The major consequence to marketers of the transfer of power from themselves to their customers is that the effectiveness of their marketing efforts has been deflated, irrespective of their mix of legacy and digital channels, by the power of peer pressure.
As a kid, yo-yos came and went several times, usually with the backing of Coke, as did hula hoops and several others, but the story of fidget spinners appears different.
They came from nowhere, a craze amongst teenagers fuelled by YouTube, that left behind all the usual corporate toymakers who have had to scramble to get their hands on stock, probably arriving about the time the craze will end, leaving them on the beach with warehouses of product the kids see as yesterday’s news.
The toy business, like many, has a rhythm that has evolved over many years. There are a couple of peak sales periods, and the promotion of new toys is aimed at these periods, with lead times of 12-18 months or more. These hierarchical toy marketers NPD cycle times bear no resemblance to the cycle times of the newest crazy thing that catches on.
Finger spinners appeared in the US in early 2017, and sales appeared to have peaked in May or June, and are now in decline, a decline as rapid as the rise. How do businesses geared around an 18 month product development and promotion cycle time compete in this new marketplace powered by their consumers, not even their customers, who are often the kids parents. Kids went on line to buy these thing before the bricks and mortar retailers had heard of them. Perhaps this is the virus at the core of the recent move to Chapter 11 of Toys R Us, weighed down by a mountain of debt, just before the peak selling period.
This severely condensed cycle time is the new reality of consumer markets, and our legacy hierarchical organisation structures are unable to accommodate the change. Instead, organisations need to find more ‘organic’ ways of responding to the stuff that goes on in their markets, to see the odd things at the fringe that might become the next big thing, and respond to them with an appropriately condensed supply chain cycle time.
It is not very often organisations will be faced with something as radically short term as fidget spinners, but the lesson is appropriate in all markets, as the disruption to one extent or another, is everywhere. This condensation of the demand cycle, way out of the control of marketers, is a tectonic shift on the nature of markets and marketing in the 21st century to which adaptation is the key success metric.