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Don’t believe the hype: Three stories of long-awaited products gone bad (and sometimes good again)

Don’t believe the hype: Three stories of long-awaited products gone bad (and sometimes good again)

iModerate

Aug 25, 2015

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It’s a funny thing to anticipate things in 2015. Every few weeks, we hear about the imminent arrival of something we’ve been anticipating for a long time:  Jurassic World. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars. Star Wars Episode VII. Donald Trump running for president again. Fuller House.

Across all industries, marketers have figured out the key to churning out things that we think we want – More sequels! Bigger sales! Flashier gadgets! – and getting us to talk about them ad nauseum until they are here. But the flipside to so much hype and anticipation is increased scrutiny. Whatever story marketers tell is only valid until the consumer story is formed from experiencing the product or service.

Here’s a look at three things that came out of 2015, in different industries, and ways that their stories changed once they hit the market:

Books:  Go Set a Watchman

The Hype:  A sequel that was so long-awaited that by the time it was announced, its existence surprised us all – author Harper Lee’s “lost” manuscript which continues the stories of beloved characters from To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Scrutiny:  Despite the book being kept under lock-and-key and not distributed for review before its release, reporters speculated that the book was taken from unfinished manuscripts, and perhaps Lee had never intended for the book to be published at all. Speculation came to a head when the New York Times obtained a copy and released a review four days before the book came out, with a bombshell headline intimating Atticus Finch’s “Dark Side.”

The Outcome:  Once fans were actually able to read the whole book (and not just a synopsis), reviews came in mixed. Go Set a Watchman may not have been as universally lauded as its predecessor, but it succeeded in three key ways:  1. Sparking interesting dialogue about race, history, and what happens when you’ve already named your child Atticus, 2.  Selling a boatload of copies, and 3. Reminding us that you can’t judge a book by its cover (or review headline).

Sports:  Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao

The Hype:  Before we had movies, gadgets, or even books, we had sports – and no sport is better at hype than boxing. The so-called “fight of the century” between this century’s two most visible and dynamic fighters had been in negotiations since at least 2009.

The Scrutiny:  Die-hard boxing analysts called it from the beginning – Mayweather and Pacquiao, both years past their prime, finally fought this year, in what ended up as an underwhelming, defense-heavy bout that left the villainous Mayweather as the unanimous winner by decision.

The Outcome:  As expected, the fight shattered pay-per-view and revenue records – one advantage of working in an industry where all the sales happen before anyone has seen the final product. The likelihood of a rematch seems slim, as does another fight reaching such epic proportions any time soon. Even though the outcome of a boxing match is uncontrollable, in hindsight, consumers see that the story was always clear – this fight occurred too late, was too expensive, and was ultimately destined to be a letdown.

Tech:  Apple Watch

The Hype:  We’ve been expecting Apple to make a smartwatch since before anyone thought to call it a smartwatch. Tech reporters have been on the lookout for an “iWatch” since at least 2002.

The Scrutiny:  By the time we finally saw the Apple Watch, response was underwhelming. Smartwatches by Pebble, Samsung, Sony and others had been on the market long enough for people to decide they didn’t need their watch to do things their phone already does. The Apple Watch’s design was thoroughly critiqued as not fashion-forward enough, and bloggers lined up to write about why it wouldn’t sell.

The Outcome:  In the end, Apple did what it does best – convince people to buy something they didn’t know that they needed. Despite considerable hype, the Apple Watch almost felt like it came in under the radar, offering surprise features, and a strong marketing campaign that did what none of the other smartwatch ads did:  show people wearing and using a smartwatch. The Apple Watch hasn’t changed the world yet, but has made a strong enough showing that we’ll continue to see hype for the inevitable sequel. That said, the verdict is still out, as Apple is well known for delivering impactful upgrades in the second and third versions of products.

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  • Great post Andrew and great examples of anticipation that lead to underwhelming critical responses. It’s interesting to note that many of these products or events still did quite well despite the criticism. Do you think customers who were lured in by the hype even paid attention to the critics or adopted a “I’ll have to see for myself” mentality? If the latter, then hype would be good for one-time selling products no matter the outcome.

  • Andrew Fu

    Holly, thanks for the reply! I think you’re right that the new rules of the hype system allow for consumers to make up their own minds, and therefore, too much criticism quickly turns into a reverse, positive backlash. Bottom line is its important for marketers to stay on top of all potential angles of the dialogue.

Our relationship with iModerate has enabled us to quickly and efficiently seek the voice of the consumer or customer, and incorporate it into our business decisions, allowing us to become smarter and faster to market. The team iModerate is, in essence, a virtual extension of the Abbott research team – from them, I know that when I pick up the phone and call, on the other end will be someone who understands my business, knows my target consumer, and will always deliver high quality results.

Kristen McLane, Manager, Shopper Insights & Category Development, Abbott Nutrition