January 26, 2022

Sabir x Michael Schein

TL;DR: What To Expect From This Episode

Michael Schein is the Godfather of Hype, a business guru and creative genius whose game-changing marketing ideas have helped to launch many successful businesses and products. It’s all about creating hype—generating buzz, excitement, and promoting brand awareness through traditional and modern methods.

Schein created a series of strategies and methodologies designed to generate hype, which is essential if you want to build a modern brand and replicate the likes of Apple, Samsung, Amazon, and countless others. In this guide and accompanying video, these strategies are discussed, along with the psychology behind them and the examples that prove just how effective they are.

We discuss:

  • The Basics of Hype Marketing: You might not realize it, but some of the biggest movements in history have used hype marketing to create a buzz and change the mindset of a generation. We look at the ways that you can use it to do good and make a positive impact on your business and personal brand.
  • Hype Marketing Strategies: Schein has created a 12-step program for hype generation. Each step outlines a unique process that can turn relatively unknown brands into household names. He covers the most important strategies in this guide, including the Piggybacking Principle and one that he dubs “Make War, Not Love”.
  • Schein’s Process: Michael Schein began his career as a musician and eventually became a successful copywriter and author. He is not the traditional businessman or marketing guru, and his story will inspire anyone who feels like they are better suited to creative disciplines and aren’t built for the rigidity of the business world.
  • The $100,000 Question: Michael Schein caps everything off with a 6-figure insight, one that can generate over $100,000 in value for anyone looking to use hype marketing for their personal and professional goals. There are many insightful gems, but this one is the icing on the cake! Make sure you watch to the end and read to the final page to see this amazing advice for yourself.

Whether you’re new to Schein’s strategies or you have read his Anatomy of Hype book from cover to cover, there’ll be something new to discover within these pages and this 56-minute video.

A Guide To Hype Marketing With Michael Schein

What is hype marketing, how does it differ from more traditional methods, and how can you use it to get ahead as a business owner or influencer?

There is a lot to unpack, a lot to learn, and so I was delighted when Michael agreed to come on This Week with Sabir and guide my audience through the concepts, strategies, and foundations of hype marketing.  

Michael admits to being a geek in his younger days and recalls that he had a very negative view of businesses and business owners, seeing them as boring accountants and financiers who spent their days buried in paperwork.

He wanted to be a rock star, and while he never achieved his goals of superstardom, he did achieve some success, made some money, and gained some experience in the world of hype generation.

In later years, when his dreams of rock stardom had faded, he found himself wondering if he could apply his former hype-generating talents to the business sector. Many years of hard work followed, but ultimately, this is where the idea was born and it’s one that has stayed with Michael ever since.

It was also the subject of our discussion and one that I have fleshed out in the article below. If you’re looking for some new and exciting ways to market your business or personal brand, you could be on the precipice of a revelation that was just as life-changing as Michael’s!

What Is Hype Marketing?

Michael defines hype as, “Any activity—good, bad, or neutral—that allows you to generate enthusiasm, excitement, and energy among a large group of people to get them to do what you want them to do.”

At the beginning of my discussion with Michael, I asked him why he chose the word “hype” considering the negative connotations that are typically associated with the word. After all, while there are some positive associations, Merriam-Webster describes the word as “promotional publicity of an extravagant or contrived kind”.

So, if there are such negative connotations, why not just use “Marketing”?

Michael answered by noting that marketing should be all about hype. In a perfect world, it should be about generating a buzz and creating excitement, whether it’s through hyperbole or not. But more often than not, it’s about A/B testing (something that I previously discussed with Gajan Retnasaba), analytics, and proven tactics.

Hype is about so much more than standard product branding and personal branding. As Michael explained, it stems from hip-hop groups of the 1990s. They had to build their brand from the ground up and they couldn’t rely on Facebook or Instagram; they couldn’t simply throw money at a PR firm or run some Google Ads.

Bands like the Wu-Tang Clan painted eye-level graffiti across Staten Island, ensuring that everyone recognized their logo.

It was hype, it was about creating a buzz, and it’s far from traditional marketing.

Of course, Michael is not suggesting that he instructs his team to spray graffiti and deface public property, but the general idea remains the same.

In this sense, it suggests that hype is a little more creative and adventurous. It’s out-of-the-box thinking that focuses more on long-term brand equity, as opposed to the short-term results.

For example, let’s say that you drop $5,000 into a Google Ads campaign and, in return, you generate $10,000 in sales. That’s effective marketing, and the result is that you can use that profit to pump back into your marketing and keep the wheels turning.

You’re creating an Ouroboros of profit, as everything you earn fuels the cycle and allows you to earn more.

