Perhaps why Marvin Weinberger chose to feature zombies - bloodied, hollow-eyed, stalking creatures - in a promotional video for his latest invention is not nearly as important as the astonishing result.
A Kickstarter campaign for the Havertown inventor and serial entrepreneur's Lil Trucker multi-tool has raised more than four times the $25,000 goal, with one day to go before its Friday conclusion.
As of Wednesday night, 1,209 backers had pledged $113,450 for a gadget weighing only 1.3 pounds but offering a hefty load of features. Those include a glass breaker, folding saw, can opener, hatchet blade, hex wrench, pry, wedge, hook, hammer, nail puller, wire twist, gas valve wrench, spanner, strap cutter, and, of course, zombie slayer.
"Frankly, until we launched, I was probably the biggest skeptic in terms of whether we'd get noticed at all, and was blown away by how quickly we passed our goal," said Weinberger, whose unusual campaign started in May.
Previous experience should have provided a clue. An earlier invention by Weinberger's 10-year-old Philadelphia-based Innovation Factory, creators of American-made hand tools, became an unexpected darling of zombie fandom. Called the Trucker's Friend, it is a 2.3-pound, 20-inch tool intended for "any situation that requires hacking, prying, pulling or pounding," Innovation Factory said.
Evidently, there are many such situations. Retailing from $59.95, more than 10,000 have sold since hitting the market in 2011, making Trucker's Friend the top seller of Innovation Factory's eight products - thanks, in part, to zombie mania.
"We saw that people interested in zombies started writing about the product, then posting [on social media] using Trucker's Friend demolishing zombies and zombie surrogates," Weinberger said. "A lot of pumpkins were sacrificed using Trucker's Friend."
Lil Trucker came about after firefighters who had just used Trucker's Friend in post-tornado search-and-rescue efforts in Joplin, Mo., about three years ago called Weinberger with a request for a more compact tool that could be worn on a belt and could break windows and cut not only clothing but also metal.
"You can do a lot with a Swiss Army knife, but it can't cut through trees and chain-link fences," Weinberger said.
Lil Trucker can - and much more. Weinberger said the feature he is most proud of, and for which Innovation Factory is seeking patent protection, is a foldable reciprocating blade durable enough to cut down trees and through copper pipes.
Along the way, it became apparent the 11.5-inch Lil Trucker also would be attractive to the average consumer, given that it could fit in a glove compartment, which is exactly where the woman being hunted down by zombies finds it in the Kickstarter video, viewed by more than 56,000 people.
Those riveting, suspense-filled six minutes are the creation of Edan Cohen of Spirit Animal Collective, a media production company in East Falls. When he first heard about Lil Trucker from Weinberger about a year ago, Cohen said he thought: "Wouldn't it be really neat if you have this woman who's trapped in a car?"
But why zombies?
"I thought that the tool itself needed something pretty sexy to market it," Cohen said, laughing. By "sexy," he meant something a viewer would care about. Proof abounds that plenty care about zombies.
"Walking Dead is huge," Cohen said. "It just seems, no pun intended, it just won't die."
So Philadelphia fitness trainer and actress Maria Shapley uses almost every feature of Lil Trucker to conquer her ill-intentioned pursuers. She cuts herself free from a locked seatbelt in a Nissan Maxima, smashes a car window, temporarily plants a blade in a zombie's head, and cuts wire, cans, wood, and a chain, in a physically draining quest to reach a boyfriend holed up in an abandoned mental hospital the last time she heard from him in a frantic phone call.
"There's never been a video like this before on Kickstarter where it's a short film," Cohen said, suggesting two minutes is more typical for a crowdfunding video. "We don't talk about the tool. Ultimately . . . people want to be entertained." If at the end they are moved to invest, that's success, he said.
The 1,200-plus who have will get Lil Trucker for $69, $10 less than the expected retail price. Funds raised will cover the cost of creating the mold and tooling to proceed to production.
Damian Salas, director of the Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community and an assistant professor at Drexel University, said Weinberger clearly understands that zombies sell.
"From Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead to the upcoming Zoo, zombies continue to fill the coffers of networks and advertisers alike," Salas said. "The [promotional] video is very well produced and links the Lil Trucker not only to pop culture, but also to one of the pillars of entrepreneurship: Know your customer."
Innovation Factory has not yet settled on a manufacturer, which will be in the United States.
"We'd love to do it in Greater Philadelphia," Weinberger said. Zombies need not apply.