Scarcity & Hype: How the rise of “the drop” creates demand & exclusivity through digital avenues

Connor Beck
Published in
6 min readJun 11, 2019

What if a brand sold hundreds of $1,600 items in less than 20 seconds?

Can it be done?

At this point, the question really isn’t “Can it be done” so much as it is, “How is it done.” Supreme, the streetwear company valued at over a billion dollars, made it happen when they sold out of a limited edition batch of suitcases within 16 seconds of releasing the product for sale.

Supreme and Rimowa’s Instagram drop announcement that sparked the 16-second sellout.

How? By employing a marketing tactic known as “the drop.”

Here’s how it works

To achieve success, drops involve the following tactics:

  1. Utilizing social and digital media to announce the release of products on a short-notice basis.
  2. Fueling hype and cultivating a sense of scarcity by announcing the limited release of exclusive one-of-a-kind products.
  3. Releasing products for sale at either a limited number of physical retail or online locations for a very limited time.

Speaking to the sense of scarcity that defines drops tactics, the experts at Fashion United write that the scarcity is, in fact, an “illusion.” “After all,” they remark, “the products are not necessarily expensive or difficult to make.”

And, when it comes to employing drop tactics to good effect, Supreme reigns supreme in their mastery of the art.

Here’s how Supreme puts “the drop” into action

Going back to the example of the $1,600 item, which just so happened to be a suitcase created through a collaboration with luxury luggage company, Rimowa, Supreme and Rimowa put their drop into motion by first announcing the future release of their limited edition items on Instagram.

The announcement included a simple picture of two of the suitcases against a white background. Each company captioned the post with only their names together and the date of the drop, which they scheduled a mere three days after the announcement on Instagram.

By the time the items dropped for sale, Supreme and Rimowa generated enough buzz, scarcity, and hype for their suitcases to sell out in 16 seconds. All that success came about from two well-timed posts on Instagram and from each brand working together to leverage the reach of their digital networks.

Like Supreme, Burberry, the British fashion company, made famous for its extensive use of tartan-print, also found success by adopting drop tactics. Burberry adapts the tactic by using WeChat and Instagram to announce the release of limited edition items on the 17th of each month.

From there, Burberry gives customers 24 hours to purchase products featured in “The B-Series.” Burberry varies the number of items available with each release as a way to “excite customers with new deliveries and frequent communication,” according to the company’s official statement.

And, with drop techniques allowing companies like Supreme and Burberry to find success, Amazon isn’t far behind in adopting the technique for itself.

How Amazon takes drop tactics for a spin

Taking a cue from Supreme, Amazon recently announced its own rendition of drop tactics, aptly named, “The Drop.” With each drop, Amazon releases a unique and limited line of clothing, created and curated by well-known fashion designers and influencers, such as Paola Alberdi, whose personal influence extends to over 1 million Instagram followers. To get the word out, Amazon sends a simple text message that notifies shoppers of new releases from The Drop.

Rather than including wildly expensive and limited items such as those offered by Burberry and Supreme, Amazon tweaks drop tactics by including in The Drop unique yet affordable items, such as a pink blazer for $60 and a sleeveless white T-shirt, priced at $25. In true drop fashion, Amazon gives customers a limited window of 30 hours to purchase items in order to fuel that sense of urgency, but items are made “to order” so, unlike the limited inventory of other drops, supplies never run out.

Why the shift in drop tactics by Amazon?

For starters, Amazon operates with different goals than strictly fashion and clothing brands like Burberry and Supreme. Known as an accessible purveyor of less sexy items, like toothpaste, deodorant and more everyday clothes, Amazon leverages techniques pioneered earlier by Target in its own rendition of drop tactics.

To Amazon, the goal of The Drop focuses less on selling clothing and more on bringing customers to the company’s website to, first, pick-up a unique item of clothing before sticking around to shop for other items.

With such a range of companies employing drop techniques to good effect, the question remains, “How can retailers and brands increase the hype around their products using emerging tactics like this?”

The Takeaway

  1. The drop displays the power of exclusivity. Use the allure of exclusivity to your advantage by offering limited edition items released for short amounts of time. People want to be unique. And, they want what they buy and wear to reflect that. Most importantly, they’re apt to share that exclusivity with followers on social media.
  2. Drop tactics spread drop info effectively through simple forms of digital media and tech — everything from Instagram posts to text messages. These digital avenues communicate to followers in easy, familiar, and accessible ways. Put those methods of communication to work.
  3. Work together. According to Fashion United and Launchmetrics, Rimowa’s post announcing their collaboration with Supreme received 4 times greater reach than their typical post on IG. Collaborate across brands. Leverage the reach of partner brand’s digital networks.

Want to learn more? Feel free to reach out at any time. We would love to chat!

The above piece was written by Connor Beck in collaboration with Carter Jensen and the Latitude research team.

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Resources and original reporting of the above points covered by the following publications — PSFK,, Fashion United, Wired, Business Insider

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Connor Beck

Hired-pen, currently smithing words regarding current retail trends for Latitude in Mpls, MN.