The Aura of Anticipation

Courtesy of Hella Bus

Have you wondered why a perceived treat or reward sometimes appear better than they really are? Or experienced the endless wait for a brand new gadget to arrive in the stores, rushing to be the first among your friends to get it? How about the thought of that luscious holiday in Europe, where you can soak in the sights, scents and sounds of culture?

The one thing holding these disparate consumption experiences together is anticipation. An oft-forgotten but oh so powerful emotion which grips everyone of us.

Anticipation is longing for a significant other to arrive at the airport after months away from each other. It is the excitement mixed with dread of opening up one's letterbox/email account to see if one's exams results have arrived. It is the tingly sensation in your tastebuds while awaiting a favourite dish to arrive from a restaurant's kitchen. It is the sweet aroma which hits you as your cake is baking in the oven.

Anticipation is often so powerful that it can override the actual experience. I am sure we have all been to that new club which looked so chic in the magazines but turned out to be a total disappointment. Or the brand new theme park ride which didn't "turn your world upside down and send you screaming your way to heaven".

Despite knowing deep in our gut how significant anticipation is, it is surprising to note how rarely this is used in marketing in Singapore. We have all become so used to "in-your-face" advertisements that we have forgotten the thrill, mystique and nervous fun of a much-awaited purchase. More often than not, price becomes an overriding factor in the marketing efforts of companies, leading to a negative downward spiral of slimmer margins and poorer profits.

Are there ways to harness the allure of anticipation? Here are some ideas to start with.

1) Focus on the entire experience of consumption and not just the tangible product. Often, this takes place from the first point of contact (eg reading or hearing the ad), the journey taken to reach a specific place, and the sensations that goes through one's mind and body before the actual experience.

2) When you describe your product to your customer, use rich, colourful and sensory language that can whet the appetite and tantalise their tastebuds. This applies equally well to cuisine, computers, cars and cruises. Weave the magic of words into your advertising to bring forth the flavour and describe it as tangibly as you can.

3) Put yourself in your customers shoes. If I am a potential "target" for a brand new, state-of-the-art, space-age sneakers, what would be going through my head? How will I react to the different visual, auditory and even olfactory cues that you are presenting to me? If possible, be your own customer every once in a while and see if the physical aspects of your product or service brand is coherent and convincing.

4) Fan the flames of adulation from the word "GO" and sprinkle hints along the way. Tease, taunt and tantalise your target, using tools that may suggest how he or she would feel pre-, during and post-consumption. If you have a product website, don't just provide the product specifications alone but share real-life examples of how others have consumed and celebrated.

5) Make use of all the five senses where possible - sight, sound, scent, taste and touch - and if engage your customer's emotions when opportunity strikes. Use ways to enliven your brand so that you can heighten his or her expectations long before he or she steps into the door.

6) Finally, don't ever neglect the post-purchase experience. While one should build up the anticipation of one's customers to a climactic crescendo, the after-effects should not feel like a severe hangover! If possible, make your customers feel proud to be a part of the special group who came, who saw, and who conquered. Through memberships, forums and communities, encourage customers to share their experiences with like-minded others.

In a world teeming with numerous identical products and services, the only way to stand out is to look beyond the tangible aspects of buying. Surround your products and services with the enriching qualities of anticipation and see the world of difference which it makes.

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