Starbucks has sold over 350 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes since the drink’s release in 2003. In one week this August, Neilsen estimated $7 million in sales from the coffee chain’s pumpkin products. But the pumpkin spice craze goes far beyond a fancy latte. A Google News search for “pumpkin spice” returns over 127,000 media articles. Allrecipes boasts over 5300 pumpkin spice recipes. The term so dominates social media in the days leading up to Fall and throughout the season, that there are numerous articles curating the best pumpkin spice-themed posts. Pumpkin spice is a cultural phenomenon.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why in the world we’ve just spent nearly 100 words talking about pumpkin spice. What could it possibly have to do with marketing to enterprise IT or service providers? Here’s a hint: absolutely nothing. However, it’s a great example of a topic that falls in the topic corner of the hot/popular quadrant, which is a concept that applies heavily to our space.
“Hot” and “popular” are often used interchangeably. There’s an idea that if something is hot, it must be popular, and vice versa. However, that’s not always true. Let’s start by looking at the definitions of “hot” and “popular.”
- Hot: a topic/product/idea that garners lots of attention via media, social media and/or word-of-mouth
- Popular: a topic/product/idea that many people engage with willingly
In other words: if something is “hot” people talk about it a lot; if something is “popular,” people do a lot with it.
Both “hot” and “popular” fall along a spectrum. When combined, they create a quadrant that can be used to plot a topic to understand consumers’ perspectives and actions. For example, a classic cup of Americano will fall in the lower right quadrant — very popular but not at all hot. An electric car will fall in the upper left quadrant — very hot, but slow to gain actual popularity.
When choosing topics to associate with your brand, it’s important to consider where they fall in this quadrant. If your goal is to showcase thought leadership or visionary messaging, then you’ll want to attach to a “hot” topic to grab attention and generate earned media.
If you’re more focused on generating demand, a topic that’s popular (but not necessarily hot) is going to be better at driving an action. Obviously, if you can find the pumpkin-spice-sweet-spot with a topic relevant to your brand that’s both hot and popular, you’ve hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, especially in high tech industries where popularity can significantly trail hotness.
- When charting a topic on the hot/popular quadrant, consider:
- How much media coverage is the topic getting? (Sheer volume)
- What type of coverage is the topic getting? (Headlines/breaking news, features, listicles, in-depth reports, analysis, etc.)
- Who is talking about it? (News media, professional analysts, celebrities on social media, average people on social media, coworkers huddled around the water cooler, etc.)
- What are people talking about? (Early funding, new ideas, speculation, opinions, predictions, use cases, implementations, results, personal experiences, etc.)
A topic’s position in the hot/popular quadrant will fluctuate over time (sometimes day-to-day) so it’s important to reassess often if its position still aligns with your brand association goals. This is a great exercise to run with your media partners if a campaign is not performing the way you expect. Understanding where your topic has moved in the quadrant will help you adapt your message to its new position, or kick off creating a strategy to help move it where you want it.
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