They come brightly colored and in shapes of animals, letters, princesses, mythical creatures, logos and more. Kids trade them, collect them, and shoot them across the room (which is why some schools have banned them).
A pack of twenty-four costs about $4. Robert J. Croak, the 47-year-old founder of Brainchild Products (BCP), says he has sold millions and demand continues to rise.
As Croak told Business Week,
“I’m the luckiest guy alive right now. I don’t think you’re going to find anyone who has a reason to be happier than I am. I have the hottest toy, the hottest fashion product on earth. All the right people like Silly Bandz. Everyone asks who my publicist is. I don’t have one. We don’t advertise. All we do is viral marketing. This is happening on its own.”
Silly Bandz come in hundreds of different shapes and colors. On the wrist, they function like a regular bracelet, and when taken off they revert to their original shape. They are often worn many at a time and are traded like other collectibles. They can also be used for their original intent – as a regular rubber band. Christopher Byrne, an independent toy consultant, told Business Week,
“This isn’t a cultural phenomenon, it’s a schoolyard fad. It’s tracking the way a lot of fads do. The product is out there for a while, it hits critical mass, then kids get tired of it.”
But thus far, demand for Silly Bandz remains high
The Invention of Silly Bandz
The original shaped silicone rubber bands were created in 2002 by a Japanese design team who wanted to introduce a more environmentally friendly rubber band product. Croak visited a trade show in China where he first spotted the stretchy animal shapes that were being sold as rubber band. The product sold well in Japan and had even won a national award.
Although not as popular, the oddly shaped rubber bands were sold in specialty shops in the United States too. In fact, New York magazine singled the animal bands out in October 2002, noting that they could be worn as bracelets. But Croak saw the potential in the rubber bands that others had not recognized.
Croak thought if the rubber bands could be made larger and thicker, they could be used as a children’s bracelet. He figured if they created enough variations in shapes, and kept the supply in check, the kids might even collect and trade them. Croak set his plan in motion and outsourced production of the rubber band bracelets to a manufacturer in China. The first Silly Bandz sets were sold online in November 2008. By early 2009, the first land-based retail store, Learning Express in Birmingham, Alabama, began stocking the Silly Bandz on its shelves. The product was very popular there.
Silly Bandz Popularity Spreads
By the summer of 2009, “it started to get crazy,” says Croak. “We thought we were ramping up enough then, and we’ve grown four times since then.” Croak told Business Week that BCP has gone from shipping twenty boxes of Silly Bandz a day to about 1,500.
To stimulate demand, Croak began introducing new shapes and colors while “retiring” older models. Some of the first models retired included sea animals, household pet shapes, and a spring set featuring butterflies, bees, tulips, and chick shapes.
By Fall of 2009 Silly Bandz were a strong seller in Alabama and became widespread across the Southern United States. Popularity began to move up the East coast of the United States, reaching New Jersey, Long Island, and Staten Island in November the same year. Croak continued introducing new shapes and themes including Justin Beber, Barbie, Sponge Bob, Marvel, iCarly, and more. Today Silly Bandz are collected, traded, and worn all over the United States.
Silly Bandz Shapes Available in 2010
Silly Bandz Shapes and Themes available in 2010:
- Justin Beber
- Holiday shapes
- Artic shapes
- Chat shapes (e.g. OMG, LOL)
- Paul Frank
- Yo Gabba Gabba
- Dora the Explorer
- Hello Kitty
- Save the Gulf (after the 2009 oil spill)
- Rock bands
- Sea animals