Hype Hype, Hurra

Trend marketing as a new marketing approach?

Marius Goebel
10 min readDec 9, 2018

Wonder Mike, Master Gee, Kory-O and Big Bank Hank — names that everyone knows today — don’t they? In autumn 1978, these four guys met in a small recording studio called “Sugarhill” in the tranquil Englewood, New Jersey, to do nothing less with the song “Rapper’s Delight” than trigger the huge wave of hip-hop. Rap greats like Snoop Dogg, Eminem or 50 Cent should follow. What began as a trend has now developed into an established subculture and is an integral part of Western society.

Kontik, Trend Marketing — Photo by Annie Shelmerdine

When the Tamagotchi came onto the market in 1997, the rush was enormous; in no time the small plastic computers in which a virtual pet lived were sold out. However, this trend was over just as quickly as it had come. Probably the Tamagotchi soon celebrates its revival in app format and even pushes the unicorn from its throne, pardon — rainbow.

On the other hand, photos or videos with filters, such as dog noses or koala ears, to provide is currently common practice. Whether professional sportsmen, bloggers, influencers or “normal” people — everyone feels “filtered” and inspires this trend.

Trends can occur in different forms, whether physical or digital, and in varying intensity and duration. The increase of the trend — so it seems at least — is the hype.

“Did you discover a pink sausage on your grill on the weekend? Or even rubbed yourself with pink shower gel this morning? Congratulations: Then you came across a hype” — Vincent Schmidlin says in his guest article for the marketing magazine Horizont.

This is the so-called “unicorn hype”, which has been a source of great enthusiasm since 2016 and was picked up by a well-known German square chocolate brand for its own purposes. But as the unicorn slowly glides over its rainbow out of the focus of the action, the question arises: What will be the next hype?

Trend Marketing Object — Photo by Pavel Fertikh

Trend Marketing — a new marketing approach?

Companies seem to use trends and hypes more and more often and integrate them into their marketing concepts. The literature research in the context of the terminology of trend marketing in relevant, scientific marketing textbooks did not lead to any result. The missing definition of a marketing approach, which so many companies already use today, leads to the question: Is the trend marketing at all a marketing characteristic to be defined separately, or are the measures in the trend marketing already covered with known marketing models?

The Components of the Trend Marketing Concept

The Trend
The Duden defines a trend as a “statistically detectable development [tendency] that can already be observed over a certain period of time”. In this context, the colloquial definition of the term “trend” must also be taken into account: A trend can therefore be a new, dominant, fashionable trend, a direction, a current or a social cult. The vernacular also refers to a person who corresponds to the current taste of the times as someone who is fully in line with the trend.

Marketing is generally defined as market-oriented corporate management. At this point Peter Drucker’s definition of marketing is to be mentioned, which describes marketing as

„[…] not only much broader than selling, it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view.“

Trend + Marketing= ?
If these two definitions of terms are set in causality, a strategic process is defined which, by observing a recognisable, rather measurable development on the market — i.e. a conspicuous behaviour of the market participants — records it in order to initiate appropriate measures in marketing and use these developments for company purposes.

Customer Needs — Photo by Lily Banse

Basically, this is the reaction of a company or a brand to customer needs: A brand recognizes the needs and wishes of its customers and reacts with a special offer, product or service. By means of artificial scarcity it is often attempted to generate an increased demand — for example by creating a limited edition. However, deeper changes are also conceivable than simply bringing a new or adapted product onto the market.

Trend marketing in the application

We may encounter trends or hypes in everyday life in a wide variety of forms. They can be of a technological, socio-cultural or media nature.

Two types of trends can be distinguished here:

  1. On the one hand, in trends with a long duration and with a high influence on social changes:
    Here, for example, the sustainability trend, digital transformation or augmented reality technology could be mentioned.
  2. The trends in the second category, more appropriately referred to as hypes, are usually of shorter duration and have only a minor or temporary influence on social coexistence:
    These include the burger shop epidemic, electrostimulation training and dapping (a new form of joy dance).

Each of the above-mentioned trends or hypes is currently being integrated into marketing processes by companies and brands to varying degrees or at least used as an object of communication.

Between the layers

However, there are also trends that move between these two categories. Here for example the trend of the veganen nutrition is to be called, which experiences today increasingly attention and development tendencies from a hype to a trend — which probably stands in the connection or rather a result of the sustainability trend and the associated process of the social reorientation.

Another example is photo and video sharing. This trend was decisively influenced by platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Augmented reality is also becoming an increasingly important trend in corporate marketing.
The best example: With the combination of Augmented Reality and the famous modern classic Pokémon, the company Niantic created a completely new product experience for many consumers in the fusion of digital and real world — the Pokémon Go App.

World Changing — Photo by Greg Bakker

Megatrend sustainability

The megatrend of sustainability has a greater influence on our social coexistence and has already progressed further. Now established as a social model, it influences consumers, companies and politicians alike. Organic food, car sharing, electromobility and energy generation from sustainable sources — never before has the topic of sustainable consumption been so ubiquitous and live as it is today.

Society faces today’s social and nature-related problems, trieing to establish a sustainable mindset and implement corresponding concepts in its everyday life. Last but not least, companies have recognized the trend and are trying to implement it as a marketing approach. The motivation of companies here ranges from sincere philanthropic motivations, responsible corporate action, purely confidence-building or image-correcting measures to greenwashing measures carried out of greed for profit.

