It's been three months since the season finale of your favourite tv show and they've just announced the new season is to be released next week. You've been reading the forums for any clues as to what is expected and you've even watched the teaser trailer several times for any easter eggs you may have missed. You circle the date on your calendar.
When the big night finally arrives.
You and your friends wait impatiently for the new episode. You have your snacks piled high and the room is filled with eager chatter about what might happen next.
When the opening credits start to play everyone goes silent and….
Anticipation is a key stage in happiness. In a 2010 psychological study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, participants were asked to rate their happiness Pre Holiday, Holiday and Post-Holiday. The results found that planning or anticipating their trip made them happier than actually taking it.
The French have a verb for the happiness engendered by anticipation: se réjouir. It means to “capture the experience of deriving enjoyment in the present from anticipating the future.” By having something to look forward to, no matter what the circumstances, you can bring happiness into your life well before the actual event takes place. In fact, sometimes the happiness in anticipation is greater than the happiness actually experienced in the moment. If you're still not convinced think about why you love the build-up to your birthday often more than the actual day itself.
Yet, your customers may not realize it, but keeping them in suspense can actually make them love your product even more. Whether you are salivating about your evening's dinner plans or excited about an upcoming trip - we get a natural happiness boost if we are able to consciously build up positive expectations. As anyone who has taken a vacation may know, there are many reasons to not enjoy such as flight delays, covid checks, family squabbles etc. and it's this build-up of positive expectations and excitement that can actually help us overlook any minor hiccups when the reality doesn’t quite measure up to the fantasy. This is why thousands are willing to queue for hours before a new iPhone is launched.
But with great anticipation also comes increased expectations. If your service fails to deliver on your promise, your customers will be even more disappointed than if there had been no hype. You know the feeling when your favourite tv show's first episode is "blah" you might not be so excited to watch the next episode.
So how can you apply anticipation to your business marketing?
One of the best ways to use anticipation is to apply what is known as the curiosity gap. The curiosity gap is based on George Lowenstein's “the information gap theory of curiosity” According to Lowenstein, curiosity is a state that occurs when people can identify a gap between what they currently know and what they would like to know. The best speakers, writers, moviemakers and leaders are simply experts in building anticipation by using curiosity. The trick is to give your audience just enough to entice them to want to know more but hold enough back so that you don’t give everything away. They begin with the audience's reaction in mind - and because of this, they are able to prolong their audience's attention.
A Teaser campaign can help build curiosity. Think Hollywood movies - heck nowadays they even have teasers for their teasers! Develop a launch strategy that shares short previews of the product long before the actual release. Target it to the right crowd, and start a count down.
Apple has mastered this type of anticipation with their launch presentations. They often "leak" product previews well before a launch, teasing their fans with small snippets about the latest iPhone without giving too many details away. In fact, their fans enjoy trying to guess what may be included.
You can try these teaser campaigns to create a buzz on your social media or website. Try creating ‘coming soon’ invitations hinting about your new product or service launch. You can invite authentic influencers, whose fans are close to your ideal target audience and journalists by sending them free samples in exchange for written reviews.
It’s not just influencers who like to get their hands on your products first. Treat your loyal customers to a private soft launch, early access and exclusive discounts - there's no better way to reward your loyal clients than making them feel special.
In my early career at a luxury dinnerware retailer and a month before the Christmas season, I was placed in charge of mailing over 300 catalogues to the store's VIP clientele. This was no ordinary catalogue, it was a coffee book that wouldn't look out of place in Buckingham Palace - in fact, BP had several copies sent to them. Each page was filled with glossy photographs of delicate gold plated china. But what was the cleverest part of the campaign was that it was only sent to the top 300 VIPs on their mailing list a month before any of the products were in stock giving exclusivity to these 300 VIPs to place their orders before everyone else. The added genius of this campaign was that every VIP had their catalogue bookmarked with complementary products based on their previous order history.
The main goal of a teaser is to Get People Talking - People want to be excited, so leverage those feelings. You can hold a few contests or giveaways in the days leading up to your launch, but make sure your content is relevant to your product. For example, if your brand promotes fitness equipment, you could hold a contest for “How many burpees can you do in a minute?”
Curiosity gap vs. clickbait: what’s the difference?
In recent years, the term ‘clickbait’ has been used to describe headlines that made use of the curiosity gap. But there is one key difference between the two techniques.
Clickbait primarily relies on deception to drive traffic. Its publishers don’t care about engagement or trust. They don't care if you read to the end or not - all they want are the clicks and the page views to drive advertising revenue. To ensure you don't lose your customer's trust -when it comes to using the curiosity gap in your marketing communication it is crucial you deliver on your promise. This means making sure your content is valuable and filled with quality content.
A good way to check before you post your content is to ask yourself the following questions:
Does my content align with my brand?
Does my content benefit my audience?
Would I like to consume this content?
Is this content truthful?
Are there any actionable tips, unique insights?
Is there a reason at all to read it?
And finally, don’t give everything away in your first paragraph
Have you ever sat through a movie trailer that pretty much showed you every good clip of the movie so much so that you probably felt you didn't need to watch it?
Your content should be tempting enough to get your readers to want to read, but not so specific that there’s no need for them to read to the end. Sometimes marketers get carried away and reveal too much information before the second sentence. Yes, you need to build anticipation and create some suspense about what you're writing about. You can drop hints, and clues but make sure you leave behind some information to encourage your audience to keep reading.
Anticipation helps consumers get excited about new products and services. When done well, building anticipation can increase demand for your services and build brand loyalty. When you master the art of anticipation and curiosity in your marketing communication strategy, your audience won’t just be hanging on your every word – they’ll be lining up at the door.
At CUCO we help entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, business leaders and team executives communicate their Big ideas and Key business messages that win over their clients and get their audience to lean in.
Plan and deliver memorable presentations and pitches that take your audience on a compelling journey. Make an impact, inspire others to take action and spark conversations.