This hoodie is so insanely popular you have to wait minutes to get it
February 14, 2016 3:37 PM   Subscribe

How did "America's Greatest Hoodie that you have to wait months to get" obtain all this hype from legit sources?

Like Wired, Business Insider, Slate (not once but twice), Men's Fitness - the list goes on?

This does not seem to be a genuine grassroots hoodie revolution, but a thinly disguised marketing campaign. The hoodie is totally available on the manufacturer's site, there is no wait whatsoever.
posted by Dragonness to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps there was a wait two or more years ago when those articles were published?
posted by asperity at 3:40 PM on February 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

You've answered your own question: Marketing.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:54 PM on February 14, 2016

My partner has had one for at least a year, maybe longer. It shipped right away. It does withstand his completely careless attitude toward laundry quite remarkably well, and looks sharp for what it is. I'd get one if the proportions weren't all wrong for me. I don't know what the deal with the hyperbole is but I don't think the enthusiasm is entirely unmerited.
posted by teremala at 3:56 PM on February 14, 2016

Those articles read like thinly-disguised advertorial to me.
posted by lunasol at 3:57 PM on February 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

This is totally guerrilla marketing 101. Looking at the author of the Wired piece - it looks like all she does is advertise things. Same with BI...I haven't checked the others, but I could guess the same. This may be paid content, or it may be a "perk" of the companies advertising with the publishers.

Basically, I don't buy anything unless it's been vetted by the good people of Metafilter. (ok, jk on the last part - though you guys are good)
posted by Toddles at 4:11 PM on February 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Marketing, and the hacks at allegedly "legit" publications who are under such pressure to churn out content that they've taken to posting press releases for a living.
posted by zachlipton at 4:21 PM on February 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: "native advertising"
posted by Miko at 4:23 PM on February 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I have personally waited ~10 weeks combined for my three American Giant hoodies. Most of it was for the first one I bought Spring 2014. I like them, but since I live in California it only really gets cold enough for my middleweight one. I've worn it hundreds of times and it's still going strong.

Yeah, pay attention to the pub date of those articles. Things were a lot different two years ago. Also, American Giant only sold one product back then, the heavyweight one.

Anyway, the reasons they became backordered for months back in late 2013 were A) they only make the hoodies on demand, and B) Mark Zuckerburg declared he only wore their hoodies during the lead in to the 2013 Christmas shopping season.

Since they were only made on demand, getting one by Christmas became impossible as soon as The Zuck made his preference known. We tried to get some that winter to give away as team gifts, but we were told we'd have to wait until March or something.
posted by sideshow at 4:23 PM on February 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Product marketing, yes - but part of it is also the associated assumptions and expectations that the whole ecosystem (for want of a better word) of marketing is constructed from.

Why do you consider Wired, Slate, or Men's Fitness to be "legit sources"? They are literally shillvertorial magazines / sites; places with a [sometimes historically-deserved but not current, sometimes never-deserved] thin veneer of respectability and legitimacy, where anybody with a big enough marketing budget can have any story they want run - as an ad, a story, or an editorial stance.
posted by Pinback at 4:25 PM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

The first Slate piece seems to answer it: I got a call from Bayard Winthrop, an entrepreneur who claimed to have created the world’s best hooded sweatshirt. They're advertising by getting online publications to write content for them. This isn't new; any product you see featured in a print magazine was likely sent to the editorial staff by the company. American Giant just takes it one step further and puts that obnoxious one-weird-old-trick spin on it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:32 PM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What everyone here said. And...actually!...digging into this reveals kind of a fun story! Take a look at the Slate articles you linked to and dig into the career of the writer Farhad Manjoo. This is what happens:

12/2012 - Originating Slate piece. He is straightforward about the origins of his piece: "Early in October, I got a call from Bayard Winthrop, an entrepreneur who claimed to have created the world’s best hooded sweatshirt." If you need more, note the parallels in talking points between Manjoo's article and this press release from American Giant.

3/2013 - Follow-up piece by Manjoo. The VERY first thing he says: "In December, I wrote about American Giant, a San Francisco-based apparel startup that had perfected the hooded sweatshirt. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. I didn’t just write about American Giant. I turned down the lights, put on some Barry White, and, over the course of around 2,000 gyrating words, unspooled my sweet, tender love for the company and its clothes." This seems fairly passive-aggressive, towards himself, his editors, his subjects, etc.

Manjoo left Slate right after this, having landed a better position writing for Wall Street Journal, then the NY Times. He also put out a book titled True Enough that seems more than a little inspired by how tired he was writing marketing pieces.
posted by greenland at 5:37 PM on February 14, 2016 [24 favorites]

Best answer: It's important to make the distinction between pitched stories and advertorial. None of the linked articles are advertorial, in that none of the publications discloses that they were paid by the hoodie company to write them. Instead, the process is much less about pay-for-coverage and more about how tech "journalism" works these days.

Farhad Manjoo at Slate broke the story, and he says how he got it -- the CEO called him up. This isn't surprising because Farhad Manjoo is a well-known tech writer (he took over for Mossberg at the WSJ since writing this story) so if he likes a thing, he can help make it popular. Now, his story is super breathless, but a lot of tech journalists are very cheerleader-y about tech. Make of this what you will! But he personally liked the sweatshirts, and one of his jobs as a columnist is telling you that.

