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Creative Marketing for the Pet Rock – Part Five


Sep 17, 2013 Blog, Creative Marketing , , Comments are off

Pet Rock Package and ManualAs a young teen in 1975, I remember adults around me buying, giving, receiving rocks in a box and I was perplexed why they were so joyful about this.  I thought to myself that if anyone gifted me a rock I would take the thing in my hand and clunk it over the person’s head to knock some sense into them.  Rocks (unless they are diamonds or other precious gems) are not special.  And to see adults taking care of their rocks really made me think that humanity as a whole was doomed.

Now that I’m older and specializing in marketing, I realize that the Pet Rock was a very well executed marketing campaign that turned into a fad.  My feeling is that it happened inadvertently as most fads do.  The cost of each package (box, rock and manual) was about 60 cents and each was sold for $3.95 retail; good start regarding profit margin.  Gary Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock,  sold 1.5 million “pets” generating approximately $15 million in about six months.  That equates to approximately $50 million in today’s dollars – not bad.  Back in those days, I remember thinking, “Geez, next thing you know people will be selling water.”  And then people did.

For those of you who don’t remember or aren’t old enough to know what the Pet Rock was, allow me to explain.  The Pet Rock was a plain, gray stone bought at a builder’s supply store.  It was placed on a small bed inside a brown, custom printed, cardboard box with holes in it so that the “pet” could breathe.  Included was a witty, funny Owner’s Manual that included all sorts of puns and silly jokes regarding the care and training of the new little “addition.”  The manual covered areas such as Feeding Your Pet Rock, Sheltering Your Pet Rock, Exercising and Training Your Pet Rock,  Grooming Your Pet Rock and Common Pet Rock Maladies.  I have to admit that the manual was pretty funny and Gary Dahl who wrote it certainly had a good sense of humor.   Read through the manual which is also posted.

From a marketing perspective one has to wonder, what exactly happened with the Pet Rock and other fads such as Beanie Babies, Hula Hoops, Cabbage Patch Kids, Rubiks Cube, etc.  What made their sales spike up and then crash down so quickly – often forcing the companies to close up shop?

Bottom line they entered the market quickly, created a consumer obsession to have to buy the product, sold millions of units in a short amount of time and then experienced drastically declining sales.  This type of Product Life Cycle is dramatic, sharp (in both directions) and quick which differs from the traditional five stage product life cycle concept which is more methodical, planned out and evenly paced.  The usual Product Life Cycle includes product development, introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.  During this cycle, a business should be prepared to offer new or updated versions of their product to avoid going out of business during the decline stage.  Bottom line, fads don’t really satisfy a consumer’s need except for immediate gratification – even if the purchase makes no logical sense at the time.

So why do people buy into fads?   I believe there are many reasons:

  1. Need For New Entertainment – This consumer gets bored easily and always likes to buy new stuff and new gadgets.
  2. Perceived Rise In Social Status – Being one of the first to own the product and be able to show it off to others who want it or haven’t been able to get it yet allows this consumer to feed their ego and feel superior to others for a moment in time.
  3. The Bandwagon Effect a.k.a. Groupthink – As more people believe in something or buy something, others hop onto the bandwagon.
  4. The Cool Factor – Owning the fad product is cool and the low self esteem consumer believes if they buy the product, they will be perceived as cool as well which makes them feel better.
  5. Keeping Up With The Joneses Effect – Remember the Tickle Me Elmo fad in 1996?   Some parents literally fought other parents in stores to purchase one of these Elmos for Christmas.  Parents knew that their child’s friends would receive one for Christmas and thus their child must have one as well not to be “outdone.”   The original selling price was $28.99 and as supplies dried up, Elmos were sold via classified ads for as high as $1500.
  6. Novel Gift Idea – Fads are a perfect product to gift to someone who has EVERYTHING.

Bottom line, the Pet Rock didn’t just sell a rock (which quite frankly rocks are everywhere for your personal choosing.) The manual and packaging created an aura of uniqueness, humor and a silly distraction from the norm.  It may have touched on other reasons stated above as well.  I’ve read that many are now buried in Pet Rock Cemeteries throughout the U.S.  So the next natural question I’m sure you are pondering is how to create a fad for your own quick pot of cash.  I’d love read what your thoughts are on that.  Don’t forget to check out the manual below as well.

Until next time ………



Pet Rock Manual

Your Pet Rock and You – A Guide for New Owners








Congratulations! You have just acquired your very own pet rock. With some tender love and care your pet rock and you can be best friends forever. However, the pet rock can also be a demanding creature, which is why we have created this helpful pamphlet filled with various the various do’s and don’ts of pet rock care.

