Innovation Lessons from the Humble Fidget Spinner

Innovation Lessons from the Humble Fidget Spinner

Paul Sloane 25/09/2018 6

The fidget spinner is a child’s toy which easily spins around a central bearing. Because it is a type of gyroscope it can be used to perform various tricks involving balancing, throwing and catching.

It was originally developed as a device to help children suffering from ADHD or autism but it became a global phenomenon as a toy for all children. It became so pervasive that many schools banned it.There have been toy fashion rages before including yo-yos, hula hoops and loom-bands but nothing has spread so quickly as the adoption of fidget spinners. They first appeared in America in February 2017 and by May all the 20 top-selling toys on Amazon were fidget spinners or their derivatives. 

The contagion spread across the Atlantic in just three weeks according to the data analysis company NPD. Some estimates put worldwide sales at over 50m in the first half of 2017.

None of the big toy retailers had anticipated or planned for such demand and they were initially caught completely off-guard. There was no big marketing or advertising campaign. The habit spread because kids posted pictures and videos of themselves on social media – in particular Youtube and Instagram. Major toy retailers normally plan product promotions up to 18 months in advance with peaks in the summer and at Christmas. 

Millions of dollars are poured into campaigns to promote a planned new product launch featuring say Lego, Star Wars, Spiderman or Barbie. Manufacturing schedules and supply chains are aligned. All of this was thrown into disarray by the craze for spinners. Retailers had to react by ordering in huge supplies from China by air freight.

Lessons for marketers and innovators.

A product aimed at one market can become a success in another. The fidget spinner was originally designed for hyperactive children only. Viagra was originally promoted for men with high blood pressure – but it had an unexpected side effect!

In the world of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) it is often better to watch than to plan. You have to monitor what consumers are sharing on social media and ride the wave.

Peer pressure beats promoter pressure. People are much more influenced by what their friends says, like and do than by expensive marketing campaigns. For adults Tripadvisor is critical for the choice (and so the success) of restaurants and hotels. For young people Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat lead the way (until the next sites take over). To generate demand for your new product influencing the influencers is more important than ever.

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  • Jack Heard

    The fidget spinner is not exactly the most complex of inventions, although it gives a whirring sound while it spins.

  • Victor Cordero

    Fidgeting could actually help you think and express yourself.

  • Ronnie Begley

    Leaving room for innovation in a plan of action is a great move, and will come in handy when challenges or opportunities present themselves.

  • Mateo Golemac

    Go outside your bubble and talk to people. This is critical to success.

  • Colin Feeney

    If the data doesn't look good, pivot quickly and try other alternatives.

  • Daniel Payton

    Make changes strategically and pivot with purpose.

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Paul Sloane

Innovation Expert

Paul is a professional keynote conference speaker and expert facilitator on innovation and lateral thinking. He helps companies improve idea generation and creative leadership. His workshops transform innovation leadership skills and generate great ideas for business issues. His recent clients include Airbus, Microsoft, Unilever, Nike, Novartis and Swarovski. He has published 30 books on lateral thinking puzzles, innovation, leadership and problem solving (with over 2 million copies sold). He also acts as link presenter at conferences and facilitator at high level meetings such as a corporate advisory board. He has acted as host or MC at Awards Dinners. Previously, he was CEO of Monactive, VP International of MathSoft and UK MD of Ashton-Tate. He recently launched a series of podcast interviews entitled Insights from Successful People.

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