Building Buzz for Stealth Mode Companies…Can it be Done?

02.23.2011 | Melissa Liton

A few weeks ago I read an article on TechCrunch surrounding a new stealth company called Hipster and how it has managed to gain significant traction without even unveiling what the company does. As a PR firm we work with a variety of companies in various stages, including stealth mode, so I was intrigued to learn how Hipster has created such a splash without revealing any information.

According to TechCrunch reporter Alexia Tsotsis, Hipster, which is rumored to be a  location-based Q&A site akin to Yelp or Quora, has secured “more than 14,000 people [that] have already signed up with little information about the site’s purpose, the first 10K in two days after it launched its sign up landing page.” In addition, the company has received coverage in publications such as the Washington Post, Portfolio.com and Hipster Runoff, and rumors are swirling over a potential purchase from Groupon.

That’s pretty impressive for a stealth company. What makes Hipster different from the thousands of soon-to-be-launched companies in the U.S.? In an email to TechCrunch, Hipster’s CEO Doug Ludlow said, “the service has tapped into some sort of startup zeitgeist.” He adds, “The fact that despite not knowing what we do, people are talking about Hipster being something great for their city means that a lot of people really WANT something that will help them connect with their community.”

So, how did Hipster do it?  They took a unique, creative approach to launching a stealth company, which has proven to be extremely effective in building buzz. Hipster tied the name of the company, which is synonymous with ‘being in the know,’ with a vague landing page to help create mystery surrounding the product. Clearly this intrigued people enough to sign up for an unknown service.

Savvy startups are thinking beyond traditional press releases and embargoed media briefings, and leveraging social media to build buzz and increase Facebook fans and Twitter followers ahead of an official launch. That in turn can help build the business (i.e. signups, feedback from beta users, website traffic, etc.).

We often counsel our clients in taking a tiered approach when it comes to launches – pre, official and post. We outline the objectives and goals for each tier and then build a strategy and timeline that map to these goals.

I admit out of sheer curiosity I signed up for Hipster. Regardless of whether I use the service or not, the buzz surrounding the company is driving people to take action. It will be interesting to see how Hipster fares, and if they can live up to expectations, once it cuts the ribbon.


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Filed under: Consumer, Positioning, Reputation Management, Strategy

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