The Power of Anticipation in Changing Consumer Behavior

The Power of Anticipation in Changing Consumer Behavior

The power of anticipation pervades all aspects of human decision-making and consumer behavior. Anticipation is the missing ingredient of marketing. It is the coming attraction to brand experiences and an active force that contributes to marketing’s bottom line. I highlight the under-appreciated role of anticipation and diverse ways it will be changing the future of marketing, branding, and business!

“Anticipation is rapidly becoming one of the most relevant, value generating forces in marketing and brand building.”


The famous Pavlov dog experiment vividly illustrates the power of anticipation. Though classical conditioning, Pavlov’s dog learned to anticipate food at the sound of bell (Pavlov, 1941). Good marketers try to replicate these stimulus-response contingencies in the real world through conditioning an anticipation at the onset of an advertisement or brand logo. From a stimulus response perspective, behavior hinges on anticipation.


In addition to stimulus driven behavior (environment or socially cued), goal driven behavior also requires anticipation. Before pursuing a goal, it requires anticipating the outcome or reward of performing a behavior. For example, if my goal is to lose weight it requires anticipating the outcomes of eating different foods. Stated differently, we will eat foods that we anticipate will satisfy our weight loss objectives. Simply put, anticipating outcomes of our actions is a prerequisite to achieving goals.


People derive value from anticipation. Whether we are salivating about our dinner plans for this evening or excited about an upcoming Disney vacation – anticipating future events is a direct source of value (Loewenstein, 1987). Anticipating, otherwise known as savoring, is not only a source of value for consumers (e.g., thinking about vacation can make a vacation more fun) but it also can change decision-making. In fact, the consumers may enjoy anticipating (savoring) so much that it can delay a purchase decision. This is known as “Hypobolic Discounting“.


To be successful in any competitive sport requires anticipation. In baseball we anticipate the baseball trajectory, in football we anticipate the next play the offense will run, and in chess we anticipate our opponents next move. The best thing about anticipation is that it is learnable skill. In fact, anticipation is what separates top performers from beginners (Agliot et al., 2008). Experts are able to anticipate their opponents moves. They have a six sense that gives them a competitive advantage. Remember as the wise Wayne Gretzky once said…

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been” – Wayne Gretzky


In a rapidly changing world with tons of uncertainty we experience and anticipate affective responses when navigating future events. In other words, we not only feel emotions here and now, but also anticipate emotions that we will feel in the future. Should I approach the women at the bar? What if I buy her a drink? What if I invest in bitcoin? How will I feel if I eat this cake? Emotions are anticipated with the certainty of future events which influence human behavior (Baumgartner et al., 2008).


For businesses to innovate they are required to anticipate customer needs. The best innovators continuously think beyond the present (anticipate) to imagine and implement new products and services to serve customers better (Kandampully & Duddy, 1999). Anticipating customers’ future needs provides the edge in business innovation. Steve Jobs highlights the value of anticipation…


Can you imagine a writer, speaker or film director who never anticipated their audience? Effective communication is inextricably linked to anticipating our audiences to determine what we should say (Swarup & Gasser, 2007). The best speakers, writers, moviemakers and leaders are simply experts in anticipation. Expert communicators captivate audiences, write best selling books and influence masses by anticipating their audience before acting. They begin with the end in mind.


Relationships, commitments, and social interaction are rooted in anticipation. If someone asks you to loan them $10, most would anticipate if we would get paid back. All relationships require some form of trust and trust involves anticipation. Whether we are cheering up a friend, closing a sale, or trying to impress an audience we anticipate how others will feel, perceive, understand and react. Relationships and dynamic social interaction require anticipation.


  1. Anticipation precedes all action.
  2. Anticipation impacts consumer decisions.
  3. Anticipation is a source of customer value.
  4. Anticipation can be a businesses competitive advantage.


Just because your strategy has worked up until now doesn’t mean that it will work in the future.

Interesting in Applying Anticipation?? –


  1. Agliot, Cesari, P., Romani, M., & Urgesi, C. (2008). Action anticipation and motor resonance in elite basketball players. Nature neuroscience.
  2. Berns, G. S., Laibson, D., & Loewenstein, G. (2007). Intertemporal choice–toward an integrative framework. Trends in cognitive sciences.
  3. Baumgartner, H., Pieters, R., & Bagozzi, R. P. (2008). Future‐oriented emotions: conceptualization and behavioral effects. European Journal of Social Psychology.
  4. Elsner, B., & Hommel, B. (2001). Effect anticipation and action control. Journal of experimental psychology: human perception and performance, 27(1), 229.
  5. Kandampully, J., & Duddy, R. (1999). Competitive advantage through anticipation, innovation and relationships. Management Decision.
  6. Kunde, W., Elsner, K., & Kiesel, A. (2007). No anticipation–no action: the role of anticipation in action and perception. Cognitive Processing.
  7. Loewenstein, G. (1987). Anticipation and the valuation of delayed consumption. The Economic Journal.
  8. Pavlov, I. P. (1941). Lectures on conditioned reflexes. Vol. II. Conditioned reflexes and psychiatry.
  9. Swarup, S., & Gasser, L. (2007). The role of anticipation in the emergence of language. Springer.
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