Thus, the hype cycle begins. Once a story becomes popular, people file stories about it just in case theirs is the one that gets shared on Facebook. And of course the company makes themselves as available as possible to the journalists throughout this process!

For non-paid content (such as this -- I will bet quite a lot that American Giant never paid for any of this press), the publication is putting its reputation on the line -- they are asserting to you that the content is fair and valuable. But they also know what their readers like. And readers of tech publications know and like stories that sound exactly like this. One weird trick, made in America, just like Apple, you know the rest. It gets readers. Like you! And that's why they write it.
posted by goingonit at 5:38 PM on February 14, 2016 [10 favorites]

While there certainly is some unusual hype about these sweatshirts, it isn't completely undeserved. My boyfriend and I are both wearing American Giant sweatshirts this very minute, and both like them a whole heck of a lot more than any other sweatshirts.
posted by mjcon at 6:24 PM on February 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Paul Graham on how PR firms feed stories to journalists (written in 2005, before online media had gone fully mainstream).
posted by mbrubeck at 7:37 PM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

It *was* hard to get initially, when those stories were written. I'm quite sure those were not paid placements. Yes, PR firms constantly pitch stories, but people pick up things that are interesting; trust me, many hundreds of other products were unsuccessfully pitched to the same writers who covered the sweatshirt (maybe even in the same day). Making the ultimate sweatshirt is both a perfect example of a contemporary Silicon Valley startup and a fun news hook, I think. And it's a genuinely great sweatshirt, and something the Wired-reading crowd might truly want to buy. On preview, what goingonit said.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:57 PM on February 14, 2016

Yeah, when the stories were written you couldn't even buy them on eBay. I tried because my husband thought they sounded so awesome. He is really tired of his clothes falling apart and really wanted to support this business model and make it successful. If he could just buy a couple hoodies every decade and wear them and have them stay nice he'd be a happy camper, and it sounded like their ideals were in line with his.

My husband now has a handful of those hoodies and they are indeed hardy as fuck. He loves them and I hate them because the fabric is so damn thick we have to put them through the dryer three times to get them dry, and I usually do the laundry. There is definitely a very noticeable difference in build quality between American Giant hoodies and pretty much any other clothing we own.
posted by town of cats at 11:25 PM on February 14, 2016

Best answer: Apparently, the tactic of keeping a waiting list artificially long is the next big thing in marketing. Not true of course - and the idea of artificial scarcity and veblen goods - have been around for a while.

In this particular case the story starts with Launch Squad - who apparently became clients of American Giant back 2012. They explain broadly what they did at that link. The general idea of taking what is normally an easily produced commodity, producing a super-high end version of it and then using the slower production times that necessitates as a scarcity story for the press is clever - but not novel.
posted by rongorongo at 1:05 AM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Huh. Usually when I want to buy a piece of clothing that comes from a place that sells a lot of clothing, like J. Crew, or from a place that is currently talked about by people who talk about clothing, like Everlane, I can fire "[brandname] [clothing item name] review" into Google image search and get a tonne of people modelling it on their blog, posting a selfie from a dressing room, etc.

(This is super-convenient, because it's a lot more useful than just looking at a photo of it on one person, or photos of it on a few people who have been styled and photo-edited to the nines. Highly recommended for on-line shopping for all sorts of things.)

This phenomenon is completely non-existent for American Giant, which tells me a lot about how many people are actually buying these miracle hoodies and how excited they are about the miracle hoodies if they have bought one. (It certainly has nothing to do with scarcity or price; when an "It" shoe or bag is expensive and hard to track down, the people who do end up with them definitely like to tell the internet all about it.) It seems like the only people who were excited, genuinely or otherwise, wrote advertorials a few years ago, and then everybody promptly forgot about the whole thing.
posted by kmennie at 2:06 AM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

The LaunchSquad link above also reveals another part of their strategy: they managed to get Slate to refer to American Giant's products as "the best hoodie the the world". As Paul Graham point out, this is something which probably has a grain of truth: American Gaint may well have believed that their hoodie was the best in the world on the basis of various technical benchmarks. But nobody else would care about that because 1)They would think that and 2)Nobody had previously made any ranking of hoodies - certainly not one that the wider world cared about.

But getting a Farhad Manjoo to repeat this claim in a headline was an massive coup. Now they could cite it and make it appear that Slate had awarded this title only after a rigorous, Wire-cutter-like review process made under tight editorial control (rather than Manjoo parroting some guff about how hard it it to make cotton clothes).

Likewise with Hayley Peterson's claim about the garment being "insanely popular". This tells us that the rate of production has risen ("exploded"!) and that American Giant have expanded their production into 4 new factories. Conveniently missing is any indication of absolute sales numbers, the size of the factories involved, the degree to which the production of the factories is dedicated to American Giant, the comparative performance against other similar garments following their launch - and all the other questions that we would expect a truth-seeking journalist to ask.

Her article does mention that American Giant was offering a $15 referral fee (about 13% of the retail price) to help with its "word of mouth" reputation.
posted by rongorongo at 5:40 AM on February 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's pure marketing genius. Carhartt continues to make the very best hooded sweatshirts, as they always have.
posted by spitbull at 9:11 AM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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