The Tale of Selling Bottled Hot Dog Water for $40

Yes, you read that title correctly and yes, it is 100 percent a true story. Right here in my hometown of Vancouver, we host a number of different street festivals that mostly take place during the summer. From Hats Off Day to Italian Day, there’s always something interesting to see, do and eat. And at Car Free Day on Main Street, one vendor decided to sell bottles of hot dog water for $37.99 each.

Okay, so it’s not quite $40, but you get the idea.

Outrageous, right? Who in their right mind would buy a bottle of water with a boiled hot dog floating around in that unfiltered water? A lot, as it turns out, because the guy ended up selling about 60 liters worth of the product. That’s 120 bottles, resulting in several thousand dollars in total sales. Oh, and he also happened to be selling hot dog lip balm too. At least the beef hot dogs were organic, right?

A Hot Dog a Day Will…

So, how did Hot Dog Water CEO Douglas Bevans pull it off? He positioned the hot dog water as “keto-compatible,” purporting such health benefits as increased brain function, weight loss, and a youthful appearance. Dressed in a hot dog onesie, Bevans explained to would-be buyers that the benefits of hot dog water are because it “bypasses the lymphatic system, whereas other waters have to go through your filtering system.”

But he wasn’t drinking his own Kool-Aid, so to speak. That’s because Bevans is hardly any sort of health expert and the “science” he was using to support his hot dog water claims were all bogus. But they sounded authentic enough to the people who bought it. Bevans did this as a performance stunt, trying to educate consumers into better critical thinking about the marketing messages they’re being fed. He knew his hot dog water was bogus and yet he managed to sell it.

I’m immediately reminded of the asparagus water fiasco with Whole Foods just a few years prior. The difference is that Whole Foods wasn’t trying to pull off some sort of prank, but it really does illustrate that kind of bogus health claims that plague this market.

Lessons from the Dog

What can we, as Internet marketers and content creators, learn from all of this?

First, on some level, the marketing is going to be more important than the actual product itself. Even if you have a mediocre product, even if you have one that is as utterly ridiculous as hot dog water, some slick marketing will help you attract some buyers. You can sell anything to almost anyone if you know how. The marketing is at least as important as the actual product itself.

If you have the best product in the world and it’s something that is truly better than anything else like it, but you don’t know how best to position it or *sell* it to the right, target customer, nothing else will matter. Know your customer, know what matters to them, and go straight for the jugular. That can be a tough pill to swallow, but it also means that everyone’s got a shot at making it.

Product Marketing and Marketing Product

Second, and this will sound completely counter to the first point, is that we have to realize hot dog water was little more than a performance stunt. Yes, he was able to get his flash in the pan and get a few thousand dollars in sales, but this is hardly a sustainable business model. (Not that he had ever intended it to be.)

For you, what this means is that as important as marketing and advertising and sales can be, you still need to put out a quality product if you want to achieve long-term success. You need to put something out there, whatever it may be, that people will want to buy and support again and again.

Then again, Betty White says she’s lived and lasted as long as she has because of hot dogs and vodka, so what do I know?