What’s the difference between hype and marketing? Jason 20 Jan 2006

62 comments Latest by Tom Jarvis

The word of the moment seems to be “hype.” David touched on it a few months ago, but I’d like to ask a more direct question.

To the people who toss the word hype around like it’s a hot potato, what do you think is the difference between hype and marketing? Is hype always marketing? Is marketing always hype? And if not, what’s the difference in your mind?

Is hype talking about something that doesn’t exist yet? That’s maybe the only distinction I can discern. If not, I’m wondering what ratchets marketing up to hype. Is there good hype? Bad hype?

if you were asked to hype something and then market that same thing at the same time, how would you approach those two assignments differently? Or would they be different?

62 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Joe Martinez 20 Jan 06

I think hype is marketing that’s either
a: exaggerated or
b: excessive.

Christopher Smith 20 Jan 06

Hype is using a nuclear bomb to crack a nut, proper marketing is getting the nut kernel out using keyhole surgery.

BTW - just started using Basecamp this week for a web project and am finding it very useful

andrew k 20 Jan 06

well, this is how i make the distinction:

marketing is the effort of the product/service author to �hype� his or her own product service. so marketing is in effect a form of self hyping. Obviously if you are being paid to market a client�s product, it breaks down the same.

Hype, on its own, can come from many sources including people blogging or writing news articles about one thing or the other, either because they genuinely love it, or just want to jump on the hype bandwagon and attract an audience.

Mikedeh 20 Jan 06

Not to make things more complicated, but then how do you define buzz?

To me it is all marketing. Hype or Buzz (like Web 2.0) are just words that oversimplify something.

Kendall 20 Jan 06

I think that hype and buzz are similar. Probably not the same… but similar. And marketing a little different.

I think that hype and buzz consist of more “watercooler” talk or a bunch of posts on blogs about this or that (i’m guilty of hype and buzz). It’s when the control of marketing is lost and has a life of it’s own. and I think that hype and buzz come with backlash. Jason can probably speak to that.

I think marketing is a controlled communication of Product, Positioning, Place, Price, Promotion. these in the hand of a marketer can be used to create buzz and hype. But I think that marketing comes back to these 5 elements.

Daniel Morrison 20 Jan 06

I tend to agree with andrew k:

Hype/Buzz is people talking about something. Press, blogging, etc. Marketing is official.

* Rails has a lot of *hype* while having little *marketing*.
* Companies *market* via the Deck in hopes of creating *hype/buzz*

Kyle Bennett 20 Jan 06

Marketing makes the claim that the person being addressed will find the product valuable in some way.

Hype claims that everyone else finds the product valuable in some way.

Or, somewhat corollary, marketing claims your life will get better if you use this product, hype claims it will get worse if you don’t.

jerry richardson 20 Jan 06

Hype and Buzz are related. To me, Buzz is the well-deserved energy surrounding a product. Hype is the undeserved energy surrounding a product. Any product that is non-existent cannot have buzz, only hype.

Hype is perceived by the same part of the brain that perceives “brand attributes.” So the good news is, I think you have a strong brand.

Marketing is a tool to create buzz that is often abused to create hype.

Glenn Davies 20 Jan 06

Sorry folks - hype is not, should not be equated with marketing. The first response is the most accurate. When your marketing (whether the phases of product development, advertising, promotion, PR, buzz, etc.) becomes either excessive or worse, borders on a outright lie, then it has passed from having anything do with marketing and is now more accurately defined as ‘hype’.

Another marketing tool is something that Microsoft (sorry to swear here) had perviously perfected and now Apple (and possibly the good boys at 37 Signals) are very good at, is “preemptive” marketing. This little bit of storytelling is particularly useful when you want to get people to hold off buying a competitor’s product or upgrade, until you have released yours. This is not hype either. It is still marketing unless it becomes excessive (overused) and/or they never do release Sunrise ;-)

Waiting with great anticipation - a very happy Basecamp evangelist.

andrew 20 Jan 06

Isn’t hype a contraction of hyperbole? Which answers the question of what hype is. Marketing may or may not exhibit hyperbole.

Lance E. Leonard 20 Jan 06

Marketing - intentional, controlled, thought out, owner-generated (maybe)

Hype - unintentional, feverish, uncontrolled, community-driven, often exagerrated

Buzz - unintentional, community-driven, typically positive, not as “loud” as hype

Even with good intentions, marketing can turn quickly to hype. For the right product/company, hype can be a good thing. Hype, personally, turns me off.

