Whether it is a Dell computer, Disney World vacation, or can of Coke customers acquire value in 3 ways: 1) anticipating the purchase/experience, 2) consuming/experiencing, and 3) remembering the experience. The customer experience, where customers derive pleasure and acquire utility, extends far before and long after physically consuming a product/service (Baucells & Bellezza, 2017). We discuss the how these 3 keys contribute to the customer experience and ultimately to a brands bottom line.
Anticipation is the missing ingredient of marketing. It is the coming attraction to brand experiences and an active force that contributes to marketings bottom line. Research shows the anticipation is a source of value in addition to the actual experience itself (Loewenstein, 1987). In some experiences, anticipation can be the biggest source of customer value. Take for example a Disney vacation, the moment the trip comes into awareness, which can be be months before the actual trip, the pleasure process begins.
Anticipation value is captured in the form of savoring or in some cases removing dread. By thinking, planning and anticipating the entertainment, Mickey, and the magic about to happen provides pleasure. This time period prior to consumption is spent savoring and is a source of value.
The Power of Anticipation
The anticipation value of thoughts about experiences can sometimes outweigh the value of the physical experiences. This was demonstrated in classic study where Maurice Farber (1953) had students rank days of the week. Despite students having classes on Friday, they ranked Friday’s above Sunday. Apparently, Sunday is marred by anticipation of the approaching week of classes.
Anticipation is an active force that influences the overall utility and once understood and managed it can become one of the most relevant, value generating forces in your marketing efforts.
Many are familiar with consumption value (e.g., purchase, usage). It is the heart of a brand experience where customers derive instant utility and becomes an anchor for future value (Kahneman et al., 1997). Two important questions arise concerning consumption value: 1) where in the experience customers derive value, and 2) how much value.
1. Where in the experience do customers derive value?
Any trace of our past memories will illustrate we forget most of what we experience. What people tend to remember are the peaks (high intensity points) and ends of experiences (Fredrickson & Kahneman, 1993). For example, my Disney experience may ultimately be remembered by seeing Cinderalla’s Castle for the first time or the pain of leaving the parking lot.
2. How much value comes from consumption?
The time spent consuming can be small relative to the total value customers attain. Research shows much of the pleasure we experience in daily life arises not from physical experience (consumption) but from anticipating the future or reliving the past (Elster & Loewenstein, 1992).
For example, Disney world experience may last all of 6 hours, but the time spent anticipating the trip could entail months. Or spend all morning thinking about eating a Kit Kat bar which takes a few minutes to eat. The point is, understand the temporal distribution of utility and how it contributes to the total customer value.
in order to savor an event in the future it must appeal to us in the present.
Create (Less) Memories
Remembering past experiences is the last source of value. Customers can deliberately recall positive memories of the past or brands can facilitate them (e.g., Facebook memories feature, experience memorabilia, reminders). There are 3 reasons why caution should be exercised in creating memories:
1. Most experiences never become memories.
How much can you recall of your past experiences? I have vacationed to Maine for 21 years and what remains aggregates into – amazing beach, killers sunsets, huge waves, mouthwatering seafood, and taffy. Beyond that, I recall very little. Although memories of Maine are not vivid replicates of the experiences, they still have a substantial and lasting impact of appreciating traveling and Maine (learning effect). This learning effect of creating positive abstract memories seems like an ideal outcome for brands.
2. People spend 3x more time thinking of the future (than past).
Most mental activity is in the present and future. Roy Baumeister investigated the content and time dimensions of everyday thoughts and found people spend 3 times more time thinking about the future when compared to the past. Also, when people do think about the past, they proactively used memories to prepare for the future (Baumeister et al., 2015). Thinking is causally oriented toward the future, brands should work with it.
3. Forgetting can fuel repurchase.
I enjoy watching movies and also am very good at forgetting them. The benefit to forgetting movies is I enjoy re-watching them. The quicker I forget the sooner I can re-watch.
This applies to customer experiences. A recently published JCR study showed forgetting can lead to quicker repurchasing (Nelson & Redden, 2017). For example, if I ate a Reese’s candy bar last night, the quicker it dissipates from memory the sooner I am likely to reconsume. Same goes for Mickey Mouse, the sooner memories of Micky are no longer a source of pleasure, Disney can fuel a desire to be relive the experience again. The take-away is customers enjoy things less after repeated exposures and by not helping them remember their experience can help fuel repurchase.
What you should remember about customer value.
- Customer value is a subjective mental experience (not just physical consumption)
- Customer value exists in 3 forms: anticipated, experienced, and remembered.
- Customer value has a motivating function: induce it, maintain it and avoid its opposite, pain.
- Baucells, M, & Bellezza, S. (2017), Temporal profiles of instant utility during anticipation, event, and recall. Management Science,
- Baumeister, R., Hofmann, W., & Vohs, K. (2015). Everyday thoughts about the past, present, and future: an experience sampling study of mental time travel. Manuscript under review.
- Farber, M. (1953). Time perspective and feeling tone: A study in the perception of the days. Journal of Psychology.
- Fredrickson, B. & Kahneman, D. (1993). Duration neglect in retrospective evaluations of affective episodes. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology.
- Elster, J. & Loewenstein, G. (1992). Utility from memory and anticipation. In G. Loewenstein & J. Elster (Eds.), Choice over time (pp. 213–234). New York: Russell Sage.
- Gollier, C., and A. Muermann, (2010) Optimal Choice and Beliefs with Ex-ante Savoring and Ex-post Disappointment, Management Science.
- Kahneman, D, Wakker, P. & Sarin, R. (1997). Back to Bentham? Explorations of experienced utility. Quarterly Journal of Economics.
- Loewenstein, G. (1987). Anticipation and the valuation of delayed consumption. The Economic Journal.
- Nelson, N. & Redden, J. (2017). Remembering Satiation: The Role of Working Memory in Satiation. Journal of Consumer Research.