Can A Long Tail Jump The Shark?

Yes, it can.  I hadn’t really considered that possibility before encountering this product from the venerably silly Archie McPhee catalog: Bacon Flavored Toothpaste.

Granted, the McPhee people are in the silly novelty business.  They leverage our affinity for this particular breakfast meat through twenty-eight specifically bacon-related novelties, everything from bacon air fresheners to bacon bandages to bacon lipbalm, floss and gumballs.  When it comes to betting on bacon, they are all in.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingBut toothpaste crosses the line.

The Long Tail as popularized by Chris Anderson refers to the strategy of selling a large volume of highly-specialized items in small quantities, as opposed to the mass merchandising philosophy of selling fewer items in larger quantitiies.   This explains the success of many web-businesses that enjoy radically lower stocking and distribution costs, enabling them to find profit in highly-specialized sectors.

The aggregate sales of all these non-mass items is the Long Tail, which brings me back to Bacon Toothpaste.  It’s true, bacon is perhaps the most consistently delightful item in the world of meats. It’s also true, that bacon is predominantly a breakfast item. But that neither explains nor excuses this unholy creation.  Particularly at this early morning hour as the cool gloss of Crest still lingers on my cuspids.

I’m a huge fan of a market with unlimited freedom of choice, but great freedom requires great responsibility. And minty-fresh packaging notwithstanding, this product terrifies me. You have been warned…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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