The future of disco dome bouncy castles, part 1
The future of disco dome bouncy castles, part 1:
Today we have arranged a Q&A with Roland Baks, CEO of JB-inflatables and the original inventor of the hugely popular disco dome bouncy castle, to talk about the history and the future of disco domes.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of the disco dome bouncy castle?
A: My partner John and I came up with the idea back in 2010. We noticed that there was a demand for a more interactive type of bouncy castle, where sound and light would play a major role. Until than the only ‘innovation’ made by bouncy castle manufacturers had been combo’s and multiplays, where a slide was attached to, or integrated in, a bouncy castle. In the previous 20 years the only way to create a new model bouncy castle was to change the appearance either by color, shape or theme, but the whole essence of a bouncy castle always was basically the same.
Q: So the disco dome was an instant success straight from the get-go I assume?
A: (he laughs), no not really to be honest. In fact in the first 2 years we didn’t sell a lot of them. Even worse, we thought about taking the disco dome out of the range after 2 years. When we evaluated our disco domes, we noticed that almost all of them were sold to clients who had seen them and experienced them in our showrooms. We hardly sold any online or from our catalogs. Our earliest clients didn’t even do so well in renting them out, since their clients couldn’t really see the added benefits of booking a (more expensive) disco dome over any other bouncy castle.
That’s when we realized people just didn’t get the idea of the disco dome, since it was something totally new and never done before.
Q: How did you move forward from there, because everybody knows that disco domes are the most popular bouncy castles around?
A: We decided that we needed to inform the public better about what a disco dome exactly was. On a normal picture you can’t really see that it has got integrated disco lights and a build in Bluetooth speaker. So what we did was hire a professional video production company who made some great promotion video’s showing the disco dome bouncy caste and how much more fun it was for children over any other ordinary bouncy castle. Also we had our designers create music icons and music effect in the pictures, so it was made clear to anybody that this was not an ordinary dome shaped bouncy castle, but that a disco dome comes with fantastic sound- and light effects.
Q: And did that turned out to be the turning point after which the whole European rental industry wanted to have a disco dome bouncy castle?
A: Unfortunately not. After we invented the original disco dome, we decided to take it a step further and develop even more disco models since we did feel we could be on to something. So we came up with disco domes with a slide, bigger disco domes, and themed disco domes. You have to remember that at the time nobody else was doing this, and it still felt like a big risk we were taking by developing all these new type of disco domes. So initially we took it slow, and we didn’t really push the product because we only saw it as a nice little gimmick that might be interesting for the larger rental companies to have in their product range. In 2013 however a competitor of ours copied the disco dome and brought it to a small trade show in the UK. At this show they made a killing with the disco dome and it literally saved their company from going belly up. They marketed it very well in the UK, in fact much better than we did I must admit, and they sold hundreds and hundreds of them, which not only saved them from bankruptcy but it also made the disco dome a common product in the rental industry.
After that many other small-scaled UK manufacturers caught on and started making some sort of disco dome bouncy castle as well, which further improved both supply and demand (due to dropping rental prices) of disco domes in especially the United Kingdom and Ireland.
A: Didn’t you feel stupid that you didn’t protect your invention, especially since it has become the best selling bouncy castle of all times?
Q: At the time we came up with the disco dome we didn’t expect that it would become so popular as it eventually did. So should we have filed a patent for it? May be we should have, but we didn’t, so it’s water under the bridge now.
We do have protected our disco domes in several other different ways, but I am not at liberty to discuss this with you more detailed, due to some legal matters.
Q: OK, I understand but how do you see the future of the disco dome bouncy castle?
A: Well, unfortunately most of the companies that manufacture or sell disco domes are just copying us, or they’re even copying the guys who copied it from us. The problem with that is that they don’t innovate themselves and therefore they’re always 2 steps behind.
Since we do invest a lot of time and money in product development we have since than made so much improvements and adjustments to the disco dome that it has become a whole different product now.
I think that disco domes will become a household product for every party rental company in the entire world within 2-4 years. A large advantage is that you can rent out a disco dome not only to children by the age of 4-14 but also to teenagers and adults, which hugely widens your target group, and you cater to a crowd that has more money to spend. You already see disco domes at weddings, frat-parties, nightclubs and so on. Rental prices will start going down in the UK due to increasing supply and competition, but in my opinion they will always remain much more profitable than ordinary bouncy castles, due to the simple fact that disco domes offer so much more value for the client.