Why my dog (dressed as Superman) is the long tail of the internet

Long tail of the internet POST

I know that regular readers will know that I’ll use any excuse to feature a picture of one of my pets. Well, here is little doggie Rambo. Yes, he is dressed as Superman. No, your eyes do not deceive you … Superman.

Before I go on, I would just like to say that I’m not one of those weird Crazy Cat Ladies who dresses up her animals as characters from Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Okay, okay, I know that a dog dressed as a DC comics character isn’t too far off but, trust me on this, there IS a subtle difference.

And before you get all “OMG, she’s kooky” on me … let me assure you that I’m not the kind of entrepreneur who sits at her desk and types “Superman outfit for little doggie” into Google to distract herself from her “to do” list. One of my team alerted me to this stylish little number on eBay. However, I will confess that I AM the kind of entrepreneur who carries a little doggie dressed in the aforesaid outfit while delivering the “Vision and Strategy” Powerpoint presentation to my team. It’s true. Happened earlier this week. Look what can I say? The outfit arrived in the mail and I wanted Rambo to try it on.


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Rambo stylin' his Superman outfit


Regardless of whether you think the outfit is the cutest thing in the world – or a sign that I need to be psycho-analysed – one thing’s for sure: it’s the perfect example of the long tail of the internet.

The term “the long tail” was popularised by Chris Anderson, editor-at-large of Wired and author of, you guessed, it The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. That was written way back in 2006, which is like a century in internet years. And it’s when I started to pay attention to how the internet offers small businesses possibilities that were never before possible.

The internet levels the playing field. Or at least allows small players to access customers like never before. It allows small businesses – with our small budgets – to reach the same prospects as the big end of town.

According to Wikipedia: “The term Long Tail has gained popularity in recent times as describing the retailing strategy of selling a large number of unique items with relatively small quantities sold of each – usually in addition to selling fewer popular items in large quantities.”

So an initial search on eBay may have been for a dog bed, dog harness, or some other standard dog accessory. But among the millions of people who are searching for those conventional items are enough people who would be seduced into buying … a Superman outfit. And if you have enough of those “unique items”, you can cash in on the long tail.


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Rambo models the latest in chic superhero wear


This isn’t your excuse to stock every weird and wonderful object under the sun. Because if you’re going to bother with a niche offering, it’s also vital to ensure your product/service is findable. On the internet. This is not a case of “Stock it and they will come.” The reality is more like “Stock it, promote the hell out of it on Adwords, social media and every other online channel you can think of, and the people crazy/obsessed/passionate enough to buy your niche product will love you.”

Are you taking advantage of the long tail in your business? Hey, that doesn’t mean you need to start selling Superman outfits for dogs. But if you get Batman, Spidey or Wonder Woman in stock … make sure you give me a call.

About Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is founder and national director of the Australian Writers' Centre, the country's leading centre for writing courses. She is a journalist, blogger and author. Her latest book is "Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business" (Wiley). Valerie is a keynote speaker, small business commentator, and investor and mentor to startups and businesses in Australia.
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  • Al Mckillop

    There’s a Batman outfit in that shop I told you about in Leura, even with a mask! :)

    • valeriekhoo

      I’m considering getting the entire wardrobe of the Justice League.

  • Marija_castellari

    That’s adorable Valerie! I love it :)

    • valeriekhoo

      Thanks Marija. Rambo is secretly trying to launch a modelling career.