The goal of hype marketing is to focus more on the long-term.

As opposed to simply finding your product on Google Ads, making a purchase, and then being dropped into your remarketing campaigns, a consumer is buying into the brand, falling in love with your philosophy, and making a commitment to buy everything that you sell.

It’s the difference between those electronics brands that people only buy when they’re on sale, and Apple, which has millions of consumers queueing up to buy everything that it releases.

Apple creates immense hype around every single product it sells, and it also has a lot of hype around the company itself.

It could launch a $1,000 phone case and people would still queue around the block to buy it.

That’s not to say that you should avoid Google Ads and other forms of traditional marketing. I’ve built my career around that stuff. It works. It’s effective, and any time that you can invest $5,000 to make $10,000, you’re onto a winner. But that marketing works best when it has a strong foundation to adhere to, and that’s where hype marketing comes in.

They work together, and if you get them right, they work incredibly well.

An Example Of Hype Marketing

Considering that hype has such negative connotations, I asked Michael if he knew of an example of someone who has used it ethically for personal branding or product branding, and he mentioned Martin Luther King.

Michael referred to a famous picture of a police dog attacking a protestor, with the cop holding the leash. It looked like the cop was “siccing” the dog on the protestor, and that’s what many people think when they see the image.

In actual fact, stories suggest that the cop was one of the good guys that day. The protestor had advanced on the dog, the dog had attacked, and the police officer was trying to pull it away.

Martin Luther King saw someone snap a picture of that moment and realized he was onto something big. The result was an image that perfectly exemplified the struggle of Black Americans during the 1960s and one that served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement.

Black people were being beaten up. They were being murdered. And in many cases, the ones that were paid to protect and serve were the ones doing the beating.

Martin Luther King knew that statistics weren’t enough. He knew that simply telling people stories of brutality wouldn’t be enough. He understood that a single person, story, and image could do more than a list of names and numbers ever could.

But the hype isn’t just used for good, and this is something we touched upon several times. In fact, it has been used throughout history to create momentum for violent movements.

Nazism is a great example of this.

The Nazi movement is one of the most abhorrent things in the history of humanity, and it occurred in the modern age when those atrocities can’t simply be dismissed because they occurred “at a different time”.

We like to think that we’re more thoughtful, chivalrous, and empathetic than the ancient armies that slaughtered innocent men and women or the colonists that transported slaves like cattle, and yet everyone alive today has parents, grandparents, or great grandparents who lived through a time when being of a certain religious group meant you could be mercilessly slaughtered without provocation.

The Nazi movement wasn’t just about several million evil people all getting together to cause chaos. It was about a small group of incredibly twisted individuals who used what amounted to hype and buzz marketing to change public perception.

It’s akin to the fascist movements that have occurred throughout the world in the decades since, and it’s something we’re also seeing with QAnon.

People are being coerced into thinking a certain way and committing to a certain cause.

During our discussion, Michael talked about these movements and their strategies, and noted that his work began with the question of, “What if we can use those strategies for good?”

Michael also mentioned that many normal people struggle with what he defines as hype marketing. They worry about the finer details and let their emotions get in the way.

What about this, what about that, what happens if…

A psychopath or a sociopath doesn’t have the same qualms. They don’t think twice, because they’re only focusing on the results.

But that’s not to say that the goal is to distort the public consciousness or to make them believe something that’s not true just for the sake of a few sales. Hype marketing is still ethical, and it’s not all that different from typical company branding methods.

It’s not some subliminal message that worms its way into the public consciousness and festers in the mind like the rotten dogma of fascism. It’s just honest marketing that is designed to capture the public’s attention, create strong brand awareness, and spread through word of mouth.

I used Apple as an example above, but there are better ones in the clothing industry.

Take Supreme, as an example. It’s an urban clothing company that sells relatively simple clothing branded with the company’s logo.

The clothes are made in very limited quantities, and even though there are a huge number of items being released all of the time, the fact that each item is limited causes many consumers to snap them up as soon as they are available.

These items are then resold online, where they regularly fetch 200% to 1,000% of their initial retail value. Consumers are literally purchasing apparel one day and then selling them the next, and their efforts are earning them substantial sums of money.

The logo, although simple, is said to have been based on propaganda art. It became so iconic in such a short space of time, that everyone wanted a piece of it. Supreme capitalized on this by collaborating with other companies and placing their logo everywhere, including on a clay brick.

The internet even gave a name to the people who wore Supreme clothing and obsessed over the brand and others like it, referring to them as “Hypebeasts”. In what seemed like a very short space of name, Supreme exploded in popularity through hype marketing and even influenced a new hype-related word.

