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Hype: A Deconstruction

Hype is the most powerful tool that streetwear and luxury brands such as Supreme, Nike, Off-White, and Balenciaga; are using to help move merchandise and create dreams in the minds of consumers. But what is Hype? In this context (in this industry), Hype is when literally everyone (consumers and media) are talking about a certain brand or product, and thus generates a lot of attention. But, why does it work? How can one evaluate the Hype of something? And, why is hype important?

All of these are great questions and we will answer them in the following sections. However, before answering those questions, we need to understand consumer behavior and the psychological foundations on which Hype is formed and the reasons for which hype works.

Table of Contents:

A Psychological Need

People pursue things that cater to their needs. A person’s need could be water and they will go out of their way to pursue water because their body needs it to function in a certain way.

In the same way, humans have psychological needs which give them the strength to pursue their goals. They can be external or internal. External goals include financial success, social recognition, and appealing appearance. Whereas, internal goals include self-acceptance, affiliation, community feeling, and physical fitness. Hence, in this context, it is safe to say that streetwear is related to personal satisfaction and enjoyment, as well as, a psychological need for validation from others. Consumers tend to imitate the buying behavior of individuals within the group they want to belong. Sometimes, the need for validation can also result in a willingness to pay a premium price for an item, in order to be regarded as a more prestigious than others. This claim was made substantiated by Dubois and Paternault’s study into the buying habits, perceptions, and actions of 34 luxury brands. The result of the study was the ‘Dream Equation’.

The ‘Dream Formula’

The Dream Equation

The ‘Dream Formula’ is a regression equation that tells one the aspirational value or desire in a consumers mind. The equation is quite cool because it quantifies the value of a consumers’ dream. According to the equation, one’s dream depends on awareness and purchase, as well as a negative value of 8.6. The negative value is interesting because it means that when there is no awareness or purchases, the dream value is negative. Which means that a brand would have to create a decent amount of awareness to even have a positive dream value. The awareness, in turn, creates a desire in the mind which then leads to more purchases. But, the increase in purchases is when things get weird because when the brand stops being considered rare, the ‘dream’ value of the brand starts to diminish. This convoluted codependency is crazy, but it works. How many times have you found a song through your own research that’s hip and alternative, and you’re like “omg that’s so cool.” Ten days later, everyone is listening to that song, and you’re just like that’s it. I’m out. This rarity principle is motivated by an individual comparison that consumers want to distinguish themselves from the rest.

Hype: A Mathematical Equation

While the ‘Dream Equation’ is great, there is another formula that complements it, that explains the world of fashion notoriety in streetwear. This equation is the mathematical formula of Hype. The Hype equation first originates from Jake Woolf in the Complex article, ‘Hype: A Mathematical Equation’.

Mathematical Equation of Hype

What constitutes ‘Notoriety’ is the brand’s story and awareness. ‘Exclusivity’ and ‘Mystery’ is directly tied to the Rarity Idea that the ‘Dream Equation’ creates. That is, when awareness increases, purchase intentions increase. But when purchases increase the ‘dream value’ of the brand diminishes because it will no longer be unique in the minds of the consumer. Thus it is not only the awareness or notoriety that is a good metric, but also,  Notoriety multiplied by a brand’s mystery and exclusivity that truly constitutes the best metric to look at, for streetwear or luxury brand or product. And, that metric is Hype.

Why Supreme works?

Everyone has heard of Supreme at this point, which means the awareness of Supreme is extremely high, but are the purchases decreasing? No, because they maintain the Rarity Principle whereby which the products remain exclusive. They, also, remain mysterious by having a limited number of retail stores and keeping their web shops closed for the majority of the time, thus increasing their mystery value. Because of this, they keep maxing out every variable of the Hype equation giving you a great example of why Supreme is the most Hyped brand in the world today. Supreme did not get just get lucky. Like James Jebbia, the founder of Supreme says, “We work very hard to make everything look effortless.

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