Before the explosion of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, people were über-optimistic about the internet. The sky was the limit, and everyone involved felt invincible. Plainly speaking, during the second half of the ‘90s, websites became hot. Eventually, this statement proved itself right: websites were actually hot, but the hype surrounding them proved to be much hotter. As a result of distorted expectations, distorted investments were made and when collection day finally arrived, reality landed a hard punch on the digital business’ face. While some digital brands survived (and eventually thrived), thousands went straight down the drain.
Things are different now. Unlike 1997, people nowadays know a lot more about the internet. Developers, investors and users have come to terms with the ever-growing, fast-changing digital realm, and arguably understand that while things evolve fast, ‘maturity’ is a slippery, unpractical concept to rely on. Of course, blind bets over so-called ‘unicorn companies’ do happen here and there, but knowledge and data carry more weight now than they did 20 years ago. In this era of constant novelty, hype must be backed by real data. That’s why research is a must when it comes to plan a digital campaign, product launch or strategy.
When it comes to developing new digital strategies, the dot-com bubble should always act as a guiding light. It still works as a perfect example of how the ‘hype driver’ can hurt a company and the relationship with consumers. While the scale is different, we often come across examples of hype-driven ideas – for example, brands telling us that they want to develop a strategy that involves Snapchat, because ‘millions (internet) users are into it’. Thing is, Snapchat – or Facebook, Instagram and whatever you can think of – doesn’t work in a vacuum. Moreover, platforms like this live for an opposite concept: they are networks, all functioning under different sets of rules and offering different possibilities in multiple scenarios at the same time. What’s good for a brand might be terrible for another, and what proved right yesterday might be over now. Deciding to get into something for the sake of hype and popularity is nothing but repeating late ‘90s mistakes. And this is when research comes up as a valuable player.
We’re not stating that research would’ve prevented the bubble, nor that it will inoculate brands against future mistakes. But it will definitely reduce the risks associated to the (many) novelty items and moves that are now available (and growing). That’s the main reason why brands should at least give it a go before making up their minds over something. For us, it’s an obligation to be skeptic, to analyze the options that will lead to a great solution. We can’t afford to bandwagon whatever’s hot this week. As history shows, it’s not good for business.