Tomas Jogin 20 Jan 06

It’s not my definition, but judging from how other people use the word, hype is when regular people spread the word of a product and its qualities, as opposed to traditional marketing. Both hype and marketing can be excessive and exaggerated, and often is, but a multi-million marketing campaign is not hype — it isn’t hype until people start spreading the word.

Why are people so put off by “hype”? Probably because we know how to deal with marketing since a long time ago, our brains know how to differentiate marketing from “real” recommendations. This new medium, however, has given hype super-powers, making it so strong and influential that it even in many times is a better and more efficient way of spreading the word than regular marketing is, and people don’t know quite how to deal with that, yet.

mikepk 20 Jan 06

I think people are so put off by hype because it over-inflates expectations. When excitement reaches such a feverish pitch, you can’t help be disapointed by whatever is being hyped. Just witness what happened to the Segway. It really is a cool device, but the hype was so overblown, that it would fundamentally alter human civilization, that when it was finally unveiled people looked at it and said “that’s it? it’s a scooter.”.

DrewBull 20 Jan 06

Marketing:Hype/Buzz are all concepts/definitions trying to create an expectation to something that is intangible or non-existent at the moment.

Marketing is more neutral concept.
Hype is generally associated with something negative.
Buzz is generally associated with something positive.

@Mikepk I like the association with the word hyperbole and hype. As the hyperbole definition is something exaggerated. Kinda fits the negativity or “hatorade” people seem to be drinking when using that word.

In other words. I think they are all pretty much the same definition, simply used in exchange of marketing to add a little inflection of their opinion. Anywayz, just my two cents. I love this blog! So, wait a minute. What were we talking about again here?

Chris S 20 Jan 06

Marketing emphasizes the actual benefits of a product.

Hype overemphasizes its significance.

Kyle 20 Jan 06

“Marketing - intentional, controlled, thought out, owner-generated (maybe)

Hype - unintentional, feverish, uncontrolled, community-driven, often exagerrated”

This is about the best distinction I can think of. For me, it becomes hype when the community takes control of the marketing, based on something that they’ve had little to no interaction or experience. Based purely on speculation from a companies previous releases and an expectation that whatever they release next will be “The Next Best Thing”.

Whatever, I don’t mind either one, hype or marketing. IMO, it becomes a problem when the company is continually unable to live up to expectations, yet the marketing/hype continues.

One things for certain, one could learn a lot from the 37signals method of marketing, seems to work fantastic.

Francis Wu 20 Jan 06

As a self-taught marketer and user experience designer, I’ve had to defend my skills all too often, so I have pretty clear definitions when it comes to Marketing.

As I understand it, marketing is what it takes to create real value for a given product. That includes doin’ the R&D required to identify the demand and target, create the right product/service and then communicating it to would-be customers.

Advertising, on the other hand, is a branch of marketing (they’re not the same thing). Specifically, it is the communicating part of marketing. Initially used to create awareness of a given product, now it’s used to artifically inflate a product’s value by attaching emotional values the product. For instance, placing women in beer commercials triggers the response “if I drink this beer, I’d be surrounded by women.

Advertising became synonymous with marketing in the 80s when they started to master this art of inflating a product’s value. Budgets for advertising literally exploded (and trumped “marketing”) and brand managers quickly saw the value of creating an emotional bond with consumers and that’s when advertising became more or less a Chomsky-esque form of “manufacturing consumption”.

To answer the initial question “what is hype?”, to me, it is an advertising technique; it is the saturation of a brand or product that creates an artificial perception of popularity. That means an elaborate strategy of cross-promotions (as they do for movies, think Godzilla) and even payola-like schemes (as they do for radio and MTV, think um… any radio station that features recent music).

On the other hand, buzz is the Cluetrain-esque conversation that takes place between consumers (and eventually with the media) over a given company/brand/product. In short, buzz is real conversation an hype is fake conversation.

Considering that much of this is self-taught from marketing books and sites I read, I wonder if this jives well with most of you?…

Brian 20 Jan 06

[Partly from hype, a swindle (perhaps from hyper-), and partly from hype(rbole).]

