Thursday, June 01, 2017

Elmer's Glue: The Slime Craze

In 1947, Borden introduced Elmer's Glue packaged in a glass bottle. Over the years, it became a key item for elementary school classrooms throughout the country. Seventy years later, Elmer's Glue (owned by Newell Rubbermaid now)  has experienced an interesting phenomenon, fueled by social media.   Product sales have skyrocketed over the past year, as young people throughout the country enjoy the "slime" craze.  They've all learned how to make slime using Borax and Elmer's Glue.   In March, Money magazine reported on the remarkable profit-making venture launched by Theresa Nguyen, a 13-year old from Texas.  She earns $3,000 per month selling her slime creations.  Her Instagram account has 665,000 followers.   Her most recent post already has 149,000 views.  Unbelievable! 

Newell has ramped up production of its glue to meet skyrocketing demand.  Meanwhile, the company has also set up an extensive website with its own videos, recipes, and the like.  It all sounds like a terrific story.  Why should Newell be careful though?   Kids are fickle.  Fads come and go.  Will the slime craze be sustainable, or will kids move on next month or next year?   Newell will have to be careful as it ramps up production.  The company will want to be cautious about making large investments to extend capacity.  Moreover, it will have to careful as it manages inventory.   It should strive to meet rising demand while the craze is ongoing... after all, you have to take advantage of the fad while it's ongoing.  However, you don't want to get caught with huge amounts of excess inventory if the fad suddenly stalls out.  In addition, you have to think carefully about how to extend the surge in demand. How can you take steps to insure that it's not just a passing fad? How can you come up with new recipes or ideas that build upon what kids are already doing?   How do you create activities that art teachers and others can use that enable sales to continue to grow?  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you don't want to damage the authenticity of this craze.  You don't want kids and parents to begin to perceive Elmer's as pushing sales in an inauthentic way.    You want kids such as Theresa to spread the word more so than the corporate social media managers.   Authenticity should be a key priority as the company takes steps to market its product.   

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