About 5 years ago, Jake Schmidt started one of the fastest-growing trends in the toy industry: the fidget spinners. He wasn’t the inventor, but it is safe to say he was the first individual to commercialize it.
Jake Schmidt is a digital marketer and the founder of Structured Social, a digital marketing agency based in Los Angeles, USA. He has founded many other businesses in the online marketing industry including Konstant Creative, Fidgetly, and others alongside his partner Nick Shackleford.
In this article, we are sharing the formula that he used to launch his brand Fidgetly which was the biggest brand behind the global fidget spinner trend between 2016 and 2018.
Jake was obsessed with looking for underpriced attention, ever since he started his online marketing journey in his late teenage years. He got accustomed to checking Instagram “meme accounts” which to him were the perfect example of underpriced attention.
He started using these accounts to promote a real estate offer for his client and definitely, he generated a lot of traffic however, the offer wasn’t perfect for the audience.
So, Jake started researching alternative ways to monetize the traffic from meme accounts.
Having launched a Kickstarter in the past, he knew that this platform was the perfect place to get inspiration for new products.
"One day, I was doing research and came across something called a "fidget cube", which had raised around $6 000 000 in 30 days. This is when the idea of selling fidget toys grabbed me.", — Jake says.
The more Jake learned about Instagram, the more he realized that “oddly satisfying” videos were perfect for going viral.
Content like playing with slime, cutting objects with knives, and smashing stuff with hammers was hitting the explore page and getting tons of attention. So, Jake wanted to make sure that his product fits this type of content.
Jake knew that if he could get high engagement on content featuring his products, he could make his ad spend to scale much further. Fidget toys seemed to fit the bill, and so Jake started experimenting with them.
Making the Fidget Spinners
Jake started this experimentation on a site called Thingiverse, which was an open-source database of 3d printable designs.
"I found a design for fidget spinners on there and printed it out, but I didn’t think much of it. My opinion on fidget spinners changed when I saw an ad for one on Etsy. I clicked on the listing and realized that despite it being a brand new store, they had already sold hundreds of units. I also noticed that it was a 3d printed version, just like mine.", — Jake says.
At this point, Jake realized that his preparation for studying underpriced channels had met an opportunity, and he had to take advantage.
Taking Advantage of the Opportunity
At this point in time, fidget spinners were still strictly for hobbyists. They hadn’t been commercialized yet, which made the opportunity even better.
Jake knew the real money wasn’t in selling 3d-printed toys, but instead, in mass manufacturing. So, he immediately went on Alibaba and found a manufacturer to partner with.
"As far as I know, this ended up being the FIRST mass-produced fidget spinner to hit the market.", — Jake says.
Marketing the Fidget Spinners
After Jake received the samples, he created edutainment video ads. These are video ads that something are entertaining and satisfying but also educational.
He created a Shopify store, contacted a meme account owner whom he had worked with before, and started to test his idea. The Instagram meme account was called LMAO.
"My first post cost $300 and generated $3 500 in an hour. This is when I knew I was on to something.", — Jake says.
This was the beginning of the long successful journey of the fidget spinners everyone knows about today.
Jake scaled to over 500 000 unit sales in about a year on his Shopify store and got his products in large retail stores like Best Buy, Target, and Brookstone. He successfully achieved all of this at just 20 years old with his partner Nick Shackleford.
Nick Shackleford shared his part of the Fidgetly success story as a cofounder and it was published on Partnerkin, you can read it here.
The winning Formula used by Jake Schmidt
Jake admits that the formula that led to the great success of the Fidget spinners can easily be replicated with other products which satisfy the market fit he mentioned above. Here’s that formula to copy:
1. Find sources of underpriced attention like meme pages, gaming Youtubers, etc.
2. Test ideas at low cost before scaling
3. Capitalize on trends before they get saturated
4. Create content that sells and gets engagement
5. Keep taking swings until you hit it.
Fidgetly was able to generate $1 000 000 in its first 2 months. The success of the fidget spinner didn’t come just directly, Jake and his partner Nick had tried an e-commerce store selling hoverboards but they ended up losing $30 000. Jake was successfully able to make the hoverboards trend however, they were very heavy to ship and they would heat up and catch fires. That killed his hoverboards business but left him inspired to look for a more portable and safer product.
The fidget spinners were different and they brought immediate success from the start. They were easy to market and easy to ship because they were small and could even fit in envelopes and pockets, unlike the hoverboards.