Anticipation Marketing

by TheMadHat on December 28, 2006

Let’s define what I call Anticipation Marketing. It’s essentially the build-up of a product from preannouncement to launch. Let me explain the concept with one of the masters of this method, F/X Networks, specifically with their launch of Dirt starring Courteney Cox.

This show was announced back in April with no date set for release (we now know the show starts in January). After the initial announcement of the show, commercials started running with a lot of frequency but they didn’t really give you an idea about what the show was about. They would just flash up the logo with a coming soon caption. This piqued the curiosity of the viewers. After several weeks of the vague logo commercial, they began to air one with a woman from the neck down carrying a camera. Now we have a little better idea about what the show is about but nothing definitive, but you’re interested. This format carries on throughout the winter with new versions that give us a little more each time. It’s like getting a little chocolate and wanting more.

What this does is keeps the viewers excited and wondering about the show and during the pre-launch stage. If you had seen the full fledged version of the commercial back in April, you might have been unimpressed and decided right then that you weren’t going to watch it. This method keeps your interest throughout until the network can air the show, and you’ll be hooked…assuming that it’s any good.

Taking this online can be difficult and there has not been anyone to do it well. It can be compared to viral marketing, but it isn’t quite the same thing. In most cases of viral marketing, you get the buzz going around a product or service but there isn’t really any buildup or anticipation going on here.

Microsoft made somewhat of an attempt with the launch of their Zune mp3 player, building a vague web site that created some buzz. The final execution was poorly done because nothing ever changed and they didn’t give people any reason to keep checking back, destroying any anticipation that existed.

There are countless “web 2.0” companies out there that have yet to launch their product and are making feeble attempts and building anticipation, but again none of them do it well. Here are some things to make Anticipation Marketing work:

1) Move from the standard one-time success model. The conversion metric for this campaign is return visitors and nothing else. You should be seeing a steady increase in return visits from start to finish.

2) Don’t give away the bank too quickly. If you do there will not be enough anticipation built up and your customers won’t give your product a full examination. This is especially true with new technologies or new ways of doing things. (I think Flock made this mistake)

3) Don’t drag it on forever. There is a point when the anticipation reaches critical mass. Reward the waiting customers then or it will be worse than moving too quickly. People will get frustrated with waiting, abandon you and probably won’t even look at what you’ve got.

4) Be creative. Blog posts that just say you’ve got a ‘cool new widget’ or ‘widget coming soon’ are not going to cut it. You need something attention grabbing that will make people anticipate the release.

5) Don’t be too vague. You can start vague, but make sure you keep giving away some candy or visitors won’t have any reason to return.

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