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Hover Hoopla

Posted: September 4, 2015, 3:30 p.m.
By Luke Thomas.

It’s 30 minutes until your flight takes off, you just finished at the baggage check, and it’s going to take at least half of that time to fight through the throngs of business travelers, wanderlusters and Aunt Jan’s-coming-home-for-the-weekend who are standing between you and your terminal.

Lucky you, it’s 2015, and walking is so 20th century. As rapper Wiz Khalifa demonstrated, you can now just throw down your new hoverboard and zoom through the masses. You can even snap a selfie on the way – it’s handlebar-free.

The Segway’s cooler cousin, technically known as a self-balancing board, has taken social media by storm. Khalifa ended up getting arrested for his cruise through the airport, Justin Bieber has been spotted with his own version, and Vine is overflowing with snippets of adventurous early adopters trying to make it from the kitchen to the living room without nose-diving into the hardwood.

Photo courtesy of Justin Bieber (Instagram)

But the reality of the board hovers above the truth. It is not, as it’s popularly referred to, a true “hoverboard.” It consists of a board with two wheels that is controlled by leaning forward, backward or to one side in order to turn. And the deception behind the board doesn’t end at its nickname.

If you do a quick search for “self-balancing board,” you’ll find an overwhelming amount of brands and retailers. Some are large and well-known, like IO Hawk and PhunkeeDuck, while others are purported to be next-generation models sold by some crafty entrepreneurs on eBay. Isn’t it a little strange how such a viral, innovative product doesn’t have a company to claim it? To understand, we have to take a trip overseas.

In almost every case, there is really only one self-balancing board. It is made in China by a production company and then sold to U.S. vendors who repaint, rebrand and put a new sticker on it. Make a call to one of these Chinese factories, et voilà, you’re in the hoverboard business.

Photo courtesy of Wiz Khalifa (Instagram)

For an American inventor, this sounds like a nightmare. You just painted your chef d’oeuvre, but forgot to sign your name to it. In China this is actually common due to different patent and manufacturing laws. So, what can we learn from the Chinese man-behind-the-curtain?

When you develop a new product, control is key. In order to keep competitors from snatching up your product and stealing your well-deserved credit, it’s important to be the first when it comes to announcing it and to be sure your name is everywhere the product is, especially in the beginning.

The second takeaway from the hover hoopla: when it comes to social media, especially on a platform like Vine where content is short and geared more toward comedy, consumers aren’t going to brand your product for you. The company has to set the stage.

Sure, let the product market itself. But if you do, make sure it’s not just the product being marketed, but the company behind it.


  1. Post comment

    Wow! I can see this product really taking off in the U.S. Thanks Luke for introducing me to this exciting new product.This is a good example of the importance of branding and marketing a product effectively.

  2. Post comment

    Luke…you’re such a good writer! just enough tongue-in-cheek to balance information.


  3. Post comment

    This was a fun and informative glimpse into the world of patents and branding!


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