At one point or another in the last two decades, you’ve probably purchased a Snuggie. Whether as a gag gift or as a genuine device for keeping you warm (hey, it works), more than 30 million of the once-ubiquitous sleeved blankets have been sold since their debut in 2008. You probably know that a cheesy infomercial was a key to the product’s success; here are 15 things you might not have known about the Snuggie.
1. SNUGGIE WASN'T THE FIRST BLANKET WITH SLEEVES.
Though there are several other oversized, body-length blankets out there, which sell under brand names like Toasty Wrap and Hoodie-Footie, there is only one Snuggie. And while it may be the most famous of the bunch, it’s not the first blanket with sleeves. That honor belongs to the equally fun-to-say Slanket, which was invented by Gary Clegg in a University of Maine dorm room in 1998, then brought to market in the mid-2000s (more than two years before the Snuggie’s debut). In an interview with The New York Times, Clegg called the Snuggie a “cheap knockoff” of the Slanket and said that it “undermines the integrity” of his product.
For his part, Scott Boilen—president and chief executive of the Allstar Marketing Group, which produces the Snuggie—doesn't pretend that they invented the concept. “We had seen products like these in catalogs for a while—even before the Slanket came out, I think,” Boilen told The New York Times. “And we thought if we could put a clever commercial behind it and offer it at a better value price, then people would buy it … We would all be in not-great shape if there was still just one car company.”
2. EVEN ITS INVENTOR WASN’T CONVINCED IT WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL.
Even Boilen couldn’t have predicted the enormous, and immediate, success of the Snuggie. The fact that it was made at all was kind of a numbers game, as the company tested a total of 80 products that year. “If you told me we could only test 50 products, the Snuggie might not have made the cut," Boilen told Yahoo! Finance.
3. THE SNUGGIE’S SUCCESS BOOSTED SALES OF THE SLANKET.
While the Snuggie may have nabbed the bigger headlines (and more than one parody), its brisk business was a boon to its competitors as well. Between 2008 and 2009, the makers of the Slanket more than doubled their profits—from $4.2 million in 2008 to an estimated $9 million in 2009. “Their infomercial is raising general awareness about the product,” Clegg said.
4. RIDICULOUSNESS WAS PART OF THE BUSINESS PLAN.
Like the Clapper and so many other As Seen on TV products before it, the utter ridiculousness of the original Snuggie commercial is what brought awareness to the product—which quickly translated into sales. In a way, it was all part of the business strategy. “There is a bit of the ridiculous to it,” Boilen said of the commercial. “So that catches people’s attention.”
5. THE COMMERCIAL WAS INTENDED TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE PRODUCT, NOT PROMPT SALES.
A dirty little secret of the As Seen on TV business is that those over-the-top commercials aren’t really meant to sell product—they’re created to raise awareness about a product, so that major retailers like Wal-Mart will place an order, which is where about 95 percent of a product’s sales come from.
“We can do 1000 focus groups for people to tell us what they’ll do, but when you actually air a TV commercial and somebody gets off the couch to go on a website or call a number and actually place an order with their credit card from a company they never heard of and wait a while to get it, that person’s definitely going to buy it at retail,” Boilen explained to BuzzFeed. “If we build awareness to a certain level, we’ll sell through retail.”
6. THE SNUGGIE WAS PROFITABLE BEFORE IT BECAME AVAILABLE IN RETAIL STORES.
While retail is the ultimate goal of any As Seen on TV product, the Snuggie actually made money before it hit the shelves at brick-and-mortar stores. In February of 2009, warmth-minded customers could already purchase a Snuggie at Walgreens and Bed, Bath & Beyond. In an interview with The New York Times at that time, Boilen predicted that “every major retailer” would be carrying it by the fall.
