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Where Are You, Frank? How to Build and Market Hype Like Frank Ocean (Not Guns N' Roses)

Zachary Evans

Building excitement about the release of a new product or service is an incredibly important and tricky part of marketing your brand.

You want to build hype around the release without keeping your customers waiting so long that they lose interest, or someone else releases something that fills the same need and makes your release obsolete.

A place where we can see this play out publicly on a regular basis is in the music industry. The music world may feel largely disconnected from most other business sectors. However, there is a great deal to learn from both current examples, as well as notorious ones of the past.

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Waiting, but Still Excited

Currently, the most notorious example of an artist that is keeping their fans waiting is R&B artist Frank Ocean. Ocean has hinted at the release of his sophomore album, "Boys Don’t Cry" for a couple years now, with the album still not materializing. Most recently, he launched a livestream that included an Apple Music logo, which was followed by rumors of an August 5th release date.

This date came and went, with no album materializing. Despite disappointment that the album has not been released yet, his fans’ anticipation and hype for the album has continued to grow, which shows that it’s possible to build excitement by keeping people waiting.

However, keeping fans or customers waiting for something they are excited for also has a shelf life. If you keep them waiting too long, it is incredibly unlikely that your product can possibly live up to the hype that has built up, or even worse, that they will still be interested, by the time of release.

Don’t Let Yourself Become Axl Rose

For an extreme example, look no further than champion of delayed releases, Guns N’ Roses, and their sixth studio album, Chinese Democracy. Guns N’ Roses were massive at the time they started recording their sixth studio album in 1994. However, countless delays and turmoil within the band pushed the album’s release back.

In the14 years that transpired before Chinese Democracy was finally released in 2008, the album’s title had become a joke synonymous with a project stuck in development hell. It didn’t matter that the album actually received generally favorable reviews, the band couldn’t overcome the negative perception that had been created about the album. This was fueled by numerous announcements of the album’s imminent release.

Building anticipation for a product’s launch can be a fantastic way to get people excited about your brand, especially if you have a proven track record of delivering things your customers crave. However, for this anticipation and hype to actually get you anywhere, you can’t keep people waiting forever. Eventually, the hype dies out and is replaced by doubt.

A key to capitalizing on customer excitement and anticipation comes from how you communicate and set expectations. Nothing will lose you the trust of your fans than either lying to them or setting expectations that cannot be met. Delays and setbacks are a very real possibility that you should be prepared for, and it is always better to do the necessary work to make sure your product is truly ready to go to market.

This means that it’s better to hold off on making specific announcements until you are sure that you can follow through and meet those expectations.

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Make Noise at the Right Time

Hype and anticipation is great, but it also can set up expectations that are impossible to meet. It’s better to undersell something and blow people away when it comes out, than it is to hype something up that then disappoints upon launch. Anticipation for Frank Ocean to release "Boys Don’t Cry" is still building because Ocean has remained mysterious enough to keep people interested without feeling like they have been lied to, by Ocean himself, at least.

A great example is Canadian rock duo, Japandroids, whose 2012 sophomore album, Celebration Rock was met with critical acclaim, and built them a core of diehard followers. However, in 2013, after touring extensively in support of the album, the band seemed to fall off the face of the planet with nothing more than a single Facebook post announcing they would be taking a break. Following this, there were no updates of any kind from the band about future albums, or if they were even still a band or not.

Now, the band has suddenly come back, with the announcement of fall tour dates, accompanied by pictures of a recording studio. If Japandroids had not disappeared for the last few years, then this tour announcement would not be met with nearly the same excitement as it has been. This tactic was also recently used by the band Bon Iver, and was met with massive buzz.

This same concept can be applied to the business world as well. If you bombard people with constant messages or announcements, it becomes much easier for them to ignore you. This is especially true in today’s internet-connected world, where people face a constant barrage of information and messages.  

With the massive level that mobile use has reached in recent years, the way people receive news today has changed immensely, and you need to consider this when deciding whether or not a message is worth sending or not. The most successful companies today are ones that have embraced this change from the top down. This kind of leadership is essential for success in today’s business world. If you do not adjust your communication strategies to fit how people receive information today, then it is unlikely that your words will resonate with customers.

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So, how do you deal with marketing long term projects in a way that continues to build excitement, but doesn’t let the hype become unmanageable? 

The key is managing expectations by being selective about the messages you put out without letting people forget about you. Don’t make promises that you can’t live up to. Instead of giving out constant promises, or hyping up how great your product will be, it’s better to give out small hints until you’re actually ready to make a splash.

When it comes to building hype for a project, look to artists like Frank Ocean, Japandroids, or Bon Iver, and whatever you do, don’t be like Axl Rose.

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Zachary Evans Member
Zachary Evans is a freelance writer from Boise, Idaho. He graduated from Boise State University with a Bachelor's Degree in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing in 2013. He spends his time writing, reading, playing bass guitar, and buying too much music gear.