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On Hoarding Ramen and other Unpredictable Growth

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Christian Brim

First, it was toilet paper, now people are hoarding ramen.  At least with ramen, it makes some sense.  If you are going to be locked up in your house, you need something to eat.  Toilet paper made absolutely no sense to me, but that is the point.

Why ramen?  Why not Campbell’s Soup?  And why toilet paper?  Regardless of what so-called “experts” tell you, people are VERY unpredictable.  HOWEVER, they are predictably irrational.  Huh?  If you have not yet, you need to read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.  Fantastic book about people’s economic behavior.  I highly recommend it.

Who could have predicted 2020?  Well from my research, exactly no one.  Of course, there are plenty of epidemiologists who have been warning about future pandemics and their potential devastation for years.  With that knowledge, could you have been in a better position in your business for 2020?  Most likely, yes.  In this case, a pandemic was a near certainty, but exactly when was unknown.

So how far do you take this exercise?  I mean, eventually, there will be another ice age.  Does it make sense to include that in your business strategy?  Probably not.  To be sure, several things have a high probability of occurring in the next 10 years (e.g. rampant inflation caused by excessive money supply).  You should at least consider these things when doing your business planning.

Back to ramen.  I have been fascinated with what businesses thrived this year.  I am not talking about those that just survived, but had their best year ever.  One company I know pivoted to personal protection equipment, another business found that its customers were eager to buy because they now had a lot of time on their hands.

My point is that you cannot always predict what people are going to do, but know that they are going to do something.  There is money out there to make.  I mean the CARES Act spit out more than $2 TRILLION into the economy for God’s sake!

You have to figure out what the next ramen, toilet paper, or Zoom is.  People’s behaviors have changed (some permanently) and their behavior is going to continue to change.  This pandemic and its effects are not over, and neither are the opportunities.  I believe that the businesses that act decisively during this time will have once in a generation (or even century) opportunities.  Standing around waiting for things to "go back to normal” is not going to get it done folks.  There is no normal, there never was.  The pandemic simply reminded us that people are Predictably Irrational.


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