How you judge the hype cycle can make or break your brands

When should marketers take advantage of the hype about a new technology? Move too early and you’re the proud owner of a warehouse full of internet-enabled shoes while consumers are worried about leather soles. Move too slow and you may end up selling  standard shoes when the rest of the world is using their footwear as a wireless hotspot.

Ruth Mortimer

We try to answer the question of when to launch new products and services with a look at the Hype Cycle. If you’re not already using the Hype Cycle in your marketing planning, it’s a handy guide to how new technologies and services evolve and where brands should get involved.

The Hype Cycle follows five core stages. It starts with ‘the technology trigger’ where media buzz begins about an emerging innovation, through its journey to the mainstream and, ultimately, popular adoption.

The point at which brands should dive in and commercialise the technology is completely individual. Take the Jawbone UP, a tech wristband that tracks exercise and sleep, which was launched in 2011. The user experience was patchy and consumers were unfamiliar with its concept, so Jawbone went back to the drawing board.

Roll on a year and it returned in 2012 with new, more alluring features. Meanwhile, Nike had launched its wristband FuelBand to the mass market. It was the right moment for the UP to re-enter the Hype Cycle. It now has 19 per cent of the activity tracker market sold through major retailers, according to NPD Group, compared to Nike’s 10 per cent.

But not every brand could  – or should – be an early mover. Supermarket Morrisons is the last of the big four to launch online grocery shopping. We ask why it has leapt onto the Hype Cycle.

While Morrisons admits it isn’t happy to reach the market late, it says that joining the race when online shopping is mainstream means that it has designed the experience around current consumer concerns, including the oft-cited worries about privacy.

Compare this with Kodak’s late adoption of digital photography. Although synonymous with photography, Kodak believed it was in the film and not the image business. It missed its chance to join the Hype Cycle, leaving other brands to capitalise on the sector.  

There is no one right place to join the Hype Cycle. But you need to understand how the cycle may play out in your market and how important it is to join it at a certain time. That decision could mean you enter the fray at the ideal time or miss the consumer altogether.