First let me note that my internet has been temporarily cut off so I am currently dialed in at a wopping 200kb/s using my cell phone as a modem. Now onto business.

Fads and the Economy

This weeks topic is Fads with a fond look at internet fads. First what is a fad? Well a Fad is defined as a ‘Practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal. aka a craze’ We all know what fads are, they are trends that are extremely popular for a short period of time. In the business world this is defined by something called PLC Theory, or Product Life Cycle Theory (Levitt, 1965), but more on that later. What causes fads? Is it something that is part of human nature or is it a product of our ever decreasing short attention span? And finally is it possible to predict a fad? Can we maybe look back at the past and see if a trend? A fad of fads if you will? We’ll see.

I think we should first take a look at what makes a fad different from a business standpoint and that means we need to take a closer look at the Product Life Cycle. When I began researching this business of fads I had no idea what a PLC was, I hadn’t even thought about fad’s from a business standpoint. Then I found this. this is a chart depicting a typical PLC.

Product Life Cycle Diagram

Product Life Cycle Diagram

A Typical PLC contain four major parts as depicted on this chart. The four major parts are:

    • Introduction – Just what it sounds like; A new product or service is introduced to the market. People are still generally unaware of the product or service.
    • Growth Phase – At This point sales grow at an accelerated rate and competitors enter into the scene.  Some customers are making repeat purchases.  Distribution expands at this point.
    • Maturity – At this point sales start to level off and competition falls away. Market penetration is very high. At this point loyal customers are purchasing the product.
    • Decline – Sales begin to decline. Interest in new items affects sales. Little to no competition remains.

This all seems pretty standard and self explanatory but  then I saw these charts. fad-plc

As you can see a fad survives a much shorter time. This is incredibly interesting, how is it possible for something to go through all those stages that fast? I think in todays market it has a lot to do with the economy being global and our societal shift from years ago. As a final note on PLC’s I really found this chart interesting.


This is a picture of the PLC’s of LP and 45 vinyl’s and thend tapes and CD’s

What i find most interesting about this is the re invigoration of tapes after the release of CD’s. This happened because before the digital music era of Mp3’s tapes allowed you to mix your cd’s. Records declined because they were just replaced.

Sociology and Fads

So what is it about some things that make them become fads? Well if you look to sociology and Social Economics you find the theory of Informational cascades. Informational cascades occurs when people make a choice based on seeing someone else make a choice, and is independent of their own thoughts and input.  This is also based on social learning theory which states that we learn through observing, imitating, and then responding the the reinforcements. Basically what all this means is that people are more likely to do what they see someone else do than to do what they believe to be the right thing to do.  This is almost the text book definition of what a fad is. This in my opinion completely explains fads, and faddish behaviour.

Now for the fun stuff.

Fads of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s

I’ll admit I don’t remember most of these because I am too young but here are a selection of fad’s from the 70’s

    • Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific

I have to tell you I had never ever heard of this stuff before I started researching this topic, but now that I’ve heard of it I wish it still existed, I would use a product with this name!

    • Creepy Crawlers

Now I have never seen this package before but I do remember when creepy crawlers came out again in the 90’s with the following box.

    • Lava Lamps

edit: some of this article was lost during movement and cleaning I will be working towards recovering it soon.



Posted on April 30, 2009, in Article, Rants, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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