The American Heritage� Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Steph Gray 20 Jan 06

Marketing is about identifying and tapping into the range of motivations that will make different people engage with you; Hype is less controlled, and aimed at a single motivation - the panic of being left behind by something new and trendy.

But how about hype vs buzz? Is hype just buzz gone too far?

Alex 20 Jan 06

Oxford American Dictionaries:

- extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion
- a deception carried out for the sake of publicity

verb [ trans. ]
promote or publicize (a product or idea) intensively, often exaggerating its importance or benefits : an industry quick to hype its products.

ORIGIN 1920s(originally in the sense [shortchange, cheat,] or [person who cheats, etc.] )

Joshua Tuscan 20 Jan 06

Add me to the list of people that defines hype and marketing this way:

Hype: not a focused intentional move by the company/person to generate interest, but a public/media reputation and attention that grows larger than is deserved of the product. Hype has a negative connotation wherein, “That product has a lot of hype, but its totall not as cool as everyone says it is.” Buzz would be the positive connotation, “There is a lot of buzz around that product, everyone is talking about it.”.

Marketing: This would be the company/producer trying to persuade people of the value of the product and possibly create buzz.

Gordo 20 Jan 06

hype in my mind is not neccesarily commercial related. Marketing is for selling. Hype is simply an attribute, like cool.

Anonymous Coward 20 Jan 06

I’ve always considered hype to be associated with vaporware… I expected that Campfire or Sunrise would come within days of being announced in December…

Bob 20 Jan 06

Francis is spot-on: marketing is fitting a product to a market (often by working with both sides); hype is more like advertising—just a small subset of a successful marketing effort.

But I agree that the common _perception_ of these words is not what I just said.

Amine 20 Jan 06

hype is open source marketing.

Chris 20 Jan 06

Hype is empty. Hype is without substance. Maybe we can’t agree on what Hype is, but Hype is hype because it is not marketing.

Marketing isn’t empty, although it obviously can be poorly done. Marketing is not without substance, although it is misleading. Piss-poor marketing can come close to hype, but even still, there is more substance to piss-poor marketing.

It might get “twisted” as the kids say in text or in speech because Hype and Marketing are difficult to define for conversation. Hype isn’t difficult to point out, though. People can ID hype pretty quickly.

jeff 20 Jan 06

Hype is when someone else defines what you’re doing.

Marketing is when you define it.

Mike 20 Jan 06

Marketing is Hype.

Hype isn’t necessarily marketing.

Hype is a state of the market which may have been reached through “viral” processes not actively induced by the company, hence not marketing.

agsilva 20 Jan 06

Too many elaborate explanations.

Marketing is a neutral term while hype implies a value judgement. Marketing of something, hype about something.

Further hype can be a product of marketing efforts, or not. People who have nothing to do with the marketing of a product or service can create hype. It is not a form of marketing. It is something sometimes created by marketing, and yes, it often has a negative connotation due to its origins from the word hyperbole.

dan 21 Jan 06

where is Sunrise?
that’s bad hype.

adam 21 Jan 06

Google markets their products. They create something they believe useful, then tell you about/advertise it.

37sigs hypes the product, then creates/releases it.

Ian Waring 21 Jan 06

Hype is where a positive impression is disconnected from the facts. Most of it goes quickly down the chasm (early adopter visionaries need careful expectation management), and what little crawls out the other side is a fad.

Buzz is normally a groundswell of interest firmly connected to the facts.

“Market” is people. Marketing is about picking your targets that you can deliver value to profitably, and putting a word association that points to your product/service in the prospects mind. Mapping a capability to a prospect at time of potential purchase - in their own mind - is the main battle. There are a variety of ways to get there :-)

If you do marketing well (as in software engineering), you get the ability to say “no” and to focus on what’s important. A central 37signals sort of philosophy methinks.

Ian W.
Simplicity Sells!

Anonymous Coward 21 Jan 06

Jason. Good question. Wondered why you asked it. Worried? Guilty?

Stefan Seiz 21 Jan 06

My personal understanding would be something like this:

Marketing is bringing a real (existing) product to market where people can immediately prove your claims to be right or wrong as the product physicaly exists (or at least a specification, documentation or such) and one can look at it, test it… If your claims are right on and people like what they see, this can eventualy create hype.

Hype often is selling hot air, none existing, unfinished products. You make high profile claims nobody can realy question - everybody must take your word for granted. Depending on your reputation, this can create hype but only as long as the product doesn’t exist.