Feeding Your Pet Rock

Pet rocks are well known for their extremely slow metabolism. Even though this makes them excellent pets for the busy adventurer, it does have some needs. For optimal growth, it is suggested that the rock is placed directly under a stalactite drip every fifty years or so, for anywhere from two to five years. By absorbing the nutrients that trickle down from above your rock will grow rapidly. If your rock does not grow or seems to refuse to eat, it is suggested that you feed it by hand by dissolving nutritious minerals in a bucket of lukewarm water and applying a drop every ten seconds until the bucket is empty. Consult your local veterinarian or geologist for nutrition advice for your specific species of pet rock.

Sheltering Your Pet Rock

While pet rocks have been known to survive both the frigid cold of the far north and the scorching heat of the Kharidian deserts, your pet rock does have certain requirements when it comes to shelter. First and foremost your rock should be protected against exposure to streaming water and high winds, especially if these carry small particles such as sand or clay. Furthermore your pet rock, while able to resist extremely low and extremely high temperatures, repeated changes between the two are extremely harmful. While gradual changes may merely cause extreme discomfort (see also the section on common pet rock maladies), repeated rapid changes will often prove fatal. Therefore the ideal shelter for your pet rock protects it from wind, water and rapid temperature changes. Fortunately the pet rock is not very demanding when it comes to roaming space.

Exercising and Training Your Pet Rock

While the rock is normally a mostly stationary creature, it still requires occasional exercise to prevent unpleasant infections (see also the section on common pet rock maladies). Due to its stationary nature it is suggested that any training takes place on a slope of some sort, although hills that are too steep might excite the pet rock to the point where it might injure itself. Furthermore your pet rock might become impossible to keep up with, and nobody likes the idea of losing a footrace to a rock. Training your pet rock is a matter of knowing its strengths. Some popular pet rock tricks include “sit”, “stay” and “play dead”, although especially intelligent pet rocks can, with some encouragement, also be trained to roll over or even jump. The key to quickly training your pet rock is positive reinforcement. A few encouraging words and the promise of a calcium treat will yield results far more quickly than verbal and physical abuse.

Grooming Your Pet Rock

While some people prefer the aesthetic of the rock’s naturally rugged coat, others may wish for a smoother look. This look is easily obtained by the occasional polish with a simple piece of cloth and a bit of mud. However, the most even and smooth results are achieved with a polishing paste made from ground diamond dust. A few minutes of tender love and care every now and then will have your pet rock shining with pride. Please note that some species of rock can lose their polished luster by exposure to water or air. If this is the case with your pet rock, a protective coating may be necessary. The easiest way to do it is to melt a small amount of wax and carefully applying a thin, even coat with a small brush. This protective coat should be refreshed frequently.

Common Pet Rock Maladies

While the rock is an incredibly resilient creature, it is by no means impervious to injury or disease. While these maladies can usually be prevented by proper care, there is always the off chance that your pet rock does run into some form of illness.

The most common affliction for pet rocks is moss infection. This is a fairly harmless condition that can be prevented with regular exercise, but if left unchecked could actually be fatal. It is recognized by a creeping growth, with colours ranging from light grey to a deep green, slowly covering the rock’s surface. To cure a moss infection, first carefully remove as much of the growth as possible by hand, then carefully scrub any affected areas with a brush with stiff bristles. Nine out of ten geologists recommend larupia hair brushes. Please note that this procedure can be extremely uncomfortable for your pet rock, so make sure to soothe it with kind and friendly words while you take care of it.

Chips and cracks are usually caused by fights with other rocks, usually over territory or potential mates. Chips are usually not fatal, although sharp edges should be carefully polished down to protect both yourself and your pet rock from further injuries. Cracks are, unfortunately, far more harmful, but still treatable. To treat a moderate to severe crack, you should wrap your pet rock tightly in cloth, pressing the surfaces of the crack together. To ensure rapid healing, carefully drip a highly concentrated mineral solution into the crack for six months to a year. This treatment may need to be repeated several times, and you should take care not to remove the bandage until you are sure the wound has healed properly.

A very rare but very dangerous condition is the thermokarst. This condition occurs when a small crack is left untreated and allowed to fill with water. As the temperature rises and drops the water will expand and shrink, eventually causing great discomfort and even death. If you suspect your pet rock is suffering from a thermokarst you should place it in a warm, dry room for about three days. Afterward, make sure that there are no traces of moisture and treat the crack as necessary.

If you suspect that your pet rock is ill but does not show any of the symptoms mentioned above, please consult a professional.


While necessarily brief, this guide should provide you with all the essential knowledge required for pet rock care. Further reading is available in the better bookstores across Gielinor.