You Can Sell Anything
And what we can learn from Sea Monkeys (spoiler alert)
Sea Monkeys. I’m sure you’ve encountered them as a kid somehow, somewhere.
The novelty of instant life and comic book styled creatures in your bedroom is too hard for any child to resist. For only the low, low amount of your week’s pocket money, you can be the proud owner of such a colony.
The real story behind it all is that the creator of Sea Monkeys, Harold von Braunhut, found a bucket of brine shrimps one day and thought — hey, I can definitely sell this.
He went on to successfully sell x-ray specs, crazy crabs (rebranded hermit crabs), amazing hair raising monsters and the most profitable one of all — the invisible goldfish (imaginary fishes that is guaranteed to stay invisible).
Here are 3 very important lessons we can all learn from Braunhut.
1. It’s all about the showmanship
The power of marketing lies in its ability to tell a story and provide an experience. The showmanship is important in creating fantasies and desires that you didn’t even knew existed. It narrates an emotion and becomes a trusting ally in helping you solve your problem.
For Sea Monkeys, it came in the form of comic book styled, semi-mermaid like people whose natural habit looked like Aquaman’s mythical under water kingdom.
How cool is that? Own your very own miniature creatures that could have existed in the world of your favorite super hero.
No. Let me get this right — they do exist in the comic book world. In fact, they’re right on the back page of your favorite comic book series, drawn in the same style and narrated in the same head voice of your favorite person.
The love and adoration is already there for the comic book hero. Sea Monkeys just managed to also capture it by association — sort of like David Beckham selling underwear for the price of your kidneys on the black market and Kylie Jenner’s road to being a billionaire for selling the adult version of face paint.
2. The niche does matter
Braunhut didn’t even try to sell his Sea Monkeys to adults. Instead, he went straight to his audience — the kids. He told them tales and drew them pictures on the back of comic books, omitting any kind of reality and appealing to their imaginations to sell his brine shrimps.
There’s no point for Braunhut to try and sell to adults. They already know what it is. He wouldn’t be able to sell it to adults, especially those who owned fish or have ever been in a pet shop that sells brine shrimps. Kids however, their narrow world view and experience allowed Braunhut to sell to them without much issue.
Brine shrimps held no value in the minds of children. To solve this problem, he created the value for them. He re-imagined something that was so common into something ‘rare’ but yet just obtainable. The coolness factor owning such a thing also contributed to the persuasive persistence of nagging children.
There was no way that Braunhut could wear the adults down and convince them to part with their dollar like their own children can. In fact, it’s not even their dollar that they’re sending away — it’s the kid’s. They’re just a facilitator of a purchasing decision made by another.
In today’s modern age, there are more niches than ever with the explosions of different sectors, demographics, ages, social and sexual orientations, identifications, diets, beliefs and multitude of other things unlisted here.
Understanding the niche and how their minds works allows you to offer them something that another niche may have already finished with their valuation process. This gives you the opportunity to create and set the value for the ‘virgin’ niche, untouched by experience and worldly knowledge of your product.
3. Be different. Even if it’s all the same.
Because that’s how Superman manages to fool everyone when he takes off his glasses. The question of Clark Kent not being recognized, even by his boss and peers is like selling dressed up brine shrimps to kids.
Packaging and how it’s presented is a vital part in communicating the value of a product. It doesn’t matter how much the base cost of the item, service or thing is — or even if it’s vegetables dressed up as something more than they’re actually worth. What matters is that its dressed up (or dressed down, depending on what message you want to communicate).
When something is dressed up, it endorses the value that’s been set. There is a sort of Instagram level kind of trickery where entire lives are curated for an appearance. Their boards and walls all eventually looks the same but they are different in the brand they represent.
It’s sort of like pepsi and coke, along with the multitude of different types of potato chips you can get at the supermarket. They are essentially all the same — sugared carbonated black water and potatoes cut and cooked in a way that produces thin crispy things.
For Sea Monkeys, it’s the exotic, mini aquarium to house such a common and easily accessible thing.
You can sell anything — when you go around selling it smartly. We can all learn something from Braunhut, even if it seems like selling brine shrimps to kids is part scam.
In fact, everything is a scam in its own special way, depending on how you look at it. Kanye sells his signature white t-shirts for $120 (sold out) — a similar, if not the same, shirt can also be bought at Target for $5. But for fans, it’s not the price that matters. It’s the mere association with such a personality that matters.
Same goes with home delivered food boxes, socks subscriptions, life style vlogs, restaurants that serves more plate space than actual food and everything else that exists to exchange money for something material — it’s all part marketing, part targeting and part appearance.
So if Braunhut can make a fortune selling brine shrimps by doing these three things, you can too.