The 37 way of announcing products lately is what i call generating hype. I am afraid people are getting tired with this approach (you’ll realize this iin the comments to your latest vague announcements). 37 realy proved to be able to deliver great products, so i guess you should have the confidence to wait a little longer with your announcements until you have something to show. I am sure if what you show is good, it will generate the same hype with the difference that you’d have the hype and media coverage.
It’s hard for me to put this in words, both of the above mentioned approaches would be better shown as Curves.

Stefan Seiz 21 Jan 06

Oh and Marketing for me evenincludes a lot of research (looking at the market) and defines a whole process, where hype realy is just a result of either good Marketing, word of mouth or teasers.
Hype is not a process, it is an effect.

Bryan Covington 21 Jan 06

I love analogies:

Marketing is sugar. Simple, tasty and dense.

Hype is marshmallow. Tasty, but 99% air.

Schmelding 21 Jan 06

Hype (true ‘hype’) is consumer-driven.

Marketing is business-driven.

JF 21 Jan 06

Jason. Good question. Wondered why you asked it. Worried? Guilty?

Just curious, that’s all. I like to ask questions and hear people’s responses. Nothing more, nothing less.

JF 21 Jan 06

And just so people stop asking, Sunrise probably won’t be out for a few months. Asking won’t bring it out sooner, I promise ;)

victor 21 Jan 06

i have this sensation they both are the same, it is the origin that radically changes.

hype is self-aware, marketing is induced

hype happens cause a lot of individual people/groups *market* an idea to several others closer to their circles.

marketing happens when a small-to-gargantuous group of people *market* an idea to a broad mass of (segmented?) people

could it be seen as a *push/pull* process? (dunno…)

victor 21 Jan 06

but i actually agree with *andrew k* on the third comment…

Kendall 21 Jan 06

I think that Jason and the 37signals folks created a buzz about their new products. I think this was done in a very effective way because people have taken hold of it and are now obviously demanding that it be released. Who wouldn’t want their customers knocking on their doors saying “we want this new product”? Everyone would do just about anything for that type of loyalty and excitement about their product. Something they’ve done obviously is serving their market. They’ve offered a quality product at an affordable price, made it easy to use, and they continue to build upon it. Solid marketing.

[email protected] 22 Jan 06

Marketing cost money.
Hype is generally free.

Ian Waring 22 Jan 06

And just so people stop asking, Sunrise probably won�t be out for a few months. Asking won�t bring it out sooner, I promise ;)

But you’ll still showing it at your seminar on the 27th Jan, right? Hopefully without NDAs there for the participants.

Besides, what’s the motivation for mentioning it before everyone can see what it is? Apple don’t do too badly by saying little until the last minute.

Ian W.
Simplicity Sells!

Anonymous Coward 22 Jan 06

Jason. Good question. Wondered why you asked it. Worried? Guilty?

Just curious, that�s all. I like to ask questions and hear people�s responses. Nothing more, nothing less.

Jason - bad attempt at a wind up on my part. Actually, your initial question was very timely and the responses were very informative.

I think that you have done a great job with your marketing. You have identified a few great niches and have very quickly moved to own them. Just gets a little vomit inducing when you announce something new and 20 people line up to say how great it is without knowing any details - keep handing out the Koolaid, just don’t sample it yourself.

Cynic 22 Jan 06

Theory 1: Marketing is what “we” do; “hype” is what we call our competitors’ marketing successes.

Theory 2: Marketing is an explanation of what a product does; hype occurs when the claim is made that this product in some fashion is going to “change the world.” That claim may be advanced by a company’s own marketing department (e.g. Microsoft), or it may arise more spontaneously from the media and/or the community (e.g. Google). Most of the time, hype is exaggerated, but sometimes it is not.
Marketing: “9-11 was an unprecedented tragedy and crime.”
Hype: “9-11 changed everything.”

matt Carey 22 Jan 06

[quote]And just so people stop asking, Sunrise probably won�t be out for a few months. Asking won�t bring it out sooner, I promise ;){/quote]

the wait is killing me!

Mason Capwell 23 Jan 06

Remember songbirdnest? The piece of vaporware that never happened?

Well, that’s hype.