It is the epitome of hype and buzz marketing and it didn’t even have to spend a lot of money on marketing to reach those heights.

YouTubers were buying as much Supreme clothing as they could get their hands on, which meant that a generation of kids who wanted to look like them were also buying Supreme. It’s the modern equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing, and it has allowed the brand to explode.

In 2020, possibly due to the pandemic, the hype train seemed to slow down a little and some have pointed to oversaturation as being the problem, but it’s still a great example of how hype marketing can be used ethically and can deliver incredible results.

The Cult Mentality

Fascist groups are notorious for preying on disillusioned youngsters, kids who have been bullied, tormented, and come from broken homes. They take them under their wing, mold their minds to suit their ideology, and give them a sense of purpose.

They are part of something—a community, a family.

It’s the same reason why cults are so successful. People need to feel like they belong somewhere, and the harder it is for them to attain this feeling, the more desperate they will become.

In the modern world, people can feel just as connected to a brand as they do an ideology.

If you’ve ever perused gaming/tech forums, you may have seen this for yourself. People of all generations will happily spend the day arguing whether Xbox is better than PlayStation, PC is better than Mac, or Apple is better than Samsung.

They fight about genres of games (FIFA vs PES; COD vs Counter-Strike), consoles, gadgets, and more. If you dig through these arguments, you will find people who are just as passionate about their chosen genre, console, or gadget, as people have been for cults and political movements.

I would like to say that they wouldn’t go as far as to die or commit a crime for their passion, but that would be a lie. There have been several reported instances where arguments like this have led to physical violence, swatting, theft, and even murder.

It’s easy to dismiss these individuals as crazy, and to suggest that they just want to believe that the things they own are always the best. To an extent, that might play a role, but it’s more to do with being part of a community.

A teenager who becomes obsessed with Xbox and defends it against PlayStation users is not just a troll who has nothing better to do. They are someone who feels like they are connected to the Xbox community. They have friends in that community, and when someone insults Xbox, they are insulting the entire community.

As a result, not only is that person defending their own passions, but they are defending the manufacturers, the designers, the developers, and every other Xbox owner around the world.

Of course, these are the extremes. Hype marketing isn’t about appealing to unstable people who will die for your product. It’s not about targeting the 0.1% that will oppose anyone who disagrees with them, it’s about focusing on the 99.9% of other forum/community members who will excitedly chat about every update, back the developers in their efforts, preorder every new console, and be willing to help every other consumer who has a technical issue with the product.

You’re turning a consumer into a devotee, someone who will promote your brand at every turn and become an advocate for everything that you do.

Ultimately, that’s the dream of every brand, and it’s why the most successful brands in the world (Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft) have become masters of hype marketing.

And it’s not just about company branding, either. It applies to personal branding and product branding as well.

Lady Gaga calls her fans “Little Monsters”. There are millions of them, and in addition to listening to her music, buying everything she releases, and following everything that she does, those fans will oppose anyone who dares say anything about their “leader”.

Many YouTubers are scared to say anything negative about K-Pop because it has legions of fans that will descend on them. When a YouTuber speaks negatively about a certain band or performer, the fans take it personally and react.

If you’re sitting there thinking that you’re immune to all of this because you’re not part of any devoted fan club and there’s no brand or individual that you would defend with such gusto, you’re probably mistaken.

If you wear a little badge that says, “I voted”, you’re essentially playing into hype marketing. After all, what other purpose could that badge serve other than to tell everyone that you are part of a particular group?

If you wear clothing that announces your allegiance to a band, TV show, or individual, you’ve bought into hype marketing. Maybe you just liked the design or the color. Maybe you were supporting a YouTuber—whatever the reason behind it, that merchandise is there to help people feel like they belong to a certain group.

Hype Marketing Strategies

We spoke a lot about hype examples during the 56-minute episode, but we also delved into some of the strategies that Michael uses. Toward the final part of the video, I asked him to go deeper into some of these strategies.

You can find the full list of methods in his book, Anatomy of Hype, but here are a few of the biggest ones that can help with company branding, product branding, and personal branding.

Hype Strategy: Make War, Not Love

Humans are drawn to division. We like to take sides and are much more likely to get behind a cause if it fights for something, as well as against something.

The PC wars and console wars discussed earlier are a great example of this, but it’s something you see at every level and in every country, from gangs that go to war because of zip codes to football fans that fight against their rivals.

The “us vs them” attitude is something that you can use in your company and personal branding.

Instead of “let’s do things this way” you need to tell consumers “let’s stop doing things this way”.

