Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the toy that captured most of my hours was little green plastic army men. My cousin Calvin and I staged epic battles that raged for hours across our living room and basement.
The battle would end when we found the last man standing. Army men were versatile, you could add other toys into the mix: Legos, Lincoln Logs, Shogun Warriors, Tonka trucks and more were present for battles bloodier than the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.
Now my sons are playing with army men, they took to them like politicians take to bribes. I find those plastic soldiers everywhere: between sofa cushions, under the dog’s bed, in my bed. One intrepid machine gunner managed to take, and defend, a position in the refrigerator.
And one question comes back to me again and again: what makes a product so successful? Why do some products grow into mainstays of a consumer’s life while others fade as soon as the advertising budget has been depleted?
The answer to that question is worth millions of dollars, and has been the holy grail for marketers and sales people since money was invented. I’m sure some caveman tried to devise a better club and make money. “With this club you can smash skulls all day and tenderize mammoth meat that night.”
The question of longevity could occupy one blog for a lifetime – there are that many deciding factors: timing, usefulness, advertising, acceptance by the target audience and of course, price.
Out of all of these price is a major factor. Consider this – a bag of army men runs 4 bucks – a Wii game is 10 times that amount. So which do you buy to keep a child occupied?
What about that blue windshield wiper fluid? A gallon costs $2 – there are others to consider – but when all you want to do is see, price wins out.
What about WD-40? There might be another spray on lubricant available, but you could threaten to take all of my army men to name one and I couldn’t. A can of it costs less than 5 bucks.
Product longevity is a tricky subject to tackle, but one thing you can bet on: cost is king.