Douglas d'Aquino 23 Jan 06

for me hype is McHammer, while Marketing is 50 cent.. or something like this…

PF Flyer 23 Jan 06

marketing: simply making something (product, company,etc) known to its target audience

hype: creating undo expectation about a product which may or may not be true

Brian 23 Jan 06

Jason, you mentioned on Inside the Net that Campfire would be out in a few weeks. That was in December. Care to update us or was that all hype ;) Seriously, from what you had to say about it, it sounds very interesting. Hope it comes soon.


JF 23 Jan 06

Campfire will be out when its ready. We changed direction a little since that interview so we pushed the release back, but it’s getting close. That’s all I’ll say.

Also, saying something is due out soon is not “hype,” it’s just giving the best information I had at the time. It’s not making sensational claims or promises, just that we think it will be out in a few weeks.

We’ve been using it internally for a few weeks now and we’re learning a lot using it (that’s what “Getting Real” is all about).

Shanti 23 Jan 06

In actuality, generally Buzz = Hype.

How the terms are actually used in real life -

Buzz - term used by the proponent(s) of the technology/service/whatever. “Man, Basecamp has been getting tons of buzz lately. I really need to check it out.”

Hype - term used by people who generally believe the “buzz” or online discussion of product/service is overrated or non-deserving, at best. “Dude, what’s up with this Ruby on Rails hype? It’s just an MVC layer for an obscure Japanese scripting language! I’ll stick to my home-rolled PHP framework, thank you very much.”

Brian 24 Jan 06

Jason, thanks for the update on Campfire. I’m anxious to see how it has evolved since you spoke of it last month. I’m sure it’ll be great.

Anyway, I know you weren’t “hyping” Campfire or Sunrise on Inside the Net. I was just pulling your chain. That’s what the wink was for.

me 24 Jan 06

hype is challenging your audience to guess an impending competitor from their financial stats and denying the implications

marketing is releasing a free framework and using it to promote your books, seminars and s/w services

JF 24 Jan 06

hype is challenging your audience to guess an impending competitor from their financial stats and denying the implications

Wow, how many times do I need to say this: this post had nothing to do with us, nothing to do with Sunrise, and nothing to do with any competition. Next time I’ll talk about the hot dog stand down the street.

If you’d like to waste your time trying to piece together some clues, go for it, but there’s nothing there.

me 24 Jan 06

methinks thou dost protest too much!

Nooberman 26 Jan 06

I think hype comes before marketing, chronologically.

People guessed that iPod with video capability was coming and there was a lot of hype, but no marketing … Steve Jobs hadn’t even announced it was on it’s way.

Marketing is what the selling company does to attract attention to it’s product.

Of course, a marketing department would never try to eliminate hype since any form of people communicating virally, advertising through word-of-mouth, is the cheapest form of advertising and since it isn’t the selling company actually doing the hyping then anything can be said about the product.

So, hype comes first and doesn’t necessarily have to be accurate information about a product leading to the idea that something was ‘over-hyped’. Marketing on the other hand needs to be accurate. Steve Jobs took the iPod Nano out of his pocket on announcement day - people bought the Nano, put it in their pockets and the screens broke - they were reimbursement since Jobs had marketed the product as one that would be suitable to have in your pocket.

The selling company is not liable for hype, but they are for mis-marketing.

If you work for the selling company and you are asked to market the product in a clandestine fashion before announcement that the product exists, then you might be inclined to release on the QT some information about the product - accurate or otherwise. Accurate information would be better, IMHO, since the rumour-mill will do the rest of the work anyway.

charles c crouch 29 Jan 06

I’ll give you an example of hype that made me look upon advertising in an entirely new way forever.

Thirty odd years ago, I went to my barber who had recently moved to a large Mall complex that was across the street from a subway terminal. When I asked whether the move was proving to be a good one, he remarked that the situation from the point of view of customer traffic at this location was so unlike they were led to believe that all the enterpreneurs had collectively reached the point where they thought the only way to increase traffic was to employ an advertising campaign on the radio. He told me when the campaign would start and when I listened to the first commercial I couldn’t believe my ears. It was all along the theme that throngs of people were shopping at this complex and if you weren’t part of the crowd then you ought to get with it ! I’ve had a jaundiced view of advertising ever since. So much for hype.

Tom Jarvis 06 Feb 06

When I think of marketing I think of the 4 Ps, product, price, promotion, & placement. When I think of hype, I think of an exagerated form of promotion.