Look at your industry, find something that you disagree with, build your business around it, and go from there.

Find your fight, build your stock, and gain momentum.

It applies to most businesses and at all levels.

For example, if you’re starting a streaming service in a world devoted to VHS rentals, you don’t simply point to a few of the benefits and talk about your vast stock of movies, you highlight just how slow, expensive, and inconvenient it is to rent VHS tapes.

You create a divide, get people on your side, and give them a cause to get behind. Whether you’re faster, better, and more dedicated, it doesn’t really matter—just focus on the thing that makes you unique.

For another example, I have a friend who worked as a middleman in a high-value service industry for over 5 years. He took a cut for doing very little work, and there were many others like him taking a cut.

He realized that the industry was just a long succession of middlemen, all of whom connected the consumer and the service provider in a needlessly long chain, with each one taking a cut along the way.

Upon realizing this, he decided to create his own business and be more direct. He was cheaper, and as more money was going to the service provider, he was also better, but that wasn’t enough to draw a crowd.

Only when he exposed the industry and moved his marketing to, “This is what everyone else does. This is what we do” did he get the momentum that his business needed and deserved.

Being better and cheaper simply isn’t enough to create hype, but if you give people a cause, you’ll get them fired up and they will start backing you.

The Piggybacking Principle

It’s easy to look at the success of an influencer or a young entrepreneur and to assume that they got there through hard work, good ideas, and a little luck. Those things certainly play a role, but there are things happening behind the scenes that you don’t see.

More often than not, they’ve been helped along the way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There are lots of people out there who can help you, and your route to success may be dependent on them.

You scratch their backs, and they will scratch yours.

This idea forms the basis of Michael’s “Piggbacking Principle”.

If you can help people in positions of power, they will help you. Make friends, give freebies—do everything you can to build a network.

That doesn’t mean that you need to be a kiss-ass, though. Just be nice, be helpful, and align yourself with the ones who can make a difference in your life.

There is a limit to what you should do, though, and you need to be pretty savvy about it.

For instance, I recall a few stories of skilled editors and copywriters who worked for YouTubers for cut-price rates so they could get a little exposure. They put hours of work into the videos, and in exchange, they were supposed to get credit, only for the YouTubers to completely ignore them.

Rather than bemoaning their luck, they made videos and wrote articles about their stories. They showed the receipts, and in return, they generated massive exposure and got a lot of support from other YouTubers and the community.

There are also those who made the effort, supplied the work and were actually rewarded with the exposure they were promised. In both cases, the fact that they made the effort allowed them to grow their personal brands and get their names out there.

Make sure you have an account on LinkedIn and every time you encounter someone who could help you, add them. You will steadily build up a network of individuals who can give your personal brand or your company a push in the right direction.

Hype Strategy: Give Babies Milk Before You Give Them Meat

The idea that you need to “give babies milk before you give them meat” has been taught by many mentors and preached by countless entrepreneurs. It’s simple, it makes sense, and it works, and yet so many individuals overlook it.

It’s essentially based around the idea that you need to start slow, introduce the small stuff (the milk), and then deliver the big stuff (the meat) when they are ready.

The example that Michael used was Scientology.

It’s fair to say that many of the apparent beliefs of Scientology are a little “out there”. It revolves around a being named Xemu who traveled to earth from a spaceship 75 million years ago, stacked his people around volcanoes, and then killed them with hydrogen bombs.

If someone shows an interest in your religion, asks what you believe, and replies with that summary, they probably won’t rush to sign up, and yet Scientology has millions of followers around the world.

But Scientologists don’t open with that. In fact, they (allegedly) don’t reveal that story until members are fully on board.

They begin by making it seem like a self-help program. It’s about psychology, well-being, community. You can find a partner, connect with powerful people, and even get some help with a substance abuse problem. It’s all reasonable in those early stages, but as things advance, and you begin moving through the levels, it becomes a little less so.

Once it has become part of your life, it’s so commonplace that you will accept anything.

If I print out a large picture of my face and ask if I can plaster it on the front of your house, you’ll probably call me insane and tell me to get lost. But if I ask you if I can place a small polaroid of my face on a streetlight outside your house, you won’t have any objections.

You probably won’t object if I ask to turn that polaroid into an A4 and then an A3. You won’t object if I ask to move it to the sidewalk, the bottom of your garden, and then your driveaway. Eventually, it’ll end up plastered across your house, and it’ll seem perfectly normal because we got there slowly.

As Michael suggested, consumers hate big and sudden changes. They don’t like it when things are different, and yet marketers want to do everything straight away.

