idea. Dahl identified all of the problems with a current product and then set out to improve upon it. I wondered what would happen if I inventicated a Pet Rock as a serious alternative to a real pet. The answer is that the Pet Rock scored as well as the Gator-Grip, a product that was successful on DRTV, and sold for over twenty years in mainstream retailers like Home Depot, Sears, and Wal-Mart. Dahl's Pet Rock was a short lived fad, but it made him a millionaire in less than a year and was a success by any definition.

The Inventicator™ identified the Pet Rock of 1975 as a good bet. That's pretty amazing. How would it score an improvement to the Pet Rock, a Pet-Rock-II?

Many of the inventions we see at Invention City are improvements and variations on existing products. Indeed, one of the best ways to find success is to make a meaningful improvement in terms of price or performance to a product that is already well established. For our Pet-Rock II inventication the improvement (a thought exercise) was laser cutting pet names into the surface of the rock. The laser cutting would add some cost but even with the added cost Pet-Rock II would still sell at 5X cost and be highly profitable.

What happened?

Pet-Rock II scored in the "poor odds" zone, worse than a Segway. Even when I made the unrealistic assumption that users would like Pet-Rock II as much as the original Pet-Rock, the idea was still a bad bet. The reason is that the benefits it offers are currently available with other products, not just the original Pet-Rock, but also robot animals. By way of comparison, the PaperPro desktop stapler, an improvement on a standard desktop stapler that enabled a user to staple 20 sheets as easily as two, scores even better than the Gator-Grip (and has done better in the marketplace).

Now, to be clear, Pet Rock wasn't a true invention. There was no way to patent it and certainly no way to license it. It was, however, a great marketing concept that offers lessons in what matters when developing new product ideas. It was also a good test of the Inventicator™.

- Mike Marks

share this article: facebook