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How to Run Hype Drops

February 22, 2024
Audrey Fairbrother
Sr. Content Marketing Manager

3 Essential Factors for a Successful Hype Drop

When it comes to a hype drop, brands have to harness a series of intangible elements to make it a success.

It takes properly stoking passion and cultivating a fan following. It takes the right tools to manage inventory and sell product. It takes thoughtful strategy to connect with fans and get the word out. Sometimes it can feel like an elusive art to get each of these elements right — but we've got it down to a science.  

In fact, we've boiled successful launch strategy down to three essential areas: storytelling, communication, and technology.

While most brands acknowledge the importance of these elements, few have truly mastered them. Often, under-resourced launch teams are left scrambling to piece together various systems or platforms, leaving opportunity on the table. We still see endless coverage on launches gone wrong: sites crashing, bots cashing in, fans left in the dark, oversells, and the list goes on.

At EQL, we play a unique part in creating better launches for the world’s leading brands: launches that do more than just sell through, they create connection with fans and maximize the moment far beyond the launch. Our partnerships with brands like Nike, Tiffany’s, Topps, Crocs, and more have given us a front-row seat in gathering start-to-finish best practices being used by some of the most recognized launch giants in the game, and they've provided us a blueprint for what a truly successful launch looks like.

Here are some of our top learnings:

Storytelling: A hype launch’s power lies in its narrative

Let’s look at the sneaker industry as a great illustration of understanding the power of storytelling for in-demand products. After all, sneakers didn’t always possess the cultural cache that they do today.

Once a niche interest, sneakers are now one of the biggest driving forces of culture. They’re synonymous with A-list celebrities and musicians, created in ultra-luxurious versions by the world’s leading fashion houses, and sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars by esteemed auctioneers like Sotheby’s.

Without storytelling, sneakers would simply be leather and glue. Instead, they’re a nod to Michael Jordan’s basketball greatness or Lebron’s influence on sports and culture. Storytelling — especially in the form of social proof — is the chasm that separates a high-heat product from traditional commerce and cues up a successful hype drop.

Sneakers' unique tie with the community has made them a retail phenomenon. Global sneaker sales totaled $152.4 billion in 2022, and the global after-market for sneakers is estimated to be worth about $6 billion, with expectations to reach $30 billion by 2030.

And while sneakers are one of the most recognized products of the high-heat world, their tie to culture is not unlike other collectible items that have been able to build similar connections with their fans, like baseball cards, art prints, wine and spirits, or concert tickets — all of which have also seen extremely high demand in the past few years.

Shaping the story for your product launch

If your brand has yet to build a strong story around your new product or collab, your launch can fall flat — and traditional marketing collateral isn't enough. Invest time in understanding your fans and potential customers, and truly understanding your 'why.' What your product means in relation to culture. Why it was made. In order to do this successfully, you may need to gather market feedback and craft a marketing strategy that incorporates your unique positioning statement.

Shape a narrative around it that your community can feel. This is a moment to drive reactions, and ultimately emotional connections. Remember, the most in-demand or high-heat launches come from fans who wish to be part of something, not simply to own something. Limited supply creates exclusivity, yes, but the product also needs to represent something meaningful.

A Ma Maniere Airness storytelling for product launch

Get tips for creating your own product story with our product launch checklist, Art of the Launch  

Communication: How can you build trust, transparency, and urgency for your high-heat launch?

Understanding how in-demand launches work can be a steep learning curve for new fans. For a generation used to traditional e-commerce where supply far exceeds demand, stepping into the world of high-heat commerce and hype drops can come with a bit of culture shock. For these newcomers, effective communication and education can smooth this curve and lower intimidation, while behind-the-scenes technology can ensure a reliable and repeatable process, building trust and confidence.

But it’s not just for the newbies. Even for seasoned launch veterans, timely and effective communication is indispensable. When passion runs high, emotion does too, and fans demand to be kept in the loop. Like Black Friday shoppers hunting for a good deal, hype commerce followers strategize to increase their chances of success, and the more information you can provide, the more they'll feel confident that they've at least got a shot.

