You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone: Lessons from Flappy Bird

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There are two types of people in the world right now: those people who didn’t know a single thing about Flappy Bird until the announcement the developer was pulling the super-popular game off of the market and people who play Flappy Bird incessantly.

For those of you in the first group, let me bring you up to speed. When you play Flappy Bird, you tap your smartphone screen over and over again in an inevitably futile attempt to keep your bird up and flying through a tangled maze of pipes. No one is apparently any good at this game, judging from the regular stream of profanity that comes from people playing it.

Not all of the people who were frustrated with Flappy Bird handled their feelings about it very well. The developer, Dong Nguyen, was so overwhelmed with player complaints and commentary that he decided to remove the game from app stores across the board. This decision went over like a lead balloon. Now people were telling Dong that they were going to kill themselves. If they weren’t suicidal, they were homicidal: more than one news outlet is reporting staggering numbers of death threats against Nguyen.

What’s the lesson for business owners here? We found three:

  1. Have a Smart Exit Strategy

    If nothing else, we need to be aware that we’re living in an age of consumer entitlement gone wild. Nguyen did something that we’re told you must never, ever do: he told the customer no. In a world where technology has made it possible to purchase anything, anytime, anywhere, Dong Nguyen made his product suddenly and completely unavailable.

    Thinking strategically and implementing a less dramatic and abrupt exit plan than basically saying “I quit!” on Twitter could have avoided a lot of this stress for Nguyen – and perhaps even have made him some money by selling the app to someone more willing to deal with complaints and criticisms. As entrepreneurs, we can’t ignore our emotions – but we can’t allow our emotions to overcome what’s best for our finances either.

  2. Every Decision You Make Creates an Opportunity for Someone Else

    They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. People’s reactions to Nguyen’s decision were intense. While some people were angry, others saw opportunity. An iPhone with Flappy Bird installed on it appeared on eBay almost instantly, and as of this writing, bidding was near $100,000.
    Someone will always try to profit from sudden scarcity – and, apparently, people are willing to buy. Perhaps we shall never run out of fools willing to be parted from their money, no matter how bad the economy gets.

  3. You Don’t Define Who Your Competition Is: Your Customers Do

    If people can’t purchase the product they’d like to at a price they can afford, they seek substitutes. Flappy Bird may be gone, but Flappy Pig is already here to replace it.

    It’s wise for every small business owner to appreciate what companies out there your customers would view as acceptable substitutes if you were to close up shop tomorrow. This is the competition you might not necessarily be focused on: many of us are always looking at the competition that’s a little better than us, functioning at a slightly higher level, but our customers may be willing to accept less in terms of offering and service if the price is right.


Bonus Lesson: Business Wisdom Is Everywhere. You Just Have To Look for It.

Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Flappy Bird is that there are lessons to be learned from Flappy Bird. The one thing we really can’t afford as entrepreneurs and business leaders is to be too narrowly focused. Our customers live in a vibrant, dynamic world. We need to be aware of the things that fill their days – even if it’s something that seems as silly as an animated phone app. In fact, awareness is only the beginning. We need to look at these phenomena and say how does this connect to my business? Doing this will make you a stronger, more effective communicator.

Need help finding the answers? Don’t sweat it. We’re here to help! Give us a call when you’re ready to take your business to the next level.

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You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone: Lessons from Flappy Bird
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You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone: Lessons from Flappy Bird
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Flappy Bird developer recently removed his wildly popular game from all app stores, teaching business owners everywhere several valuable lessons.
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