And there I was. Marching to Argos. I looked up, there was a bus advertising it. I looked away and there was a billboard…OUT TODAY. I looked at my phone and there was the re-marketing for it with 10/10 reviews on Facebook. Oh yes Rockstar marketing team, I’m a fan of your work I thought to myself whilst bounding across the pavement.
Stalked, surrounded, and bubbling with hype. Stood in Argos. Shoulder to shoulder with many other men of similar age in Argos. Catalogues lay open on one page, like a preacher was to come any moment and read the names of only those worthy of receiving a copy. We waited in line and asked the ONLY question being asked in games shops that day ‘have you got Red Dead Redemption 2?’
‘Yes’ the lady replied, whilst surrounded by ‘Red Dead in store now’ banners. I’d love to tell you what happened after that, but to be frank, the weekend disappeared!
Now I’m not one to whip myself up into an excitable mess on a whim for any trivial occasion dear reader, but on this occasion I succumbed willingly and defenceless to the hype train behemoth that was Rockstar’s long anticipated game release Red Dead Redemption 2, sequel to award winning and critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption of 2010. I clearly wasn’t the only one getting hyped neither, as the game achieved an eye-watering and record setting $725m over it’s first weekend. That’s not just a first in gaming, that’s a first in entertainment history to give you the full context!
I remember a term that used to get pedalled by an ex in those moments when a AAA game title was released and suddenly the streets lay empty and husbands/boyfriends stopped texting back. When a gaggle of her friends got together they would talk of becoming ‘ [game name] widows’ to much amusement between themselves. The wily could pick up on the spiky barbs in the undertones and those that knew what was good for them dropped their controller in a flash (secretly pausing not turning off) and dedicated their attention in the smart direction, even if for just a few minutes before continuing their gaming adventure.
I’m sure this will have also been the socio-norm with Rockstar’s latest masterpiece, as expectant gamers would have found it hard to find the enthusiasm during that weekend to commit to previously promised days out to their spouse with the prospect of the long awaited cowboy western at their fingertips! The smartest will have scheduled their coupledom time in during the extensive installing and loading process. I myself took a moment out to listen to my friend Elliott Morris’s new album he successfully crowdfunded, an uplifting triumph of pop-blues-folk. I asked what he was doing to celebrate, to which he sent me a picture of his Red Dead installing screen …I should have known. I responded with a picture of my installing screen…and a picture of a packet of Nik Naks.
Whilst I find little chance to ‘game’ these days, it was clear from when a release date was set, even a year into the future back in 2017 as can be common in game releases, that this was my next big game. The hype was starting even then, with features promised and nuggets of a story emerging that held so much exciting prospect. One of my friends and I did our bit of pushing the hype train loco by tagging each other on any Red Dead trailers, opinion pieces, feature lists or spoilers daily, which is out of character behaviour. Normally we stick to memes on life!
Gaming is an industry I’ve been invested in for a while. In the earlier days of FeedbackFans.com we ran a pilot of sponsoring and running gaming servers to evaluate the opportunity for brands advertising and engaging with audiences on these platforms. It was a fascinating experiment, for reasons I’d not planned or fathomed, and gave great insight into the joys and difficulties of managing a large community, particularly one of gamers who are known for being uncompromising and expectant in their virtual lives.
The underlying emotion ‘hype’ is pawing at of course is excitement, which is a curious state of mind in itself. It’s something that feels harder to achieve with age, experience, wariness and weariness. Perhaps it’s with a faux nostalgic tint that I appraise excitement, and my friends would tell you I do analyse everything to death (guilty), but I’d think it’s a majority view that we get excited more often and about more things in our adolescent years. Indeed, friends I’ve approached to give me their last memory of being ‘hyped’ couldn’t recall a moment at all.
In recent times mainstream hypes in my memory would be the boom in cryptocurrency December 2017 and Brexit, both being more of a lesson in the dangers and problems attributable to hype, particularly hype built on false promises.
Hype is not a day-day thing, it usually centres around events that matter to you. Perhaps seeing an old friend, going to an acclaimed play or seeing the sights of a city you’ve always wanted to go to. Hype drives excitement and can lead to irrational expectation. My brother, a discerning type sniffed at the price to which my answer went back with wanton economic disregard, ‘I’d have bought it at double the price!’… such is the power of hype. A heartbreaking omission for a tight northerner like me on reflection… once the hype has dissipated.
Hype does not live, maybe even can’t exist in a vacuum. Hype compels you to tell everyone, a word of mouth referral in business vernacular, all and sundry about what’s got you hyped. That person at work who counts down to their holiday… yeah, hyped. Listening to someone who is hyped and excited for something is usually a great thing, as it evokes positive sentiment and emotion.
That’s not to say hype is always a force of good. A cautionary tale in the inglorious case of No Man’s Sky, a small sci-fi game produced by an independent publisher. The hype backlash was brutal, hysterical and everlasting when the game was released without many of the features it was hyped by the CEO as having in numerous press details. The fallout was nuclear as the negative reviews piled in without mercy to the game marketplaces, destroying credibility in a day. It fell hopelessly short of the expectations that that the hype had set and lead to a drawn out PR meltdown for the publisher. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or will ever again see so many apologies and backtracking statements made in the history of anything.
Whilst what gets you hyped can be a very individual thing, there are certainly common threads I’d advise you adhere to in generating that mouth-watering, sweaty palm, good hype that all businesses should aspire to with their products. Who doesn’t want to collect $725m on their opening weekend launch? Just remember your favourite irreverent MD when you haul in those big bucks!
1) Get in there early talking about your product
With a product launch, you have a definite date by which you need to have persuaded your audience to buy. So get pushing images, videos, stories and benefits of your product out there as soon as you have all your materials and a plan together. Rockstar started ramping up beginning of the year for a product launch in October.
2) Build up respect and trustworthiness with prospects
Engage with the community you’ve hyped early to talk about your product. Get on the naysayers and espouse the virtues of this great thing you will be bringing to market. Win them over with a great argument as to why this product will make their life better. Sign them up to waiting lists and news bulletins about it. Show them those recommendations and reviews.
3) identify those who have brand affinity with you
Dig through that GDPR compliant database, look to partners who can help promote the hype with you. If you can dig out those people who love your brand for who you are, you’re halfway to another sale already.
4) identify those who are most likely to get hyped and get them to share the hype about your product
You know that friend who likes your posts religiously because they’re a great friend? That unknown who comments on all your musings because they dig your content? Make them advocates, tell them you’re trying to create some hype, and any effort to create additional hype cross-channel will be rewarded. Set them some tasks and see the compounding effects of networking in action.
5) follow through, deliver, continue to deliver
Whilst hype has a shelf life, don’t be that business who runs off clutching the money into the sunset. Deliver on your hype, continue to press the hype to those who may not have had chance to see or buy your product yet and continue your hearts and minds winning story. Who knows, I might be talking about your last product release when I revisit hype in the future!
What gets you hyped?
When was the last time you got hyped?
Let me know in the comments :)
Chris Barnard is Managing Director of FeedbackFans.com. Feedback Fans is part of a collective of global technology companies working towards a common goal of improving experiences that include: retail, leisure, finance, education, gaming and business services. By developing unique state of the art solutions and environments, and combining this with strategic execution, we ensure our clients and users prosper in the digital age.