Report – Fortnite-ly Phenomena: What creates a digital craze?

Posted on: Thursday 04 July 2019 12:31pm by Tim Collins

Digital crazes aren’t a new phenomenon. Think Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin, Angry Birds… But they’re happening quicker than ever. New devices and social media are key drivers in accelerating these trends.


  • Smartphone ownership has been increasing 33% YoY for 4-9 years olds since 2017.
  • Access to new technology by younger kids is accelerating how digital content and experiences can lead to crazes.
  • The gaming revolution has been driven by increasing device capability, more devices, more games available for free and the introduction of social and chat.
Illustration by Greg McLeod


The session started with moderator Neil Court asking the panel if there was any special sauce in being able to spot or even help create a digital craze. Nick Richardson took us through some key insights into how technology is playing a key role, but also how marketing is crucial – typically accelerating the pick up of a new craze. The key is identifying who the audience is and how we can communicate with them. What’s interesting is that there is a circular flow between on and off-line – gaming brands like ‘Fortnite’ have active merchandising programmes. Lydia Mossahebi said that the key to is insight. They have a ‘Beano Brain’ – a panel of kids they talk to each week about trends and attitudes. They were tracking Fortnite as a trend as early as November 2017, but it didn’t really start to rise until Spring ’18. It’s now in decline.

Rachel Bardhill identified how social media is key to their take on trends – BBC Buzz allows a safe platform for children – it’s moderated and has had 1.5m submissions last 12 months. 89% of teens use some form of social media –Instagram being very dominant. The playground has traditionally been the key to driving trends and crazes – social media amplifies this and speeds up adoption.

Laverne Antrobus took us through her experiences of on-line usage. Some insight from a group of 43 year 6 children yielded 6 who didn’t play games at all, but most interesting was highlighting the positives of gaming – boys do tend towards competitive games such as Fortnite and FIFA, whilst girls prefer more nurturing and creative titles such as Minecraft and SIMS. Parents do have concerns about screen time, this is natural but gaming does empower children – perhaps more understanding by the grown-ups is needed – particularly playing alongside or watching them play.

So understanding that a craze exists and monetizing it is one thing, but can you manufacture a digital craze? Our speakers felt that there’s a host of interconnected and complicated factors so a no, but if you start with a big established brand or platform you have a better chance.

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Tim Collins

About the author

Tim Collins

The Brand Director, MD

Tim Collins has established The Brand Director Limited to advise and manage the development and expansion of your intellectual property into new products, services and markets to unlock new revenue streams. Tim has spent 20 years working for leading international entertainment and media companies including Universal Studios, HIT Entertainment, DreamWorks… Read more