gartner hype graph


“The fact that hype exists doesn’t prove that something is not important.”

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

“love last forever as long as it lasts.”





If you have worked for any period of time you are familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle.

I could debate the word ‘hype’ because I believe it is misused … and I believe the ‘cycle’ is more an overview of the gauntlet you need to run to make it into the 10% or so of idea, brands, products, services or businesses that survive <of every 100 that come to life>.




Suffice it to say the model suggests there is a point where your business gains momentum … or it doesn’t … and once it does … people will inevitably be disillusioned <boy … that was a downer to type>.


Fancy words aside … some businesses take hold … and some don’t. And we can tear apart the successes and failures and identify some principles that at least give you a fighting chance of gaining momentum … but it always comes down to the fickle consumer <or target> … and therefore the Gartner Hype Cycle is simply a model … which is not a formula.


But at least it warns you of what to be prepared for.



The Gartner Hype Cycle helps you think about a business in a world of constant change and adapting that is disruptive from not only a marketing perspective but a whole industry perspective.


The dilemma we face within this reality is that whether such a rapid pace of changes can be accommodated in terms applying new trends and ideas to the day to day practices. What helps in today’s business world is that data and digital tracking tools offer unprecedented opportunities to unleash the creativity, and creative thinking, to adapt on the move.

At the end of the day it’s the combination of insights and creativity that will translate the actions in to a meaningful outcome.


All of that professional blather bleeds into this thing called the Gartner Hype cycle.


The hype cycle <which is a technology adoption lifecycle as it is most used> is a sociological model developed by 3 guys, Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers, at Iowa State University <but Gartner Inc. is the company that made the model popular>.


Basically what it suggests is that people like shit that works <even if they do get disillusioned at some point>. But. That is still no guarantee the business will ever attain long term success.


Here is the Gartner Hype cycle.

A cycle can be broken down into five phases:


–          “Technology Trigger”: the product is actually in market … and you hear about it everywhere. Have you checked this out?

gartner 2 topmodels

TopModels drawing


–          “Peak of Inflated Expectations”: the hype is at its peak.  There is a frenzy of publicity typically generating over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. People start finding flaws and mistakes <and pointing them out>. You hear … “yeah … its great … but …”


–          “Trough of Disillusionment”: the product fails to meet the unrealistic expectations. The not as cool people start using it and buying it. Consequently, the publicity diminishes into silence.


–          “Slope of Enlightenment”: the hype is done and unpaid media is out of the picture. This is when many products drop out of the market. This is also when some businesses rethink the product and come up with new ways to make it relevant.


–          “Plateau of Productivity”: the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. You never hear about it … it just gets used. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the product is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.


On a side note … if you like this crap <stuff> you can find a longer-term historical perspective on such cycles in the research of the economist Carlota Perez.



Interestingly <mostly because most business people discuss the Hype Cycle with regard to technology> the original purpose of the ‘hype cycle’ was to track the purchase patterns of hybrid seed corn by farmers in the 1940’s.serious nonsense give it a try

The adoption lifecycle model describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups.

The process of adoption over time is typically illustrated as a classical normal distribution or “bell curve.”


The model indicates that:


–          innovators – had larger farms, were more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented

–          early adopters – younger, more educated, tended to be community leaders

–          early majority – more conservative but open to new ideas, active in community and influence to neighbors

–          late majority – older, less educated, fairly conservative and less socially active

–          laggards – very conservative, had small farms and capital, oldest and least educated


<interesting to ponder from an overall perspective>


The demographic and psychological <or psychographic> profiles of each adoption group were originally specified by the North Central Rural Sociology Committee, Subcommittee for the Study of the Diffusion of Farm Practices <as cited by Beal and Bohlen in their study>.


<by the way … I would like to point out that while we often say things like ‘everything good has been built in the here & now’ … this sociological study and methodology was developed in late 1940’s into the 1950’s … and it is still good today behaviorally>



gartner hype-cycle-vs-talc-2010Now … as it is part of human nature … lots of people pick apart the hype cycle <although gobs of books have taken advantage of it to make gobs of money … like the ludicrous ‘crossing the chasm’ to name one>.


Most criticism seems to come from people who want a plan-o-gram for human behavior so that they can track it and manage it step by step.



Behavior doesn’t work that way.


The Hype Cycle just indicates a general flow of behavioral activity … and it is a true reflection of this generalization.  In fact … that’s why I called it a gauntlet rather than a cycle.


Specifics and speed?


Always will vary by the category and industry.




