Hmmm. “Our main goal,” says Zoni Stein – businessman, inventor, visionary – “is to put the towel of today into the Metropolitan Museum. Because we just made that towel history.”
History, as in: Antique. Vestigial. Obsolete.
“Eventually, you’ll go into someone’s house and say, ‘You have a towel?’ ”
Instead of what Stein thinks they should have, which is a Wearable Towel: The Towel With Arm Openings.
In the product’s video, viewable at www.WearableTowel.com and going viral online, a svelte woman struggles to wrap herself in a towel. “You want to stay covered after being wet,” a chipper voice off-camera explains, “but your towel just won’t let.”
She gives up on the complex piece of terrycloth and wanders out of the frame. After a few seconds, she’s back, this time in a towel that miraculously becomes a tunic because of technology best described as “three holes cut on each side of an otherwise ordinary towel.”
The male wrapping method, which we later see modeled on a grown man cavorting in his yard and at a barbecue, results in a giant floppy toga. Both versions are designed in response to that common problem: Maneuvering this towel is so difficult, guess I’ll have to call in sick and drip dry. Again.
“I’ve always had this inventive kind of streak,” says Stein, 30, who lives in Miami and works for an investment firm. “I always see what bothers me. I write down lists of what bothers me.”
And the towel? “The towel bothered me.” It left him, he said, so frequently naked, the victim of slippage or snaggage. So one day, he grabbed some scissors and began snipping and wrapping. “I tried it and I was amazed at how it covered my entire body,” Stein says. “I was amazed at how it felt like it was meant to be.”
“You can be,” he adds, “totally undressed under this Towel.” For just $19.95, plus shipping and handling.
Now the Wearable, which Stein says is produced in a Turkish factory, has become a family affair: “My brother Ari” – also a star of Bravo’s reality series “Miami Social” – “he does the Wearable Towel fashion shows,” Stein says. “My sister, she was just in a Budweiser commercial,” and that’s her in the Wearable Towel commercial, gently drying her baby by dabbing it against the Wearable Towel she is draped in.
True, some people are going to get all nitpicky, comparing the Wearable with the Slanket or the Snuggie, the winter product based on the concept that people are too incompetent for blankets, and which made all of its wearers look like wizards. (So effective was the Snuggie’s promise of cozy mobility that a New Jersey man tried to rob a convenience store earlier this year while wearing one.) But these people have no imagination, no sense of what the public will buy.
“It’s a complementing product,” Stein says. “It’s like a bathing suit product and a sweater product. It’s like a husband-and-wife thing.”
Is the Wearable Towel making us stupid?
“You must remember that ... half of the population is dumber than average,” says Bob Garfield, ad critic for Advertising Age. “Included in that are people who may have been flummoxed by existing towel technology.”
CLEVER SALES PITCH
And we must not forget the classic technique of selling certain products, says Remy Stern, author of the snake-oil history “But Wait ... There’s More!”
These products are “a problem-solution business. They create a problem, then they instantly give you a solution to that problem.”
The terrifying thing, Stern says, is that “some of them are really clever.”
Watch the Egg Genie ad enough times and the concept of being unable to boil water starts to seem oddly, reassuringly normal. So what if I can’t do a sit-up? you think. I’ll just buy the Ab Rocker, and nap in it. What if we are becoming a nation of lazy people who think it’s OK not to be able to dry their own bodies?
“Let’s not get all Andy Rooney,” Garfield says, after a pause. But then again, he hadn’t watched the Wearable Towel video eight times in a row. He hadn’t faced the horror of actually kind of wanting one.
Stein, who is developing a “four- dimensional picture frame,” won’t say how many Wearable Towels he has sold. His goal is to swathe 5 percent of the population, which he says would result in a $300 million profit.
The Snuggie, for comparison’s sake, has sold about 4 million units, which Stein says should not be difficult to match or beat: “Our product is really multifunctional, but the wearable blanket is just a blanket.”