Deconstructing Hype: Why Do People Hype Up Products


This past couple of weeks, the most repetitive conversations I’ve had are about:

i. Michael Jackson. Admittedly, the first tape I had bought was a MJ tape. But I was surprised by the reaction of folks to his death (Michael Jackson almost takes the internet with him) – seeing how he hadn’t released any new music since 2001!

ii. Google’s Chrome OS. Folks are excited by something that isn’t going to come out till another year!?Folks are going bonkers with speculation of how Google is going to pull down Microsoft once and for all (Google drops a nuclear bomb on Microsoft)… without even having a look at the software first!

So why do people over-hype such celebrities, products and events?

Why do more people buy Nokia phones than iPhones. But more people blog about iPhone than Nokia?

Why are celebrities like Victoria Beckham still so popular and in news when Spice Girls peaked ages ago?

Why are folks like Paris Hilton still hitting the magazine covers regularly?


Nathanael Fast – who earned his PhD in Organizational Behavior from Stanford University conducts a test. He gathers 89 people. And shows them a list of 8 baseball players and their past years statistics. Some of these players are obscure players but who put up some amazing numbers on board. And others are very popular players who underperformed in the last season.

Each of these 89 folks is supposed to select one baseball players name from the list – and send a short email about him to someone else from the group.

  • When the participant is told that the person she is going to send an email to is an avid fan of baseball and somewhat of an expert at it – she would select an obscure player who has fantastic statistics.
  • But when the participant doesn’t know anything about her correspondent, she would select a popular but under performing player!

Conclusion of the experiment

People select topics of conversation based on their understanding of what the other party will be able to grasp. We converse to build connections with others. And nothing helps in building connections than talking about something we both are aware of.

As a result – we talk about things that are already popular. And thus fame begets more fame. Popular products and people stay popular longer than they should because they serve as conversational fodder.

Hype is nothing buy a by-product of our need to connect with others.

3. Why is Laughter Contagious?

Did you start laughing by the time the above 7 minute video ended?

The above video is awesome. It shows how laughter spread virally. It shows what we do to build connections with strangers. We will laugh for no good reason other than just because others are laughing. This is a deep rooted need of ours and we have very little control over it – because we end up laughing by just seeing a video of other people laughing too!

So how does this post help you?

Action Summary:

  • Unless you’re famous already, tag with products and people who are famous. Its an easier way to show up on people’s radar.
  • Start your posts and articles with a common idea – something people can connect with.

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