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What Fidget Spinners Can Teach Us about How Fads Disrupt Digital Marketing

Published: November 3, 2017

Author: Caroline Kirby

As many of you may know now, a fidget spinner is a toy that experienced a craze of popularity this year around early April. I assume many of you found out about this quirky toy in a variety of ways. Here is how I found out:
In March of 2017, I launched a search campaign for a new toy that our client had just brought to market. In the initial launch of the campaign, we had more generic terms to see what we could learn from the traffic and eventually build our campaigns toward the most valuable keywords for this new product.

The campaign ran smoothly after launch with frequent checking of our traffic to ensure we were on track. As is best practice, we were running daily to weekly search query report scrubs to filter out any unwanted traffic. As time passed, we lowered the frequency of these search query scrubs because we were not finding anything new.
Then, BAM, one day we saw a spike in impressions.
At first, this was attributed to our new toy taking off in popularity (because it was). Days passed and our impressions continued to skyrocket. Finally, it came time for our search query report weekly scrub. Here we found the spectacular source of 1/8th of our total impression volume (in the millions):
the “FIDGET HAND FINGER SPINNER WIDGET” (and various renditions of the popular toy name).
At the time, this was the first I had heard of such a toy. The sheer volume and long-tailed specificity of the search queries that had triggered our short-tailed term immediately piqued my interest. I too searched one of these queries and found pictures of the culprit and was amazed that our campaign had been affected by such an interesting toy fad.
In the end, I negated all relevant versions of this search query from our traffic and all went back to normal, with more frequent checks to ensure we had seen the last of the fidget spinner from our campaigns for good (although the fidget spinner continued to haunt my everyday life in gas stations, grocery stores, and even with the Slack chat channel emoji).
While this revelation did not happen in the chaotic Q4 holiday season, it did highlight some key things to keep in mind for the high-volume season ahead.

  1. Consistent Search Query report scrubs are vital not only to the launch of new campaigns, but also to combat unanticipated changes in fads that even your most trusted campaigns can pick up without warning.
  2. Fads can sometimes be hard to predict.

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