In running 4,000+ launches, we’ve found that timely communication is paramount during four key launch phases when it comes to exclusive product drops:

  • The tease: Provide fans with a heads up about an upcoming launch, including the launch date. In this way, you are able to fully control the story around your launch and get ahead of leaks, focusing attention on the intention, aka your storytelling shaped above. A countdown timer will help stoke enthusiasm, build urgency, and keep fans engaged.
  • The reveal: This isn't a flash sale or limited time offer — fans need to plan ahead for the big day. Offer precise details about when and where your launch will take place, and how fans should participate (is it a queue? A raffle?). Post this information on your social media channels, via an email campaign, your landing page or website, etc. Remember to post regularly for maximum visibility. And consider that VIP opportunities for early access can offer a chance at deeper engagement.
  • The launch: Keep fans informed about any hiccups you’re experiencing on launch day, and answer customer support questions in a timely manner on your social channels or via email. Don’t keep the people waiting, and ensure that your customer support department is well staffed, trained, and ready to field issues to ensure that the launch doesn't devolve into chaos.
  • Fulfillment: Update fans on whether they won or lost (yes, fans want to know if they’ve lost!) and when winners can expect their items, along with clear instructions on pickup or details on delivery.

The ideal timing between these phases depends on maintaining your customers' attention — neither too long nor too short. We’ve seen brands tease major collaborations 6 months in advance, and some brands tease a launch within the same week. It depends on your company's learnings from previous marketing campaigns. Invest time in understanding what your fan engagement has looked like during past high-heat moments. And understand that effective strategy will require alignment from your entire organization.

Communication as a maximizer (it's not just for marketers)

Nailing communication not only helps to put your fans at ease, but it’s also a great way to maximize your launch and build increased demand for the future. For example, if you know when your winning fans will be receiving their products, put a call out on social media for them to share their wins and tag your brand. When fans who may have lost out see other fans win, it builds trust in the process and encourages them to show up and try again, even knowing that limited quantities of your product will lower chances of success.

However, one thing to be aware of is the ratio of bots and resellers participating in your launch. If you don’t have mitigation for this, it's unlikely your real fans will get a fair chance at getting your product. Find a technology solution that has this type of mitigation built in, like EQL. In the next section, we’ll look at other factors to consider when bringing on a launch platform for your hype drop.

Collectibles launch company exceptional customer service

Get a full communication roadmap for your launch with EQL’s Art of the Launch checklist  

Technology: Create a dependable experience and block the bots

The last essential component of a well-run hype drop is technology. Ensuring that your systems are dependable, reliable, and consistent is key to facilitating the entire experience you’ve designed in the steps above.

Consider this:

  • 80% of customers place as much value on the experience a company provides as they do on its products and services.
  • Shockingly, 32% of customers are ready to sever ties with a beloved brand after just one bad experience.

Your launch tech can’t afford to crash and burn during a make-or-break moment with your fans. Although, the nature of the industry historically hasn’t made this easy on brands. With low supply and high demand, heartache is already guaranteed for a certain segment of fans, but that gets compounded by simple failures of technology. Bots attack launch sites clearing out inventory or causing servers to melt down. Inventory and orders go out of sync. Payments are inaccurate or rejected. Instead, think about implementing an end-to-end solution that was built to withstand the pressures of a hype drop — and even turn challenges into opportunities — like EQL.

EQL for high-heat launches & hype products

EQL was built to make in-demand launches more reliable, more secure, and more fair. Using a launch platform like EQL in place of a standard online store helps your brand overcome all the major challenges associated with running a high-heat launch:

  • Filtering out bad actors
  • Offering infinitely scalable infrastructure
  • Providing fans with clear, timely communication
  • Ensuring your orders and inventory stay synced
  • Delivering accurate payments
  • And more

EQL can also provide helpful data and analytics around your launch, which leads us to our next point:

Bonus consideration: data and analytics to inform inventory

Data and analytics have become indispensable tools for brands and retailers with in-demand products. In the past, production and inventory have relied on intuition and curation, but now data can empower you to understand product trends, demand, allocations, sizing, etc.

Tracking data over time reveals shifting trends and product popularity, enabling smarter investment decisions. Without the right data, you might expend too much effort on launching the wrong product. Don't let your product roadmap go astray — your product team should be leaning on launch data when considering every possible new design. After all, a successful hype drop always has to start with product planning.

Crocs lightning mcqueen launch

Learn what else your launch data can do for you with EQL’s Art of the Launch checklist  

Conclusion: Nailing your hype drop is within your reach

Through storytelling, communication, and the right technology partner, you can increase your chances of a successful hype drop, one that builds trust with your fans, and creates a pivotal path to growth. In a crowded retail landscape, trust is a precious asset with a direct link to market share. Ensuring fair, transparent, and consistent launches that connect with your fans and fuel their passions is the surest way to gain loyal, repeat customers, and create a brand legacy that withstands the test of time.

Download our product launch checklist to ensure your launch gets attention from your target market, here.
Audrey Fairbrother
Sr. Content Marketing Manager

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