Analyzing Fads : What Makes ‘Swag’ so ‘Swaggy’?

30 / Sep / 2015 by Mansi Dawar 0 comments

With the advent of social media especially Twitter & Google, terms “trend” and “fad” are being used interchangeably which is terribly wrong on their part. This is not a play on semantics as there is a marked difference between them. We don’t need to look no further than Music Industry which is originator of most of the fads especially the Swag Fad.

Swag Symbol

“I’m a trend; I set one every time I’m in/ I go out and just come back full circle again/You a fad. That means you something that we already had/ But once you’re gone, you don’t come back/ Too bad–you’re off the map now; radar can’t even find you.” These are lyrics from Eminem album encore and they clearly establish what a fad is and what a trend is.

  • Fad are short term while Trends last for long.
  • Nobody notices when Fads are gone unless the next generation or the generation next to them revive them as Retro Fads while Trend replacement is a long term phenomenon and is analyzed to death.
  • Fads generate instant enthusiasm and sometimes mass hysteria while trends take much longer time to develop but are far more widespread and sometimes evolve into permanent shifts in the ways we live and work.
  • Though both fads and trends begin from the fringe and then capture the mainstream but fads fall away and remain localized to some market segments and demographics, while trends penetrate larger groups with much more lasting effects.
  • Some Fads are byproducts of a broader trend as well. Multiple Fads might give rise to a Trend.

For example Hip Hop music might have been considered as a 1980’s fad when it originated from streets of New York It could have been labeled an early eighties fad given its centrality on the streets of NYC but it proved to be a part of larger urbanization trend in popular culture be it from Fashion, Music, Lifestyle, Movies and much more.

In marketing parlance we can define a fad as a practice, product, or interest which is fueled by tremendous hype and followed by a deep decline. They usually tend to be isolated to a few market segments and demographic groups and self -contained but with the advent of real time social media they tend to engulf multiple demographic and market segments and catch fire instantly sometimes overnight.

Exploring areas like fads is very relevant these days for brand marketers as you are trying to find out the reason of existence of something which might not exist for a long time or might fuse with other fads in a larger trend. This blog is directed towards exploring Fads. ‘Swag Fad’ has been used as an example to study the Fad phenomenon.

Can you recall the first time you heard it? I certainly can’t, but we can still bet on this that the word has conquered the digital sphere in entirety. It took over the slang word “yolo” which was the most used word or hashtag on the internet and also competed with other words like ‘Bae’, ‘TBT’, ‘AF’ etc.

Originally derived from the Scottish slang word ‘Swagger’, which was used to describe the way some Scotts walk, the word is now misinterpreted by the English as “the way someone represent themselves”. Jay-Z sampled his lyrics around ‘swagger’ in 2001 and used ‘Swag’ very prominently in 2003, making it appear that he was the inventor of this word, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the word started to resonate with masses, and it really caught fire in 2008.

I can bet there was a time, or maybe still it is, where on every other Instagram or Facebook post you come across hashtags saying #swag. Tons of memes have been created around this word as well. Let us take a number centric account of the ‘Swag Fad’.
Let us take a further deep dive into this fad and try to answer these fundamental questions-

What Makes ‘Swag’ So ‘Swaggy’


Why Is It Getting Such An Obnoxious Amount of Attention

Fad can be easily categorized into following phases-

1. The Beginning “Fad Setting”

Somewhere I feel that Hollywood / Bollywood / Tollywood (Music & Entertainment Industry) influence a lot of the stuff that is going around particularly among the young audience and are fad setters for most of the fads going around. Musicians vie with each other to use crazy phrases which haven’t been used before and youngsters pick them in no time as ‘sounding’ cool has become a norm.

If youngsters are not aware about a fad they are dubbed as un-cool. If you have a look the Google Trends for swag in India and analyze the top related words used in context of ‘swag’. You can easily notice the usage of this word specifically in songs, which is particularly observed in Punjab region.

Related Searches                                                          Regional Interest

swag1          swag2

So we can easily infer that most of the fads or Fad setting is a derivatives of a particular Industry.

2. Crossing the Threshold “Fad Following”

A fad only becomes a fad when it has reached a certain threshold of acceptance amongst the target group and can be vividly seen in everyday lifestyle of target group.

For example Swag has become akin to a cultural phenomenon to define their rebellious or don’t give a damn attitude among the teenagers. Once a FAD crosses a threshold level of acceptance it becomes an essential part of everyday Kinesics (body language).

Below is a graph which indicates how vigorously ‘Swag’ has been searched on the internet in India, and the results are not up for dispute as the searches have grown from sub 60K/month in Sep 2013 to 230K in Aug 2015. That is a whopping 4 fold increase in a span of 2 years. Now that is like crossing the threshold “Fad Following”.



Among few boys, the interpretation is somewhat like this- ‘Break a girl’s heart: shame on you, breaking a girl’s heart twice: Swag! Moreover, as majority of boys try to indulge in these newly invented kinesics, though I personally believe that the so called swaggy lifestyle will definitely lead to them being dubbed as a slapdash artists but not make them more like a real man who are trend setters. The word also bagged an entry in Lake Superior State University’s 40th Annual List of Banished Words. (See:

Cool Inference: Ever wondered why only entertainment industry had to grovel after ‘popular slangs’? Because “Swag never got affiliated with sports, as the nature and attitude of winning is the antithesis of an attitude formed by ‘swag’.

3. Spreading out beyond Fad Setters & Fad Followers

The real test of how strong a fad is can be determined by analyzing the geographical reach and spread of a fad. Though it takes time for a fad to cross borders but with the advent of real time social media these boundaries have diminished totally. The advent of hashtag has also fueled the spreads of Fad. This can be explained by a live example.

Let us ponder at the two self-explanatory graphs below. The word “Swag” caught fire in United States around the year 2009 and witnessed a massive peak around 2011, which is the same time period when the word caught prominence in Indian context as well. That’s the sorcery of internet!




United States

4. The Fad Fall

What goes up comes down. In the case of Fads it is even more apt as they either disappear after basking in limelight for shirt times or are coalesced into a broad trend.

I will explain it through an old example from Non Digital era


See the how alarming the Fad Fall stage of Rubik Cube Fad turned out to be. It is instant ain’t it.


Fads can be a goldmine for Brand Marketers if they are identified in First 2 stages (Fad Setting & Fad Following), see how Brands are capitalizing the Selfie Fad. Ohh a small correction we can’t still call Selfie Phenomenon as Fad as it is still going strong and it isn’t fizzling out in near terms but it still can be reference point on how if a fad can be identified in early stage can be a marketing nirvana for Brand Marketers. Other than at tactical level

They can tap this insatiable desire of masses to connect with a fad in their digital campaigns
Tie up with the artists or personalities who are seen as poster child of these fads, and launch co-branded products or limited series offerings.

Content marketing efforts especially in form of memes, trolls, funny pics can help you connect with Fad Followers.

Audience react to Fads very positively and if there can be an analytical approach to use the Fad Phenomenon to increase your brand presence, brand visibility, brand amplification or good old sales then why not? Fads get the attention because we give it. We are the social media. And who doesn’t want to be gain hype on all such platforms? You’d be lying if you say No!

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