Every year there is always a product that becomes the hottest thing everyone needs to have. And then for some reason after 12-24 months no one is talking about this so called "need to have" product or service.
Why so? 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 different 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 and accelerating the concept of personal transportation into the 21st century.
In the case of the Hoverboard 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 after just a couple months were being offered hundreds of Hoverboard options to choose from. The overwhelming number of options simply confused consumers into not knowing which device to purchase. Every single Hoverboard looked identical. For many consumers this completely turned them off from the product because it raised many questions. Which one is best? Which one is safest? What are the differences between PhunkeeDuck, Sky Walker, IO Hawk and various other brands? These questions I believe ultimately resulted in many consumers purchasing a different kind of personal transportation device altogether. Why risk $1,500 or $300 on a product that has all these question marks? Alternatively consumers could find a product that had been in the marketplace longer, looked equally as fun, and had been vetted by past consumers allowing you to make an educated buying decision.
2. Injuries: There were over 70 different hospital reports of someone hurting themselves using a Hoverboard by the time December 2015 rolled around. When consumers started seeing these reports in the news media it became a huge turnoff. 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 positive story that was coming out about Hoverboards being the most popular shopping 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 consumers Hoverboard in Florida on fire outside their home. These stories continued to pop up week after week. Similar to our injury note above 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 PhunkeeDuck we would constantly hear of stories from people who would call our office telling us that their Hoverboard 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: Very often fad products can be directly correlated as being a "Novelty item." 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 they would look at the device and immediately label the product in their heads 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 City and London banned these products. When consumers would hear about these bans they hesitated with their purchase and under most circumstances 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. This is because 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 the points above were 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.