Conceptual presentation of the trend marketing approach

The trend marketing approach does not refer exclusively to the communication of a company. Rather, it represents a holistic strategic marketing approach. In the marketing trend, changes recognised on the market are taken up and implemented holistically in marketing to fulfil the company’s purposes. The product of the company should be at the centre of the implementation process — because a sustainable image transfer via the trend to the brand can be carried out most credibly via the core performance of the company. However, not only the product or promotion level has to be considered here — the implementation of trends via the product can rather mean far-reaching adaptation of processes but also a comprehensive change of the corporate DNA. Thus, for a holistic implementation, a comprehensive consideration of the marketing mix must be carried out.

Marketing Performance — Photo by Carlos Muza

Potentials of a trend as a marketing tool

The idea of combining a trend or hype with an existing brand image or of using this means to carry out an image change can open up completely new product, service and marketing concepts and previously unknown market potential for a company.

Image and brand awareness
The accompanying image transfer of the trend to one’s own brand can help to correct or even reorient it. Here the trend marketing enables the brand to present itself as young, fresh and funny or innovative and progressive. The brand has the opportunity to surprise and to be particularly original or inspiring in the immediate vicinity of the target group. The trend marketing offers — related to the mark perception — thus enormous potentials to increase the mark admittingness as well as to strengthen the mark value.

Target groups and differentiation
By taking advantage of a trend, new target groups can be optimally developed or the relationship with existing customers strengthened, whereby these can possibly be converted into fans or brand evangelists. Increasing differentiation from the competition can be further accelerated by increasing customer loyalty and customer satisfaction potentials and the creation of actual added value for the customer. Taking up a trend also helps to increase competitiveness and differentiation in the market.

Viral dissemination and dialogue
If a brand succeeds in getting a great response from its target group in the form of likes and comments by integrating trends and hypes into its marketing measures on the relevant platforms, the comprehensive viral potential of this marketing tool opens up. Because if the communication message can inspire the own target group, this will scatter the mark message into their personal networks and thus further persons will reach. In addition to the free communication channel, which exponentially spreads the brand message further, there is also the opportunity to enter into a deep dialogue with the target group in order to develop even more specifically tailored products or services from the insights gained.

Which trend is suitable as a marketing tool?
When selecting the trend object, it is important to precisely analyse its central characteristics. The first question should therefore be whether the trend complements one’s own product range on the market and whether an innovative added customer value can thus be created.

In addition to the correlation of the trend with the own product range, the so-called brand fit is also an important component in the trend selection. Special attention must be paid to brand values, brand image and brand awareness: Can the selected trend be linked via a common theme and is the combination of trend and brand credible from the customer’s point of view?

From a strategic perspective, it should be noted that the company’s target group is compatible with the trend object. In the ideal case, the trend object is not only compatible with the existing target group of the company, but it should rather enable the company to develop new target groups and/or distribution channels.

Once these fundamental considerations have been made, it is necessary to discuss which prerequisites or considerations must be made in the marketing mix in order to implement the trend marketing approach in it.

Implementation of the trend in the marketing mix

Trend Marketing or Hype Marketing?

The attempt to break down and define a possible trend marketing approach as well as the conceptual presentation makes clear that the implementation of a trend object in marketing offers different potentials for companies. However it must be differentiated clearly between the terminology of the trend and the hype.

Trend research distinguishes between two categories: Trends of long duration and with high influence on the social living together; as well as trends or also medial productions with small duration with a small influence. Accordingly, the trend term of category two can be generally described as hype.

With regard to marketing and the given definition, it becomes apparent that the trend concept of category one, in particular through its characteristics, is already covered by the classic understanding of marketing as market-oriented corporate management.

Accordingly, companies orient themselves to developments on the market and take up these in their marketing processes — as long as it contributes to the fulfilment of corporate goals and can be implemented in the corporate strategy in the long term.

As a result, the term trend marketing does not seem to be a target-oriented approach at this point, or it is too broad an approach.

Rather, the theoretical elaboration made clear that — especially in the B2C area — the implementation and use of hypes — i.e. temporary and medially staged trends — in marketing processes opens up differentiation potentials for companies.

A more appropriate term at this point would therefore be “Hype Marketing” as a possible modification of Guerrilla Marketing. Here it would concern then taking up a hype object, in order to implement this for a limited duration into marketing of enterprises.

The primary goal here is a short-term, differentiated external presentation as particularly innovative, young or humorous. Furthermore, this can make a company interesting — both for existing and potential new customer groups.

Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that a company must act quickly in order to be able to take advantage of a hype even if it is still ahead of the peak of public attention.

It remains to be seen which company will succeed in linking up with the success of Ritter Sports and its unicorn, in the future …


Christian Homburg (2015): Marketingmanagement — Strategie — Instrumente — Umsetzung — Unternehmensführung.

Jonathan Z. Zhang; George F. Watson; Robert W. Palmatier; Rajiv P. Dant (2016) American Marketing Association: Dynamic Relationship Marketing.

Peter Drucker (2007): The Practice of Management.

Peter Fader (2012): Customer Centricity — Focus on the Right Customer for Strategic Advantage.

Philip Kotler ; Kevin L. Keller; Marc O. Opresnik (2015): Marketing-Management.

Uwe Greunke (2017): ReNew Marketing — 10 Instrumente zur Stärkung Ihres Marketings für mehr Wachstum und Innovation, Wiesbaden.

Vincent Schmidlin (2017): Mit 3 Prinzipien zur nächsten Begeisterungswelle: http://www.horizont.net/agenturen/kommentare/HYPE-HYPE-HURRA-Mit-3-Prinzipien-zur-naechsten-Begeisterungswelle-158668

Zukunftsinstitut (2016): Trendforschung — Was Trendforschung macht und ausmacht: https://www.zukunftsinstitut.de/artikel/trendforschung/



Marius Goebel

Freelance Marketing & Digital Strategy Consultant — Creating meaningful brands — www.kontik.de