Anticipation — a good marketing technique?

Ketchup Carly Simon and Heinz ketchup made anticipation very popular in the 70’s.  Talk about stickiness of an ad.  I’ll bet that most of us who are 35+ who hear that song immediately on the oldies station think of the slow motion footage of the ketchup hitting the burger. 

A post I wrote about using the power of anticipation to keep a customer’s enthusiasm up during a long sales/delivery cycle prompted a graduate student to write to me.  She’s working on her thesis surrounding the topic of the blend of anticipation and marketing and wanted to talk about some real world examples.

We talked Disney and Apple (the iPhone launch and some of their other long lead time announcements) as well as some others. 

So, now I am reaching out to you, on the student’s behalf. 

Besides Disney and Apple, what companies do you think use a sense of anticipation in their marketing efforts?  Can you give us some specific examples?  It doesn’t have to be consumer or traditional advertising — it could be B to B, web-based, etc.

15 comments on “Anticipation — a good marketing technique?

  1. Mike Sigers says:

    It seems to me that the movie industry is perfecting this technique…at least as well as any other industry, as of now.

    With trailers, blogs and sequential/serial videos, they’re enabling us to build hope and talk ourselves into looking forward to a good movie, even though it isn’t ( did I say cloverfield ? ).

  2. Chris Wilson says:

    After the first book became a success, the Harry Potter series, heightened the anticipation of the books to follow by keeping information about the books scarce. This led to rumors, and high levels of WoM.

    This is a good example of how anticipation depends not only on what you reveal, but what you don’t reveal.

  3. Kelly says:


    How about amazon and their much-anticipated Kindle? They have a little apology up on the homepage right now for creating so much demand that they can’t keep up with it.

    How about Seth Godin and his Meatball Sundae? For weeks before the release he was dropping little riffs on the book in his blog, called Meatball Mondaes. I actually haven’t made up my mind whether there’s enough fresh thought for me to need it, but he did create a Pavlovian response in me… I almost bought it just because it was finally available, nevermind whether I needed it or not (cooler head prevailed).

    Oh, I could probably go on and on, but that’s a couple to get her thinking.



  4. j4london says:

    It might also be interesting to consider an industry that used to be really good at this but has lost the touch: namely, the big American car manufacturers. They used to leak blurry shots of their new models being tested, or parked somewhere covered with a tarp with one corner lifted. The idea was to tease people about what the new models would look like, creating anticipation for the day when they went public.

    In my field (writing and coaching writers) I’d say that the “look inside” feature on Amazon is an aspect of this–by allowing us to sample little bits of the book we anticipate the content of the entire book. It’s also possible (for a fee) to link to a video of the author talking about his or her book and if that message is tantalizing, it can build anticipation.

  5. Mike,

    Yes, I think movies are a great example. I was in San Francisco a week ago and everywhere I went were billboards, bus boards, bench signs etc. written in the first person….aimed at a woman named Sarah Marshall. The messages were things like “I am so over you, Sarah Marshall.”

    Turns out it’s a new movie. Nice campaign….got me to their website.


  6. Chris,

    It also led to lines of people around the block to get at the books right at midnight. I know my family was there in line for the last 4 books of the series!

    Brilliant marketing.


  7. Kelly,

    I have to admit, the Kindle thing baffles me. I would have bet a bundle that it was going to crash and burn. But I saw their apology note too. I wonder if that note will inspire other people to buy it — thinking that it must be worth buying if everyone else already did.

    I do think that certain authors have created enough buzz that no matter what they write, certain people will buy the book just because they wrote it.

    Seth would certainly fall into that category.


  8. J –

    Very true…the car industry used to really tease and play up the new vehicles for the year. It was almost like the Paris fashion industry’s first peek.

    I wonder when they got away from that and why?


  9. Mark True says:


    Having finally found a Wii, after a four-month wait, I’m thinking about a the frustration of that anticipation strategy. The Wii has been out for a couple of years now, and the manufacturers should be embarrassed that they can’t meet demand for the thing. There’s anticipation and there’s holding buyers (parents) hostage.

    I had to wait a couple of hours in line because I wasn’t willing to pay through the nose on ebay, so it wasn’t that bad. What was bad was telling my son that I hadn’t found one…week after week. HE was especially frustrated to see empty display boxes at local GameStop stores when they didn’t actually have any units for sale.

    If you make it hard to get for awhile (a la Coors in the 1960s and 1970s) because of limited or regional distribution, that’s one thing. To simply miss the mark or -worse – purposefully under-produce, you run the risk of really pissing off your customers.

    The product is really cool, but the brand leaves much to be desired, in my humble opinion.


  10. Julie says:

    The question is, how does one create anticipation when one is in the service industry? For example, recruiting?

  11. Mark,

    I agree with you. Wii is anticipation gone bad. While you want to create a sense of demand and almost longing — you also need to be able to fulfill that demand within a reasonable time. The difference between the Wii and the iPhone for example is setting and meeting reasonable expectations.

    Have you found your Wii yet? If not, I’ll keep my eyes peeled. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.


  12. Julie,

    Good question. Is it a particular place in the sales cycle where you feel the lag?


  13. The comedian Lewis Black does an entire skit about how there is nothing better than living in the moment of anticipation.

    I heard it live in concert, and still remember how it inspired me as a marketer to make those moments/products that create the reaction in people. If it makes them as fervent as Lewis in this skit, then you know you’ve hit a home run.

    I think this is the link. Unfortunately I don’t have sound on my work computer, if not Google “Last Laugh 06: Anticipation.”

  14. Thanks Jesse,

    A great reminder that we should be looking in non-traditional places for inspiration and insight!


  15. Eric Gonzalez says:

    Another place you can easily find anticipation marketing is in both Sports as well as the gaming industry. When it comes to sports it’s all about the build up to the event. Examples like a boxing matchup between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor they having teasing at the possibility of a fight for almost two years to build up a longing from the public. Another is Call of Duty in the gaming industry who pushes out little leaks of what the game might look like to build suspense and start rumors and every year it’s one of the most sold games globally. It even has platforms like Sony and Microsoft fighting for exclusivity because who ever controls the exclusive content sells the most consoles

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