Hook, line and stinker

popeil2

The Popeil Pocket Fisherman!  Who remembers the amazing invention that captivated the nation with late night commercials in the late 70s?  Will you admit that you actually owned one?  Did you know they still sell them today?

For the uninformed – Ron Popeil (Ronco), a highly successful inventor and early infommercial millionaire, unveiled a fishing rod and reel that fit neatly into its own little plastic casing (with compartments for extra hooks and lines.)  It could fit anywhere – like your glove compartment, your backpack, or in your (very large) back pocket.  It was not available in stores!  Only through a TV offer!  Only for a limited time!

 I finally bought into the hype – because you never know when you just GOTTA fish.  It certainly wasn’t practical to carry around a long fiberglass rod and tackle box all day!  I fell for it. Hook, line and tiny sinker. I got a tremendous deal at $14.95, originally listed at $29.95 (hey, I’m not stupid.)  It looked a little cheap but functioned just fine.  But more importantly, I soon discovered that I didn’t really “fish on impulse” as much as the commercial announcer had implied.  In fact, it was a little embarrassing to even keep in my trunk where I might have to explain what the heck it was or how much I spent on it.  Geek factor 10, captain.

Ron Popeil may have been a brilliant marketer, but the Pocket Fisherman is what I call “a solution in search of a problem” – a product that doesn’t really deliver on a real promise to fix a real problem, and isn’t really used much by the customer.  So before buying anything on TV after 11pm, I encourage you to sleep on your decision first.  For any of my fellow marketers who are trying to tell a story about a product that doesn’t really deliver on its promise, do you ever have trouble sleeping?  Just keepin’ it “reel.”

Agree or disagree?  Please add your comments below.

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4 Comments on “Hook, line and stinker”

  1. Larry Baker Says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time doing product development in my career. Many times I have asked the development team, “Is this the answer to a question no one is asking?”

    Of course, that is the magic of Ronco – providing us the ‘gotta have this valuable product’ answer when we didn’t even know there was a question.

  2. davidgoad Says:

    Thanks Larry. I’m sure Ronco has sold a lot of useful products over the years too, but to me this one seems so bad it has a funky charm to it. I’ll give Ron Popeil credit for another one – the door saver. It’s basically a swimming pool air mattress suspended between two cars in a garage by a cheap nylon rope. Your teenager opens her car door and bangs into the plastic mattress instead of your BMW. Genius huh?

  3. Richie Knight Says:

    PT Barnum…”There’s a sucker born every minute!”

  4. Lynnell Says:

    Whoa – think what ol’ Ron could’ve done on Twitter…


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