How do you sell Brine Shrimp? They are translucent worthless creatures about the size of an ant. They hatch from their eggs within minutes after they contact water.
Harold von Braunhut sells them as children's pets. On the box they come in and in his ads they are portrayed as pink pear-shaped simian creatures with skinny arms and legs, potbellies and little smiles. There is a dad, the mom and a couple of kids. The mom has a flip hairdo. They look like naked people with webbed tails and three prongs sticking out of their head.
He named them Sea Monkeys. ,
Included in the Sea Monkey kit is a 32-page handbook written by von Braunhut. The book claims that Sea Monkeys can be hypnotized, play baseball and rise from the dead. It says that at mating time in the Animal Kingdom the males engage in combat to win the fin, paw, flipper, hoof, wing, or what-have-you of their lady love".
In the early 1960s, von Braunhut received a patent for the hybrid brine shrimp and set out to sell them. Earlier, Wham-O riding high on their success with the Hula Hoop and the Superball had tried marketing Wham-O Instant Fish. But, the fish didn't sell. According to von Braunhut, the buyer at Sears was almost fired because of it. "So, when I took my Sea Monkeys around after that, you d think the Ice Age had happened. The doors that weren't open to begin with were slammed shut in my face. So I went to comic books where I did 303 million pages of advertising per year," said von Braunhut.
Harold von Braunhut holds 193 patents. He invented X-Ray Specs which were another huge success advertised in the back of comic books. He is a master of marketing and copywriting. He has done all kinds of strange things. He once raced cars and motorcycles. He once managed novelty acts including mentalist The Great Dunniger who he says put other mentalists to shame.
The Sea Monkeys are hybrid brine shrimp eggs that are immersed in a medium that nobody has been able to copy. Sea Monkeys are now sold by Exploratoys, but von Braunhut supplies the medium. Von Braunhut and his wife, Yolanda, are the only two people who know the formula.
The Sea Monkey eggs remain in a sort of suspended animation until poured into water mixed with the top-secret formula and within minutes- they hatch. There is something in the powder von Braunhut formulates that does something to the eggs that nature can't do.
He is constantly tinkering with the formula. At one time, perhaps only one Sea Monkey would live. Now, with improvements their birthrate and life span are much better.
Sea Monkeys have been called one of the most impressive achievements in the annals of marketing-selling something from nothing or equal to making chicken salad from an undesirable chicken by-products.