Walking through Linens & Things with my mother, from the corner of my eye amid the linens and the, er, things, I see it. Up near the front where the cheap items go, the items the store is trying to ditch, there he is. In a green and white package with yellow tape across him on which is printed "I Talk" in thrity-point letters... it's the pets.com Sock Puppet. The very same one seen in ads last year, the one with the annoying voice, button eyes and microphone taped to his paw, the dog-like sock sits, mouth agape, staring at customers. I push down on the little "Try Me!" sticker in his mouth...
Hang on Dino, we're coming hooooooooome!
"Mom, I think I need to buy this." I look at the price: only ten bucks. Score, man. I buy him.
Maybe someday he will be a valuable commodity, one of those rare toys we wish we kept. Maybe not, but I don't care. Sockdog has a lesson for us. You see, the pets.com sock puppet was actually produced after the company went down the tubes. Somewhere during the production of the various annoying pets.com commercials someone thought it would be cool to sell a toy version of the mascot. Production began but the company died just before the toy hit the store shelves. It never occured to pets.com that you couldn't support multi-million dollar superbowl ads and plushy mascots by selling cat food on the internet. pets.com was liquidated and the name eventually went to Petsmart, which supports its net venture with a chain of stores in the physical world.
And so poor sockdog is left alone in this world, an abandoned mascot with no product to sell, no TV ads to star in, nothing. I squeeze his mouth again.
I'm here to play with the taaabby caaaat.
But maybe he will still serve a purpose. I imagine myself at a business meeting where the bosses are shouting about some new idea: shoepolish.com, smellymarkers.com, whatever. Foaming at the mouth about market niches and branding, talking ad campaigns and street level marketing, "Let's get Britney Spears to do the voiceover", "yeah, man, yeah!" And amidst the noise and the rabid creativity I will place Sockdog on the table and gently squeeze his mouth.
Oh wow, you've got a stuffed thing! I love stuffed things!
And they will all turn to look at it and remember the total failure of pets.com, the great crash of 2001 and that businesses only survive if there's a profit. And they'll all sit down and get back to work making real products and real decisions. A pleasant fantasy, perhaps, but the pets.com sock puppet may still have lessons to teach.