The Business of Hype: How to Master the Drop

The drop.

It’s the hottest trend in marketing. And it encapsulates everything brands today want: "cool kid" street cred, tech savvy, social media buzz (fueled by celebrities), and, most importantly, merchandise flying off the shelves.

What is it? A “drop” is a term that comes from the fashion world, perfected by the New York-based skater brand Supreme, which releases limited-edition runs of 5-15 new products every Thursday at 11 am, using a strategy borrowed from Japanese streetwear culture. No advance previews of the items; it’s all about surprise. Scenesters in search of the hippest new T-shirts, sneakers, and hats (plus quirky accessories like hair clippers and boxing gloves) flock to these weekly events to buy, then spread the news via social media - leading to skyrocketing demand. The company has expanded to Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, and most recently Paris. It’s valued at over $1B. Scarcity sells.

Mainstream retail has taken notice. 2017 was considered “the year of the drop,” with global brands including Adidas, Nike, H&M, and Target all releasing limited-edition celebrity-designed products or collaborations with top fashion designers. Balmain partnered with H&M to produce a collection of blazers, gowns, and jackets that sold out in just minutes. Kanye West created his Yeezy line for Adidas. (The Yeezy Boost 350 V2 in “semi-frozen yellow” – priced at $220 – sold out in less than 30 seconds.) Louis Vuitton launched a “pop-up” collaboration with Supreme that represents the ultimate merging of hip-hop culture with high fashion. The drop is hot.

Every major fashion house, designer, and department store, it seems, is now scrambling to develop a drop strategy. British heritage brand Burberry recently announced it will pursue a “limited-edition capsule collection” under new chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci. Italian skiwear label Moncler has its "genius" program, with limited-edition down jackets specially produced for the brand every month by different world-famous designers. Alexander Wang has abandoned New York Fashion Week altogether to focus exclusively on regular “deliveries.” Last year, Barneys New York hosted a two-day event at its Madison Avenue flagship store with 40 in-store “activations,” with Macy's quickly following suit.

And drops aren’t just for fashion anymore. It’s a trend that’s rapidly spreading to other industries. The travel app HotelTonight recently unveiled a “Daily Drop” feature where users can swipe to unlock an ultra-discounted rate good for only 15 minutes. It’s not hard to imagine this coming soon to other on-demand applications, particularly in the categories of food delivery, event booking, ride sharing, maybe even online dating. The era of discounting is done. In the new reality of retail, it’s all about the time-limited offer.

It’s also about mastering social media. Adidas provides a compelling case study as the first brand to launch a new product via Snapchat. On the popular online show “Fashion 5 Ways,” Adidas offered a pre-release of its Falcon W sneaker that users could buy just by swiping up. This is part of the company’s strategy of appealing to a younger, female demographic (Kylie Jenner is a brand ambassador) and has led to the brand's logo becoming the most shared one on social media – ahead of Nike, Puma, and Under Armour – with sales up 16% last year.

To compete in eCommerce, it's time to embrace the drop. That means content that can be rolled out instantly across all channels (especially Instagram and Snapchat) and that syncs seamlessly with backend inventory management systems. It means tracking and communicating with top influencers (also called “hypebeasts”) to gauge and influence buzz. It means tools to help forecast demand, to make sure the right products are released at the right time, and also the ability to display the right content for any device: from the latest wearables to in-store high-def displays. In other words, it means some serious technical challenges.

The best approach here is to employ a content management system (CMS) that allows for maximum flexibility by separating content assets from presentation. This means a CMS that organizes text and rich media using a semantic structure rather than visual design practices, enabling content to be rendered instantly by any web-enabled device in the proper format. As well, the best CMS is one that comes with robust pre-configured integrations with the major commerce platforms provided by IBM, SAP, and Salesforce to proper inventory management. Plus, a CMS based in the Cloud allows for easy collaboration across global teams.

CoreMedia has been pioneering these kinds of CMS developments for more than two decades. Leading global brands rely on the company’s platform to create and innovate, including media companies like Axel Springer, major manufacturers like Continental and TDK, and fashion brands like Luxottica and the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group. In response to customer demand, CoreMedia recently combined its portfolio of offerings into a single product: CoreMedia Content Cloud. It’s a solution built for the future, for brands who need it now.

Because there’s more to consider than just the technical. You have to be iconic. Consider the case of Supreme: Their clothing is nothing special, but with the brand’s recognizable logo on items people will stand in line for hours, some of them even paying $1,500 on the resale market for a $32 T-shirt emblazoned with the rare Brooklyn box logo. Why? Because the logo conveys status: it indicates the wearer is not only someone in the know but the owner of something scarce. And this exclusivity creates fanatical fans. One Supreme collector, the London DJ Ross Wilson, owns over 500 different branded T-shirts. Who are your fanatical fans?

The drop is here to stay. It’s the cutting edge of cool and might just represent the future of eCommerce. Brands that master it will win. So what’s your game plan?


About the Author

Don Hoffman is CoreMedia’s chief wordsmith, brand storyteller, voiceover talent and overall content guru. A native of New Orleans and graduate of Amherst College, he has more than 20 years of experience shaping marcom strategy for global publishers, eCommerce businesses, advertising agencies and enterprise software companies. He is based in San Francisco and is also a songwriter and opera singer.