If Facebook or Microsoft make sudden changes to how their platforms look or feel, people will complain. In fact, Facebook is full of complaints after every major change. But if they are introduced gradually, no one really notices, and few people care.

It’s something that you need to keep in mind when you are building your personal brand or your company brand.

If you’re making big changes to your business or your industry, make sure you introduce them slowly and steadily.

Don’t force them on your customers at once. Take baby steps, see how things develop, pay attention to what your customers are saying, and keep going until you get to where you want to be.

Hype Strategy: Set Down A Rock For Them To Cling To

The idea that you should “set down a rock for customers to cling to” was mentioned briefly during the beginning of my discussion with Michael.

It’s based on the idea that people love constants, and they don’t like change. It’s similar to the principles mentioned above with the “give babies their milk” strategy.

You need to establish something that customers can cling to, something that becomes a norm in their ever-changing life.

Life is scary. There are no certainties. Even if you’re happy and healthy today, at the back of your mind there will be a niggling doubt, a pang of uncertainty, because you know it can’t last and that something bad can happen at any moment. It’s an emotion that we all experience and it’s why people get so angry when the things that they love change.

Think about the chaos that ensued when Coca-Cola launched New Coke. The company executives insisted that they had done their research and that people preferred the taste. It’s a huge company, so we have to assume that they did, and yet people hated it.

A lot of consumer hate was directed at Coca-Cola for trying to change something that was a big part of so many peoples’ lives. They remember the first drink they had, the one they shared with friends or family members, the one they reach for on hot summer days or when they go to a restaurant.

It was part of their life and their traditions, and so they got angry when it was taken away from them.

If your brand can be a constant in their life, whether you’re the influencer that they watch every Wednesday morning or the retailer they buy all of their coffee from, then you have the power to create something truly special.

As Michael mentioned during our discussion, it’s the reason why the business sector is flooded with books from countless smart and successful business owners, and yet the big sellers year after year are the same ones that have always sold well, the “bibles of business” that people turn to when they need help with a new business or want to recommend a book to a friend.

The $100,000 Question

I rounded off my discussion with Michael by asking him the $100,000 question, his ultimate advice, and the one that can help business owners to generate at least 6-figures in value.

He brought it back to his strategy for Make War, Not Love, noting that it was the most important one of his 12 strategies and the one around which all others should be based.

Michael also emphasized the need to start with the why and not the what. The latter should always come later and take its lead from the former, and yet so many business owners do things the other way around.

Let’s say that you want to follow in the footsteps of an influencer like Joe Yoon. You want the success that he has had, and so you decide to emulate him and take his advice on board (click the link to read that advice for yourself).

But why?

You know the “what”…it’s videos, articles, blogs, and social media posts, but to what end? Why are you getting involved with the fitness sector, why do you want to become an influencer?

And don’t just tack fame and money onto that question and then call it a day. That’s not enough. A lot of work goes into building a brand like that and it also becomes a major part of who are you. If you don’t have a valid reason to do it, then you’re not being authentic, you probably won’t commit, and even if the money is good, you’ll likely yield at the first sign of difficulty.

Always understand the why and make sure you ask yourself that question before you launch a business or product. Not only will it make your goals easier to achieve, but it’ll also help you with future brand marketing and personal branding.

For more tips on marketing, check out my video (and accompanying guide) on Successful Influencer Marketing with Aron Levin. It has a little something for everyone, and not just aspiring influencers who want to copy their favorite YouTube and Instagram stars.

You will also benefit from watching the This Week With Sabir episode featuring Greg and Gabi from Magic Spoon. They managed to create a lot of hype for their product, and you may recognize some of the strategies that they used, including Make War, Not Love, as they set out to change the breakfast cereal industry and set their sights on sugary and unhealthy alternatives from the outset.

And don’t forget to tune in for new episodes of This Week With Sabir every week! There are many more great insights coming in 2021l

More Info About Michael F. Schein

Michael F. Schein is the founder and president of MicroFame Media, a marketing agency that specializes in making idea-based companies famous in their fields. Some of his clients have included eBay, Magento, The Medici Group, University of Pennsylvania, Gordon College, University of California Irvine, United Methodist Publishing House, Ricoh, LinkedIn, and Citrix. His writing has appeared in Fortune, Forbes, Inc., Psychology Today, and Huffington Post, and he is a speaker for international audiences spanning from the northeastern United States to the southeastern coast of China. His book The Hype Handbook: 12 Indispensable Success Secrets From the World’s Greatest Propagandists, Self-Promoters, Cult Leaders, Mischief Makers, and Boundary Breakers, published by McGraw Hill, appears where books are sold.

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