Some people just want an instruction guide to follow rather than have to think about how to apply a philosophy. The Gartner Hype Cycle is a nice tool for business thinking … not an ‘etched in stone’ plan to build around <I will get back to that thought later when discussing how Marketing people have mangled this concept>. I would suggest it is a great image of the gauntlet you need to navigate to reach a successful ongoing business.


That’s part of the reason why I get grumpy with the word hype.

Because while this concept is called ‘hype’ … we are actually talking about gartner HYPEbusiness and how people embrace <or not embrace> a product or service. Hype suggests it has some ‘falseness’ to success.



“In my opinion, right now there’s way too much hype on the technologies and not enough attention to the real businesses behind them.”

Mark Cuban



This is all really a discussion on the business of pragmatic behavior <real & sustainable> versus hype <fad or non-sustainable> behavior.


Oddly it almost seems like business is wrapping their arms around the wrong pragmatic aspects … and the wrong hype behavior at exactly the same time.


Constantly being distracted by whatever new technology shiny object is being touted as the ‘new thing’ … while plodding along stagnant on organizational behavior aspects <or organization management aspects>.





Back to the Gartner’s hype cycle.


My gripe with the Gartner Hype Cycle.



Well … it’s not with Gartner nor the cycle … but the marketing world.




Because they act like they actually created the hype cycle. And that they ‘know’ how to navigate the gauntlet. And by doing so they suggest they have perfected the art of hyping new brands & products to insure to becomes cool <or hype worthy>.



In fact.


I call bullshit on this.


There are certainly some principles you can adhere to that increase the likelihood you can live through the gauntlet but there is absolutely no guaranteed formula for doing so. If anyone can guarantee they can pick what will be successful <for sure> and what will be cool <for sure> … there is a job out there with an unlimited salary ceiling.


You cannot.


You create something that works and delivers. You market it the best you can. And encourage some stickiness. And … well … the chips fall as they fall.


expectations reality diagramInstead … what Marketing does is generate <what they fail to tell you>  is the peak of inflated expectations.

In fact … marketing as they tout how to ‘cross the chasm’ set the stage for the inevitable trough of disillusionment.


And an additional irony.

Marketing is now a victim of its own hype cycle dynamics.

What I mean is that it’s the marketer who is the target <or victim> of the hype.


There is always some buzz & hype for some new social media platform, or the use of big data, or for new marketing widget … or worse … some marketing book theory … the list is endless.

And you can chase each of these until you are breathless <or have a heart attack>.


And the rate of new cycles being thrown at marketers is often now so rapid that, even as one or another each run the gauntlet, most Marketers s are creating two or three peaks of inflated expectations at any point in time.


It’s crazy.


Its nuts.


And it’s stupid.


Marketers are supposed to be smart enough to see through hype. Let alone their own hype.


It’s about building a business. Its about having something that is actually worth a shit <it works> and making sure people give a shit <tell them it works in a compelling way>.

And it can all be done by avoiding the ‘hype’ and assuming a position of skeptical curiosity and a willingness to test the practical uses of something new.


And … well … you can take some risks.


And … well … you have to take some risks <this is a gauntlet you know>.


And while I am mentioning the evil word ‘risk’ I may as well mention how we make decisions <both of which get the Gartner Hype Cycle in motion in the first place>.


In a book called “Decisive” the authors outline some wacky psychological quirks in our decision-making instincts.


One of them is our tendency to get trapped in ‘either/or’ decisions.



My head hurt when I typed that.


How often have most of us been in some business meeting where the decision has been whittled down to an “either/or” before anyone can get up to even use the bathroom.


This is called the false dilemma fallacy.


It is avoidable if we recognize this bias because it actually broadens the frame of good possible decisions … leading to considering ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ … or even exploring entirely different options.


In the end.



I closed with the ‘false dilemma fallacy’ for a reason. You are doomed running the Gartner Hype gauntlet if you continue to force ‘either/or’ descion making at every step of the way <particularly in planning>.


Why do I feel comfortable saying this?


Almost 90% of all new products, brands and ideas fail. If making your way through the gauntlet was a simple series of either/or’s … well .. there would be a formula. And if there was a formula you can bet that the success ratio whiould be a shitload higher.


gartner-hype-cycle sagecircle anticipate-and-influenceAnyway.


The Gartner Hype Cycle or what I call the Gartner Hype Gauntlet. Every business person should be aware of it and have it in the back of their head from day one of planning. But you don’t build your plan around it. it simply makes you better prepared for certain curveballs <or sharp deadly objects> you can be certain will be used against you as you weave your way through the gauntlet.



Love is forever … as long as it lasts.


Same for brands.


Think about that.

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Written by Bruce