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Joseph Pedott, marketing 'legend' behind Chia Pet and the Clapper, dies at 91

Entrepreneur sparked Chia Pet craze

One last clap for a business tycoon.

Joseph Pedott — the marketing guru behind the Chia Pet plant sensation and its memorable TV jingle "ch-ch-ch-Chia!" — died on June 22 at the age of 91. Pedott is also credited with making popular the light-switch gizmo The Clapper.

Remembered as a "legend" by longtime colleague Michael Hirsch, Pedott turned the once money-losing Chia Pet product into a profitable business with cultural relevance.

A pro at selling products through unforgettable slogans, Pedott’s approach to finding hit items and subsequent advertisements was straightforward: "Keep it fun, simple, and add value," Hirsch told Yahoo Finance by phone. Hirsch worked alongside Pedott for over 40 years.

And that philosophy paid off. The sprout-growing terracotta figurine is among America’s best-selling items with more than 25 million sold in the US to date.

Joseph Pedott, the marketing guru behind the Chia Pet and the Clapper, died on June 22 at the age of 91.
Joseph Pedott, the marketing guru behind the Chia Pet and the Clapper, died on June 22 at the age of 91.

Hirsch added: "He was very good at watching his return on investment (ROI), always making sure there was a path to future returns at the end of the day."

Pedott started his career as a student at the University of Illinois. In 1955, he founded the agency Pedott & Peters. It was there that he first worked on TV commercials. But it wasn’t until years later while in search of new clients that he learned of the powerhouse potential of Chia Pets.

After being dismissed as a 'stupid item' by the head of sales of a leading drugstore chain, Pedott found untapped value in the product, later telling the University of Illinois alumni publication it "just needed better advertising."

Soon after, Pedott offered (and bought) the rights to the Chia Pet from its importer Walter Houston and, according to Hirsch, "threw away everything but the product."

Pedott moved manufacturing to Tecate, Mexico, rebranded the figurine, and with his unique and unparalleled advertising approach, debuted the Chia Ram in 1982. The debut marked the first widely distributed Chia Pet under the newly created Joseph Enterprises Inc.

More plant-growing animal figurines followed, which ultimately led the company to its first big licensing deal: Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters.

For years, Pedott ran Joseph Enterprises Inc., where he not only turned the Chia Pet into a household name, but The Clapper light switch as well — a design first sold in 1985 and made memorable by its catchy "Clap on, Clap Off" TV commercial.

Both products are archived in the Smithsonian, and the Chia Pet is also included in the New York Times time capsule, to be opened in the year 3000.

Pedott sold his business to the National Entertainment Collectibles Association in 2018, a global distributor of licensed consumer products. According to Hirsch, that deal helped keep Chia Pet 'relevant,' and kept Pedott’s legacy alive.

"The success is all because of his vision and determination to keep moving forward," Hirsch said. "His reputation is for being a hard but fair negotiator. People would always walk away from doing business with Joe with a smile…He wanted to make sure everyone was winning."

And in the process, Pedott won too.

Seana Smith is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Smith on Twitter @SeanaNSmith. Tips on deals, mergers, activist situations, or anything else? Email

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