In marketing one of the most powerful tools is ‘hype.’ Of all the tools in a marketing toolbox the most volatile but effective solution to short term gains is how hype is used. It is an intangible good which can propel a product into the mainstream news cycle (a place all firms would like to be). There are two sides to this coin, unlike publicity, hype cause issues in the long term.
Prior to even a hypable product or service being produced a discussion is to be had. What is most important in the domain which the product or service that is being sold? One can consider a recording artist and the immediate concern he or she might have about an album release. The hype that is created can be really valuable in the first couple of weeks after release. The only enablement of a record to make money is its initial hype, and its delivery is crucial. Take for instance Beyonce’s most recent album release Beyonce which was released in secretive fashion. No one knew that her album was in production nor did they know about the release beforehand. Beyonce’s marketing team took a risk to avoid hype all together before its release and it resulted in being a huge mistake. Now, that is not to say there was no hype around the album, it came afterwards but Beyonce’s marketing team disabled the capacity for individuals to create expectations which is a barometer that people use as a transitive property of hype. Consider the other side of the coin, Lou Reed and Metallica made an album called Lulu released in October of 2011 which was not received well by the public. Some reasons this occurred were because of the great expectations created by a collaboration as epic as Lou Reed and Metallica. By the time the album was released the expectations from hype had molded this album to be the next best thing since Metallica’s Metallica (The Black Album). Hype is a two fold path and managing how hype is used is crucial in show business at least.
Hype is an altogether different beast in the world of tech marketing. Once again we see a two fold path that for the most part has proven successful and detrimental at the same time for decades. Consider products like Sony’s MiniDisc and MiniDisc player. This was supposed to be the newest, most advanced and coolest technology of the early 90’s, Sony even had product placement in several movies with MiniDisc including Mission Impossible II. The issue Sony found itself in was the transitional role player, whereas, it occupied the technology period between compact discs and hard disk and removable storage Mp3 technology. It was a viable option for perhaps three to four years but its relevance as the cool new product lived off the hype that it would soon take over the compact disc market. The hype never paid off and Sony discontinued the fledgling format in March 2013. A twenty year run that ran on the concept that it would be the future.
Another instance of hype falling flat on its face was the Microsoft Zune. It launched in November 2006 to directly compete with Apple’s iPod. It came with Wi-Fi and you could connect two Zunes together and share playlists, but that was it. Remember, this is before the iPhone, when color screens on Mp3 players were shipping off into production. The product was deemed the ultimate rival for iPod. The hype soon died out and hardware issues made the Zune player a running joke and was associated with a poor attempt at Mp3 player design up until that point. Zune had three generations and Microsoft stopped production in 2011.
(Reaction to the Zune)
The hype surrounding Apple products, particularly the early iPod and now the iPhone, is legendary. They invest in advertising but it still means nothing compared to what has developed into the ‘Apple Rumor Mill,’ where tech publications have designated real estate just for iPhone rumors. This marketing strategy, albeit not explicitly deliberate, is the driving force of Apple’s marketing modality. Apple gets covered on every major move it makes, even though it arguably does not come out with innovative technology, just improved existing technology. This is seen when Apple strikes a deal with Verizon to produce iPhones with CDMA components. It is the king of hype and whether or not Apple is actively seeking product placement or people just love participating in the hype. The lesson here is the conveyance and modality of the marketing hype. The hype that surrounds Apple is a result of Apple being so obscenely secretive.
In more recent hype news there seem to be two behemoth products that might fizzle out of their functionality:
Remember 3D TV? It was the next big thing. All the major TV players developed their own 3D models and packaged them with a couple of 3D Blu-Ray’s (which coincidentally won the hype battle over HDD). ESPN even launched ESPN 3D in June of 2010 to jump on board early. The only issue was (and currently still is) the bulky glasses that enables 3D viewing. Often times they require batteries and are are specific to its television unit, also they are expensive so watching the big game with your buddies on a 3D TV meant owning lots of expensive glasses. Perhaps the first nail in the 3D TV coffin came recently with Variety reporting that Vizio will be discontinuing its current production of 3D television and a Vizio rep told Variety “...‘we will evaluate the long-term strategy to reflect the needs of consumers.’ For example, Vizio will continue to test glasses-free 3D TV technology, in collaboration with Dolby.” In September of 2013 ESPN closed their 3D channel. This has led to hype about the more practical 4K displays Vizio will be rolling out. No headsets and cheaper than the 3D TV, the release will have less hype but more utility for the average consumer.
Google Glass is by and large the coolest thing Google has produced in some time. It is the signal that we have arrived in the future. The thing is though after much use by employees it looks like Google Glass might not be everything its set out to be, not in terms of hardware, but in terms of social use. Where and when to use to the product is proving to be a serious issue. Wired’s Mat Honan described his issues with Glass after a year use: "My Glass experiences have left me a little wary of wearables because I’m never sure where they’re welcome. I’m not wearing my $1,500 face computer on public transit where there’s a good chance it might be yanked from my face. I won’t wear it out to dinner, because it seems as rude as holding a phone in my hand during a meal. I won’t wear it to a bar. I won’t wear it to a movie. I can’t wear it to the playground or my kid’s school because sometimes it scares children." The approach to marketing this product was in the vein of Apple’s method but the product itself suffers from unforeseen issues which is related to the hype of wearables. Glass may be intrusive and confusing in social settings but wearables in general will soon collide with their functional utility and the hype which surrounds them.
Utilizing hype in the realm of marketing is a tricky business. It is a hard beast to tame and a heavy burden on those who attempt to control the organic and intangible monster that is hype. When marketing, hype ought to be considered before any launch because it could either be the iPod of strategies, or the Zune, and no one wants to be a Zune.
Written by Zev Ginzburg, Contributing writer for www.Meetadvisors.com