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On Drop Culture

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A page from the streetwear book

Drop culture isn’t something new. Not even remotely.

Streetwear brands have been leveraging drops since the 1980’s created by sneaker brands like Nike and Adidas to get sneaker-heads hyped about a release.

More recently, we see it with apps like SNKRS and MSCHF, brands like Yeezy and Apple and the very hyped NBA TopShot amongst many others.

Photo by Erik Mclean on

Recently, I had the opportunity to consult a DTC furniture brand looking to not only boost sales but to gain organic press.

The problem? They didn’t have any fund raising, their price point isn’t super high or super low, they’re bootstrapped and profitable.

Wait, what?

In today’s attention economy, you’ve got to cut through the noise to make your own noise stand out. That’s why we hear of the super expensive brands or the ones that raise lots of funds. There’s a sense of ridiculousness to it all.

But that wasn’t the problem with this brand.

What was the solution? A drop.

The creative was simple. Play off the Notes App-style posts you see, many times when a celebrity apologizes. In the note, a login would get customers some special pricing.

The payoff? Nearly $1,000,000 in sales in a week.

They saw one sale every five minutes with 72% first-time buyers. Talk about lowering your CAC!

Qualities of a Drop

Drop’s can work in almost any situation, you just have to tap into all the qualities of what makes a good drop.

You can be an ice cream brand like Jeni’s Ice Creams or a major streetwear company like Adidas. It doesn’t really make a difference as to how big you are or how big your following these days.

Leveraging the principle of 1,000 true fans, any brand can create a drop culture and leverage this amazing tactic as part of their marketing and sales strategy.


Drop’s are usually limited in quantity. With sneakers we’ll see something like 100 pairs. With iPhones, the hype of the drop is being the first to have one, and getting it before that first sellout.

The limits build the story, and they create the allure. The aura of scarcity is real.

By generating FOMO and impulse, fans of your product will wait in line, digitally or physically for as long as it takes.

Limits can be placed anywhere, too.

There are times that less is more. Every one, every brand is trying to get attention. Limitations spark creativity. In this case, by limiting how or who you are offering your product to can help you generate more creativity in how you go about dropping.

Managing the Channels

Hype requires an intimate knowledge of your channels.

Take for instance, Adidas. As a global sportswear powerhouse, they’re available almost anywhere.

But for the limited Yeezy’s – some reselling for $20,000 per pair – the availability is narrowed by targeting only select retailers and premium sales channels.  

Some channels are more premium than others. Take a look at text messaging. Text messages are, on average, read 90 seconds after being received.

By using this as a premium channel, you can almost ensure a high level of engagement. And as always, use it wisely.

One Day Only!

Once a limited ‘drop’ becomes available, time is of the essence.

As I mentioned in the brief story above, the drop for the furniture brand was limited to a weekend. You had to take action quickly.

If you’ve tried to purchase an NBA TopShot pack, or get a pair of sneakers on SNKRS or attempted to get a PS5 this past holiday season, you know that those things sold out in minutes. (Sometimes in seconds because some people play dirty and use bots)

Burberry sells exclusive items every 17th of the month for 24-hours. Think Amazon Prime Day.

Moncler, known for their puffy jackets, actually stopped doing fashion week runway shows to focus on monthly drops with big time designers.

Timeliness creates a sense of urgency and relevancy. Anyone can create a discount coupon, but how about an unbeatable coupon only good for one day or half a day?

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

When brands and trending designers come together, it’s like Thor and Captain America joining forces. Strength meets strength.

IKEA teamed up with Virgil Abloh to create limited home decor and furniture pieces.

Jeni’s Ice Creams and Tyler the Creator joined up to create a custom flavor.

SUPREME once joined up with Rimowa to create luggage that started at $1600. And it sold out in 16 seconds!

KITH founder, Ronnie Fieg, partnered up with BMW for a custom M4.

The synergy of two powerhouse’s combining not only drives up the price point, but can make the online reach untouchable compared to traditional content.

For the SUPREME x Rimowa drop, the social media content was four-times more effective than regular Rimowa posts.

Partnerships require thought process, however. You’re creating a moment. These moments garner loads of attention.

Remember to make sure things are a natural fit, not forced, or the partnership can have a negative outcome.

You Gotta Earn It

Luxury is so easy to attain today. If you have enough money, you can access anything.

But what about when money isn’t the only factor?

When you force your consumer to earn the product, those fans now share their haul online. Sharing gets you some street cred and props from your friends.

Back in 2017, the Ani Social Social Club (ASSC) partnered with product release app Frenzy to send fans on a geolocation-enhanced treasure hunt around Los Angeles. Only the savviest fans were cleared to buy the coveted products – and the sense of accomplishment was tangible.​

Gamification is a great tool, it’s one that forces your fans to earn the drop but also gets them status that they can tout amongst their friends.

Airlines do this well, albeit not in a drop setting. I fly Delta, and stepping into that Diamond Medallion line at the airport for priority boarding gives you a sense of accomplishment. It might signal other things to those watching, but I’ll take it.

Follow Up

Like any good content strategy, after one good piece of content, you must follow it up with more.

Each time you do a drop, you learn more about how your fans react to things like timing, limitations, collaborations and gamification.

Try tying in social media and owned digital properties to get a full picture of your consumer. Find out who they listen to, what sites they visit, what other stores they are shopping.

Take that information and tie it into the next drop.

Keep in mind that most of your fans won’t even get in on the drop every time, so you need to give them a reason to keep coming back.

I keep missing out on the NBA TopShot drops, but keep coming back because of the prospect that the next drop will contain a highly valuable moment that I can make some money on.

A position that is important to drops is a data and insights person. Someone that can read through all the insights and understand your consumer so well, that drops will feel like they’re made exclusively for them.

Expectations will be ever-changing, and thereby, our data requirements will too. Creative will need to keep up and adapt.

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