Hilarious Baby Toupees Are a Lesson in 21st- Century Marketing
By Matt Kettmann
If babies are funny and wigs are funny, why wouldn’t babies wearing wigs be double-funny? That was the question Santa Barbara’s Graham Farrar, Matt Meyer, and Peter Kyriacou found themselves pondering a couple years ago when the trio was brainstorming possible inventions. Specifically, the three were considering putting Donald Trump’s infamous toupee atop an infant, so they researched the idea and found no one had capitalized on the no-brainer. Then they registered babytoupee.com and set about getting some samples made.
When the samples came in, they took Farrar’s infant daughter Mia, plopped the mop atop, and, as Farrar said, “Indeed, it was funny. We laughed, she laughed because we were laughing, and we laughed back at her.” Knowing they had at least a cute niche hit, they contacted a manufacturer in China and the wigs were tossed in motion. Little did they know the craze they were about to ignite.
Last August, the three put up a mini Web site that said sales would start soon and offered some sneak peeks at the product. They were fielding about 10 hits per day, and then a blog picked up their site. They got 800 hits the next day, and 13 more blogs writing about it. That led to nearly 3,000 hits by the end of August and prompted them to create a more dynamic Web site that could take orders.
On September 1, babytoupee.com was on the front page of yahoo.com, causing 100,000 people to check out its homepage. From there, the Web site and products — which currently include wigs à la Trump, Bob Marley, Lil’ Kim, and Samuel Jackson’s Pulp Fiction jerry curl — have been on CNN, the Late Show with David Letterman, AOL, MSNBC, The Drudge Report, Headline News, BBC (three times!), Entertainment Tonight, Reuters, AP, and so on. While traveling for his day job, Farrar even heard about his product on a taxicab radio in Paris and on a hotel room TV in Spain.
“The interesting part,” said Farrar, “is not how cool we are, but that it shows how the Internet really is a changing force in business. It’s unbelievable that three guys operating out of a house in Santa Barbara can literally start a worldwide craze over a little niche product. It’s way beyond anything we expected.” Farrar estimated that, thanks to the blogs and subsequent stories, babytoupee.com got $50 million in free advertising. But he’s not just attributing the success of the product to the free nods.
“I think it struck a chord with new parents,” said Farrar. “As a new parent myself, there is so much stress about raising kids that people put on you. … But having a kid is supposed to be fun. You can get on the floor, dress the kid up, roll around, and have a good time. There are not many things that say that anymore.” The Web site promotes that fun by hosting a gallery where parents can post photos of their wig-wearing kiddies.
With the holiday season approaching, there are a few more toupees in the works. The company is also planning to expand its target market beyond the current zero- to nine-month-old infants, so that kids of older ages can get in on the fun.
“It goes to show that it doesn’t have to be complicated or revolutionary to be a good business,” said Farrar, a techno wizard who started his career at software.com and now works at Sonos, which produces one of the more technologically intricate audio systems on the market. “All you have to do is make people smile.”
4•1•1 For more info and to buy a wig, see babytoupee.com