Don’t Believe the Hype

‘Drops’ Culture Pleasure Principle

How often have we walked past a snaking queue of eager shoppers behind stanchions of red velvet rope late at night and wondered, “What’s the hype all about?” We turn to Instagram and hashtag search the store only to find a shoe celebrity endorsing sneakers that won’t be available mainstream for another 3 months.

Rimowa x Supreme used a similar strategy to launch their collaboration with sold-out results. By posting a picture of the product on Instagram with a release date, it was sold out instantly despite the fact that the release date was 3 days ahead of its announcement.


Rimowa x Supreme collaboration, sold out in 16 seconds

Selling products by releasing limited editions or collections in small quantities at only a few selected retail locations, without much marketing to anticipate a release, is what is come to be known as ‘Drop Culture’. This creates a sense of urgency and the illusion of scarcity.

Supreme is perhaps the king of this retail strategy. Founded as a small skate shop in New York during the 1990s, the brand is now worth an estimated $US 1 billion. As a result of Supreme’s success, other players in the fashion industry are trying their luck in this culture, such as: Adidas, Nike, LV and Wang, to name a few, and with a trend showing no signs of slowing down.

The ‘Now’ Generation + Social Media = Drops Culture

Our on-demand society where instant gratification has become the norm has given us the ideal scenario for such a trend to occur. It is centred around a short attention span and achieving the next selfie with the latest product. Not only do sudden product drops generate more social media buzz, they also help brands to form an engaged tribe of customers.

The HYPEBEAST ‘Drops’ App

The big question still lies in whether product drops will continue to be sustainable in the long term or will the idea of scarcity become a tiring trope. It may not be going away anytime soon but perhaps it will evolve. For example, some consumers are now avoiding to queue up by paying other people to stand in line outside the stores, as there is a growing perception of being seen uncool if waiting in line hours or even a day before the product launch.

Whatever happens to drop culture, brands will need to continually reinvent ways to seize consumers’ attention and keep them excited for the next big hype.

By Quentin Berryman, Design Director at FITCH Singapore

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