Every year there is a product that becomes the hottest thing that everyone feels like they just have to get. And then for some reason after 12-24 months no one is talking about this so called “need to have” product or service.
But why, though? What is it about these fad products that brings about their immediate rise to the top, followed by sudden disappearance in the marketplace? How could something get so popular and in such a short time period become almost non-existent?
There are many reasons why this happens to products like the Snuggie, Silly Bandz, and Beanie Babies but the most recent product I witnessed this happen to was the Hoverboard. In my opinion, you know you potentially have a fad product when the item is something that no one has ever seen before. A product that offers a unique and clever way of doing something differently than we’ve ever seen before.
Snuggies provided a new, fashionable, comfortable and efficient blanket. Silly Bandz took your standard bracelet and your favorite object and simply combined the two into a malleable bracelet. Beanies Babies had their own stories and poems associated with each tag, made funny “bean” sounds when you played with them, and looked more adorable than your standard stuffed animal. All of a sudden the centuries’ old blanket, bracelet, and stuffed animal had been re-invented in a clever new way.
With the Hoverboard, we were re-inventing personal transportation. We were making walking and biking much cooler and efficient whilst accelerating the concept of personal transportation into the 21st century.
In the case of the Hoverboard, and just like each of the examples above, it became very popular very quickly and then dwindled in popularity. So why did this happen to the Hoverboard? Lets analyze a couple reasons below:
1. Confusion Of The Marketplace: Consumers were being offered hundreds of Hoverboard options to choose from after just a couple months. The overwhelming number of options simply confused consumers into not knowing which device to purchase. Every single Hoverboard looked identical. For many consumers this was a complete turn off because it raised many questions. Which one is the best? Which one is the safest? What are the differences between Flow Wheel, Sky Walker, IO Hawk and various other brands? I believe these questions ultimately resulted in many consumers purchasing a different kind of personal transportation device altogether. Why risk $1,500 or $300 on a product that raises all these questions? Consumers could find a product that had been in the marketplace longer, looked equally as fun, and had been vetted by past consumers allowing the new ones to make an educated buying decision.
2. Injuries: There were over 70 different hospital reports of someone hurting themselves using a Hoverboard by December 2015. When consumers started seeing these reports in the media, it became an even worse turn-off. Parents became concerned over purchasing the product for their kids and parents who had initially purchased the device decided to return it deeming it to be unsafe.
3. Fires: By the time Christmas 2015 had rolled around, it felt like for every story about Hoverboards being the most popular gift, there was another story talking about a recent fire that was caused due to a Hoverboard. You’d hear about a burnt down house in California, a destroyed kitchen in Michigan, or a viral video on social media showing a consumer’s Hoverboard in Florida setting on fire outside their home. These stories continued to pop up week after week. Once again parents became concerned over purchasing the product for their kids and parents who had initially purchased the device decided to return it deeming it to be unsafe.
4. Low quality boards breaking: For those consumers who took a chance on purchasing a Hoverboard on sites like Amazon and AliBaba for approximately $400, well, lets just put it this way: a large chunk of them decided to never buy a Hoverboard again. At our company, Flow Wheel, we would constantly hear stories from people who would call our office telling us that their Hoverboard, which they had ordered off of Alibaba had come in multiple pieces, or was broken from the second they started riding the device. Most of these people decided not to take a second chance on a Hoverboard purchase.
5. Novelty item: Fad products can be directly correlated as being a “Novelty item” very often. A novelty item is defined as an object which is specifically designed to serve no practical purpose, and is sold for its uniqueness, humor, or simply as something new. Although I believe Hoverboards have a practical purpose in certain environments, for many consumers the device was immediately labeled as a novelty. Novelty items unfortunately don’t correlate with sustainable high growth businesses.
6. Local Governments Not Ready: Local governments, cities, and municipalities simply weren’t ready to see the Hoverboard dominate their city streets and sidewalks. Many urban cities weren’t equipped to handle a Hoverboard surge on their streets and feared the casualties that might come with unsafe riding. As a result, cities like New York and London banned these products. When consumers would hear about these bans they hesitated with their purchase and in most cases decided not to buy one. I believe there was a major concern similar to the above in that their product purchase might simply turn into a novelty that they wouldn’t be able to use.
Believe it or not, there were dozens of more reasons why the Hoverboard turned into a fad product. Many of these other reasons will be covered in upcoming blog posts. What can definitely be stated though, is that launching a fad product business can really suck, especially when it goes viral. The reason is that during the viral growth stage, you feel like you have the best thing since sliced bread and it creates a mirage.
This viral mirage feels so good that you mentally ignore many of the signs, warnings and red flags pointed out above. When that mirage starts to clear out 6 months later, you end up realizing many of those circumstances were actually out of your control and if you knew of them ahead of time you probably wouldn’t have started the business in the first place.
Written by Max Ringelheim
Max Ringelheim is a 26 year old seasoned, successful, and as many others before him failed entrepreneur. After graduating college Max co-founded and bootstrapped his own video conferencing technology company called Vonvo.com. After 3.5 years and seeing many accomplishments such as raising over $150,000 in angel funding, and having his software utilized at the United Nations, he decided to put Vonvo on hold. He then transitioned into a consulting role for various startup companies in NYC. Some of his most recent consulting roles were assisting as an SDR for an Ad-Tech startup called ListenLoop, and being responsible for co-launching the recently acclaimed “Hoverboard Movement.” Some accomplishments he experienced in the Hoverboard industry were generating over 7 figures in sales revenues in less than 8 weeks, and establishing dozens of partnerships with various notable celebrities. Max is now looking for new opportunities with exciting companies where he can leverage his tireless work ethic, enormous network, and viral growth hacking abilities.