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Since it was founded in 2005 by Kevin Ma, HYPEBEAST has achieved a steady stream of over 3 million unique visitors, generating 28 million monthly page views and 1.7 million followers on Instagram – all without any investor funding.
From a hobby to a blog, an online store, a quarterly print magazine and a full fledged creative publishing business, HYPEBEAST is a no longer a name we use to mock typical trend-followers with.
Instead, the name is now associated to being ‘in the know’ - sneakerheads, streetwear enthusiasts and advertising agencies alike today clamor after the brand's approval.
So what marketing strategy did one man use transform his hobby into one of the world’s foremost authoritative editorial on fashion and culture?
1. Credibility! Be “one of the guys” – Kevin Ma, your true blue sneakerhead batting for his own team
What makes HYPEBEAST such a carefully curated collection? It all began with the dedication of its founder Kevin Ma, a person who wouldn't look out of place lining up outside at a sneaker store overnight to collect a pair of limited edition sneakers.
The site started out in 2005 as a personal blog for Ma to archive all the latest sneaker updates and trends, when 'sneaker culture' was just beginning its expansion across North America and information wasn't readily available.
Ma himself was an avid reader of technology and gadget interest sites and was inspired by the simple and efficient way these blogs shared information.
Even today, Ma still adds his own personal product picks onto the website.
Word-of-mouth tip: Start by wow-ing yourself. If you've made something that you can't help but talk about, it's likelier that others will talk about it too.
2. Exploit first mover advantage – riding the wave of the blogging boom.
Back when HYPEBEAST was just starting out, blogging was still finding its feet in the Internet world.
Without today’s heavily relied-on SEO or SEM, traffic to the site was driven mostly by our favourite tool - word-of-mouth. HYPEBEAST was gradually becoming an important hub for sneaker and streetwear enthusiasts, who would share information gotten from HYPEBEAST all around the web.
Word-of-mouth, true to its nature, ignited HYPEBEAST. Within six months, over 10,000 people were visiting the blog.
The breaking point when I realized that people took notice of Hypebeast was one day when I was lining up for sneakers at a local shop and then the guy in front of me said “Hey, did you read about this cool sneaker on Hypebeast?” I kept quiet and nodded. At that point I knew Hypebeast had influence.
Word-of-mouth tip: Remember to build your base through “connecting” and never through “collecting”.
3. Quality media influencers – If you can get Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West on board, you're going to win over their fans, too
To make things even more brag-worthy, one turning point for the business was when rapper Lupe Fiasco helped to expand viewership when he first took notice of the blog.
Through his network, hip-hop artists such as Kanye West began sharing about the site and even referenced HYPEBEAST in one of his songs.
Word-of-mouth tip: Make your content newsworthy enough to attract the attention of high profiled influencers who will help propel the business forward.
4. Expansion - Take it up a notch, and start diversifying.
HYPEBEAST today covers a wide range of content from design, technology, music, fashion and art, expanding past its sneaker culture and streetwear roots.
From “integrated campaigns” to booming e-commerce, HYPEBEAST now has its name on the radar for fashion and lifestyle brands that are looking to get an endorsement from the popular site.
Even though footwear remains the core obsession for the most part, the site isn’t just about sneakers.
HYPEBEAST now represents a culture.
Word-of-mouth tip: Once you have identified your target demographic and audience, insert your product into their other activities that you know pair well together.
- Start by focusing on a niche that you're personally invested in
- Timing is everything – be an early adopter of a new, growing technology
- Get quality influencers onboard (the trick is to be so good they can't ignore you)
- Once you've gotten your foothold, diversification can be helpful
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