7. THE SNUGGIE PUT THE KIBOSH ON SLANKET’S RUN ON THE BIG BOX STORES.
While the general marketplace may be large enough to withstand a lot of sleeved blanket competition, the retail store industry doesn't quite work that way. Though Slanket’s Clegg was on track to see his invention make its way into retail stores, all that came to a halt when Snuggie arrived on the scene. “In 2008 things were going great for us and we were preparing to approach big box stores in the summer of that year,” Clegg told American Express OPEN Forum. “All of that ended, though, in August. That is when we saw the first test commercials for Snuggie … I was down at first, but I knew there was nothing I could do.” When asked whether he considered legal action, Clegg said no: “I never thought about that. We also didn’t have a patent because textile patents are really hard to protect. It is like having a patent on socks or T-shirts."
The Snuggie has been compared to many things; in discussing its popularity, Jay Leno wondered, “Why don’t you just put your robe on backwards?” and Ellen DeGeneres suggested that the company “Should throw in a pointed hat so you can look like a wizard.” But many see a literary influence in the amorphous garment: the Thneed, a catch-all textile seen in Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, which can act as a shirt, sock, hat, toothbrush holder, hammock, or dozens of other things.
9. IT WAS ONE OF THE EARLIEST PRODUCTS TO BENEFIT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA.
The introduction of the Snuggie occurred at the same time that social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook were becoming more important to businesses. “It certainly put us on the public’s radar,” Boilen said of the role social media played in increasing public awareness of the product. “It was the first product that really went viral, that really went mainstream like that. It was probably the first product that had the advantage of social media really peaking.”
10. THEY GO GREAT WITH BEER.
While the Snuggie commercial promoted how great the product could be at home on the couch, and even at a football game, barflies were quick to adopt the uniform. In 2009, a group of Snuggie-loving beer drinkers organized the first Snuggie Pub Crawl in Cincinnati, Ohio. Over the next few years, more than 100 other Snuggie crawls happened.
11. CONSERVATIVES LOVED THEM.
In 2009, Americans for Tax Reform’s Derek Hunter—who admitted that he bought his own Snuggie in a not-so-sober state—managed to convince a few of his fellow conservatives, including Andrew Breitbart and Tucker Carlson, to don his blue blanket and posted their photos to his Facebook group, The Snuggie Cult. He even convinced his boss, ATR president Grover Norquist, to do it. "From there, it blew up," Hunter told Politico. "Within the next hour I was inundated with messages from people who wanted to see it, try it on, and have their picture taken in it. I figured it could be fun, so what the hell?”
12. OPRAH WAS A FAN, TOO.
When it comes to celebrity endorsements, there are few people more powerful than Oprah Winfrey. In March 2009, Snuggie’s “designer” line of products—which came in all sorts of colors and prints—got Oprah’s seal of approval on The Oprah Winfrey Show (while Tyler Perry sat awkwardly by her side in a zebra print blanket). And in true Oprah fashion, every audience member brought one home. (You get a Snuggie, you get a Snuggie, everybody gets a Snuggie!)
13. SPORTS FANS WERE COMPETITIVE ABOUT THEIR SNUGGIES.
On March 5, 2010, approximately 20,000 Snuggie-clad Cleveland Cavaliers fans showed up to watch their team beat the Detroit Pistons by seven points. It was a large enough gathering to earn the crowd a Guinness World Record, but it didn’t last long. Just one month later, 43,510 Los Angeles Angels fans donned similar attire, crushing Cleveland’s record.
14. THAT “BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE” DEAL WASN’T SUCH A DEAL AFTER ALL.
In 2015, Snuggie’s parent company, Allstar Products Group, agreed to pay out approximately $8 million to customers to settle a complaint that the company duped many customers into purchasing a buy one, get one free deal—which really wasn’t such a deal after all. “This agreement returns money to thousands of consumers in New York and across the nation who believed they were buying items at the price advertised on television, but ended up with extra merchandise and hidden fees they didn’t bargain for,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. The customers signed up for two Snuggies for $19.95, but ended up paying almost twice that when all was said and done.
15. NO ONE KNOWS WHY THE SNUGGIE CAUGHT ON.
No one really knows why the Snuggie became such a pop culture phenomenon—not even its creator. "If I knew how the Snuggie became so successful, we’d have 15 more products like that,” Boilen said. “It just struck a chord at the right time."