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Collective Anticipation


Collective Anticipation

17 March, 2022

It even became a talking point on the playground…

Having been injured by a mysterious shooter during a 1980 episode of the TV show Dallas; that November, after eight months of waiting, 350 million people tuned in across 57 countries* to finally find out, who shot JR…

Who shot JR

Oh, I forget who it was now.

(*21.5 million in the UK alone)

Collective Anticipation

You only really see that collective anticipation now with real-life events, such as the news and major sporting events. In 2021, the most viewed broadcast in the UK was the Euros semi-final game between England and Denmark, with 18.4 million people watching the match.

Today, when new TV shows are released, they are dumped on us all at once to devour like hyenas waiting for our next fix. Except our fix is sitting in front of a TV for hours at a time. (This, DESPITE the fact that people keep moaning about how busy their lives are.)

People watch what they want, when they want, how they want.

Of course, when millions of people tuned in together, advertising was more productive. In fact, some adverts ended up becoming the story.

30 million people tuned in to watch the final Nescafé Gold Blend Advert


Personally, I like the anticipation; the cliffhanger ending. I still like waiting a week to find out what happens. I also like the collective nature of discovery.

But, nowadays, we don’t just have three channels on our TV. We are inundated. Audiences are fragmented; distracted.

So, the question is; is there a way where we can still create anticipation? Even better, can we take the concept of anticipation and add it into our own marketing/advertising mix?

Wanting What You Won’t Give

At the risk of repeating myself, the starting point in this journey is focus. In the same way that there are now lots of smaller audiences watching a wider array of shows, not everyone is going to be your customer.

I (once again) reference Seth Godin: here talking about building the ‘smallest viable audience‘. It’s not a quantity game, it’s quality.

You need to know your audience and understand what they want.

It’s also important to acknowledge the effort that is expected of you when it comes to the customer – it ain’t easy. But no pain, no gain, right?

People have choices, they don’t need you. So, what are you prepared to do about that? (More on that in a minute.)

I often chat with businesses about what they would like customers and prospects to do for them in terms of the customer/supplier relationship. When I go on to ask them if they’d do the same for one of their suppliers, they scoff. Go figure.

Customers and prospects don’t care about us – they care about them. They show the same irrationalities that we do as consumers and can turn on a sixpence if it suits. When we look to engage people in 2022, we need to work harder than we had to in 1980. We can’t just run an advert to a rapt audience. People are not sitting, waiting and anticipating.

So, we need to work hard to prove to them why it’s in their interest to connect with us, and, we need to demonstrate what’s in it for them – because THAT is what they care about.

Then, we need to double-down to keep their attention.

Of course, for B2B companies, where the sale can be complex; hoops need to be jumped through during a long lead-time to order. That leaves plenty of time to make a hash of the relationship… or prove to them that they’re making the right decision. The relationship is the sale.

So, what can you do to resonate with the right kind of customer, without harming your margin?

Exclusive Fan-Bases

While I may hanker over cliffhanger endings for my TV viewing pleasure, I realise that some people don’t want that. They are busy forging their agenda, at their pace, at a time that suits them. They’re trying to be an individual because we’re all special these days. (We may be 1 in 7.753 billion, but we all think we count.)

And here is the kicker. It’s our job – while trying to maximise sales – to create scarcity around value. Scarcity creates want. It creates a need.

We need to learn from organisations that do this with brand – Apple, Tesla, etc. They create fans. While we may not have the same budgets or the same type of products, we can create the right circumstances. Whether it’s with our products, our services, our actions, or, our extracurricular activities.

Far too many companies still chase the headline numbers – whether with social media, free webinars, white papers, etc. Tepid content, catering to all, because time-and-time-again the value does not come. The story is a vanilla one; based on a vanilla roundabout; in a vanilla-coloured funfair.

To really hook up with the right customers, your business needs to live up to the reputation you want to sell. The rest is the story you tell.

What you don’t do and won’t do, is just as important as what you do do. And, who you turn away is just as important as who you don’t. Maybe you need a company Bouncer, or two?

If your name ain’t down, you ain’t coming in.


Invest In Relationships

For most B2B small businesses, the relationship is the sale. If your customers create profit and you want more of the same, why would you scrimp when it comes to attracting more like-minded people?

If you are selling a product that makes you a £5,000 net profit, why would you NOT be prepared to invest £4,999 in getting it? Especially on the off-chance, you get repeat business.

Obviously, that spend should be spread across acquisition and the overall marketing package, and, no, I am not trying to get you to spend more money with me (maybe). This is just to get you thinking about how much you actually spend on marketing, brand, staff training, R&D, etc. compared to your expectations.


Digital marketing channels have made us lazy. We dived into a free-for-all trying to attract people through intent only (Google Adwords) and took advantage of easy content publishing on social media. So did everybody else. The ad prices went up with lazy advertising, and the messages got lost in a sea of people clambering for attention.

Small businesses stopped investing in their brands. Do you much put effort into developing your brand, the very thing that differentiates you from the other people in your industry space?

By defining, honing and working a clear brand position, you create consistency and differentiation. You create a story people can engage with. If you are worthy, you can even develop a fan base of loyal followers with shared interests.

You can develop anticipation in your brand because [the right] people know your ‘genre’.


  • Stop being all things to all people. Your brand position depends on it.
  • Create and adhere to a brand vision.
  • Develop your service offering so that it’s great for “some” people.
  • Ditch the people who don’t fit – don’t compromise on the vision.
  • Start (and keep) relevant conversations with the right people.
  • Invest in creating stuff that matches your aspirations.
  • Invest in your people so that your service matches the promise.
  • Focus on the relationship, let the sale happen if it’s right.
  • Delight your audience.
  • Creat anticip…

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