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The Power of Anticipation
By: Ted Curtin
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Some people call it “Holiday Creep.” No, we’re not talking about a Grinch-like creature stealing Christmas or some other nefarious person spoiling the Holidays, but it is wicked, just the same. Once again, brands and retailers alike, in their misguided attempt at one-upmanship, feel they have to get their stores decorated first, their message out fast, and their precipitous discounts out earlier and earlier each year. In the process, we’re slowly killing the most powerful force of all — anticipation.

Brands aren’t the only ones caught up in the mentality of ‘creep.’ You don’t have to look any further than the nightly news to feel like we’re fast approaching a political cycle of endless campaigning. Even the big state caucuses of New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Florida can’t seem to stop playing the game of who goes first.

Much to the dismay of even the most hard-core deal-hunting shopper, Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, known for amazing prices on the hottest items for those willing to brave the weather and crowds on almost no sleep) is now scheduled to start sometime Thursday — Thanksgiving Day! — depending on the retailer. Toys "R" Us, Walmart, Target, and other aggressive retailers, worried they might miss out on the limited consumer retail window in this challenging economic environment, are trying to make sure you’re in their store before anyone else’s. The theory goes that the earlier you get the customer, the more they’ll spend with you and the less money they’ll spend elsewhere.

In the process, the anticipatory nature of the season is lost, and merchandizers are missing the opportunity to emotionally connect with consumers. Brands need to remember that there will always be a competitor willing to make something cheaper, sell it for less, and bring it to market faster. It’s a commodity game that has no real winner and depends on continually discounting rather than adding Value.

British retail giant John Lewis and their ad agency Adam & Eve put a new twist on the idea of a kid who can't wait for Dec. 25. It’s a brilliant ad backed by Amelia Warner singing "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" with a surprise ending that speaks to the greater meaning of the season.

Even in this hyper-connected culture of “NOW”, some brands still understand the emotional currency of expectancy. Apple gets it. Few other brands have mastered the art of building demand through anticipation as Apple has. It’s not hard to picture the late, great Steve Jobs' famous product introduction stage shows. In those eagerly celebrated events, simply announcing what we were all going to be lining up for next became a great source of anticipation and excitement.

So, the Holidays will be here soon and the anticipation is killing me...as long as we don’t kill the anticipation first!

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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