Baseball, Your Business, and the Art of Anticipation

by Ken Mueller on January 26, 2012 · 16 comments

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The other night we watched Moneyball in our house (great movie, by the way. Highly recommended) and I got the itch.

It happens about every time this year. Even though we haven’t had the Super Bowl yet, the football season is pretty much over for me (read: Eagles fan. ’nuff said). But when it comes to sports, baseball is my first love, and I anticipate the start of the season in a way that other sports can’t even begin to compare.

And I’m not alone. On Twitter and Facebook I see my friends who are good (Phillies fans) and those on the dark side (Yankees, Braves, Mets fans) all pining away for opening day.

The countdown actually begins sometime in the Fall, but mostly in early winter as we ask the question:

How long until pitchers and catchers report?

We scramble to the Internet and find the answer for our particular team (Just about 3 weeks from now if you’re keeping track. And I am.) It’s that landmark moment when we start to see things improving. In mid-February, pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in the warmer climes of either Florida or Arizona, and the rest of the players follow a few days later. It may be the dead of Winter and bitter cold, but baseball is just around the corner.

And perhaps that’s part of the charm of our National Pastime.  The start of baseball season coincides with the change of seasons from the cold, dark, bleakness of winter (at least here in the northeast) to the new birth of Spring.

Anticipation. It’s an incredible marketing tool. It’s why baseball’s preseason is much more of an “event” or “experience” than the preseason of any other sport.

The business that can build anticipation into it’s marketing and culture will do well. This is something that Apple does well, as fans eagerly anticipate every announcement from on high about new products. It’s something that Google has done well, as they released new beta versions of their products to a limited audience and we waited for our invitations.

I’ve seen local restaurants do this with their daily features. One client of mine has an entire email database dedicated to their soup of the day. They also have special updates on their Facebook page and a special page on their website for the soup of the day. Why? They discovered that the phone rang off the hook each morning at all 20 of their regional locations, as people wanted to know the soup of the day. The right soup would determine where they went to eat on their lunch break. My client was wise enough to take that as a cue to put that information online. It meets people’s needs and cuts down on the calls. And people eagerly await that email or Facebook post (which always gets a lot of comments, including people responding by asking when their particular favorite will be served).

Anticipation.

It’s what Heinz Ketchup did as they built a campaign around a Carly Simon song. Because we all know that there are those things that we eagerly await, and yet we feel they are worth the wait.

It won’t work for every business, but if you can build anticipation into your business model and marketing, it can be wonderful. When people eagerly anticipate something, it’s because it’s more than a product. It’s because we’ve learned to turn our products into experiences and lifestyles.

And now, I’m eagerly awaiting the day that pitchers and catchers report. I await the first game of Spring Training, and I await the first game of the season. Baseball, for me, is more than a game. It cultivates anticipation. It’s a game filled with something special, or as author W.P. Kinsella says, something “magical”. Why do I anticipate baseball so much? It’s the game of my childhood, and to me, it’s the perfect game, despite its imperfections.

In order to understand what it is that I feel, I close with this lengthy excerpt from Kinsella’s “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” :

“Why not baseball?” my father would say. Name me a more perfect game! Name me a game with more possibilities for magic, wizardry, voodoo, hoodoo, enchantment, obsession, possession. There’s always a time for daydreaming, time to create your own illusions at the ballpark. I bet there isn’t a magician anywhere who doesn’t love baseball. Take the layout. No mere mortal could have dreamed up the dimensions of a baseball field. No man could be that perfect. Abner Doubleday, if he did indeed invent the game, must have received divine guidance.

“And the field runs to infinity,” he would shout, gesturing wildly. “You ever think of that, Gid? There’s no limit to how far a man might possibly hit a ball, and there’s no limit to how far a fleet outfielder might run to retrieve it. the foul lines run on forever, forever diverging. There’s no place in America that’s not part of a major-league ballfield: the meanest ghetto, the highest point of land, the Great Lakes, the Colorado River. Hell, there’s no place in the world that’s not part of a baseball field.

“Every other sport is held in by boundaries, some of absolute set size, some not: football, hockey, tennis, basketball, golf. But there’s no limit to the size of a baseball field. What other sport can claim that? And there’s no more enigmatic game; I don’t have to tell you that. “

Anticipation is built on a sense of wonderment and mystery.

How are you building anticipation into your business model and your online marketing?

 

 Baseball, Your Business, and the Art of Anticipation
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15 comments
sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

We have customers who specifically had us design their CMS so they could focus on daily specials! I agree, if you have the right product you can reap the benefits! And, if you use your website well, you can meet client demands without loosing precious time answering all those phone calls!

Anticipating baseball her always meant the much anticipated warmer Chicago weather. However, now my 10 year old pitcher plays travel baseball in addition to travel hockey & he hasnt really stopped playing baseball all winter (indoor practices), so I am a little jumbled by that. It has had me itching for spring earlier and more than normal, even though so for we have had a mild winter!

TomBLogue
TomBLogue

@LizJostes @kmueller62 You mean because he writes interesting stuff, or because we're both so darn good-looking? Probably both, right?

LizJostes
LizJostes

So where do Cubs fans sit in your "good" to "dark side" range?

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

I really would have expected a Carly Simon video at least...

I agree, Ken. Anticipation is a powerful tool, when understood and used to your advantage. I have a restaurant client as well, who after months of training now gets that their patrons are dying to know what their daily specials are - before lunch! We used to manage their FB account only to have a 'word of prayer' with their manager and owner about timeliness of information. Sending us the specials at 1pm the day of doesn't do it; the anticipation advantage has moved on to other venues. Today, they manage their account themselves, with us providing weekly input/strategic oversight and it's AWESOME. They get it. They are rocking and fully using the anticipation factor to their advantage.

Great examples!

CheriLesueur
CheriLesueur

@kmueller62 I am not a huge baseball fan but I like you message and Moneyball was a great movie

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@sydcon_mktg That's one of the selling points of social media and websites for me: if you use them well, they not only aren't a time suck, but they can save you time, and money.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes Oh, I can't hate the Cubs. The Cubs and the Phils have had a lot in common, up until the past few years. I have a soft spot for the Cubs and would love to see them win it all some day.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@EricaAllison I toyed with the video, but didn't want to be TOO predictable. And we could probably sit down and brainstorm all sorts of ideas to build anticipation into the business models of just about every type of business. The restaurant and entertainment sorts of venues seem to be the obvious ones, though.

kmueller62
kmueller62

@CheriLesueur thanks, I appreciate that. and yes, I think even non-baseball fans will like that movie

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

@KenMueller@LizJostes Oh come on now, Ken, be reasonable! Did you happen to see the HBO documentary about Derek Jeter's 3000? My son was clued to it. I normally dont like that stuff, but I even enjoyed it! Prior to my son switching to travel ball, hubby was always his coach & they were always the Yankees! This from the Irish Chicago kids who were born Cubs fans!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Baseball season is here. My favorite time of the year. And every spring there are a few movies that I like to watch in preparation for the season. One of those is Field of Dreams, which is based on one of my favorite novels, Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. [...]

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