There’s a fascinating moment in music that grew in popularity over the last decade, though has its origins in 1970s’ rock and has been used to varying degrees ever since. It’s known as “the drop” or “when the beat drops” and it’s all about anticipation, build-up, and eventually, payoff. It’s a technique that produces a ton of excitement in crowds and spans many genres today, from EDM to heavy metal and more.
If you’ve ever attended a live DJ or band performance with a large crowd, chances are you’ve witnessed “the drop” and even felt its effects. The music starts light, perhaps quiet, then builds in volume and intensity until finally—a beat—BAM, an explosion of energy erupts as the song really kicks in!
This effect is all about anticipation. The song isn’t starting with the highest energy and maintaining it throughout, there are levels involved, waves of emotion before the payoff. Building that anticipation makes the payoff all the more satisfying and enjoyable.
According to studies, most people’s brains are hardwired to anticipate positive experiences throughout their feelings of anticipation. This is increased when music is involved, as music tends to increase our dopamine levels. Regardless, creating anticipation around an event is a common and useful marketing technique because of the emotional stimulus it produces. It’s why so much money and effort is put into movie trailers, for example, and you should be using it for your business’s special events.
With the right tools and strategies, bars and restaurants can effectively create anticipation for their events and help ensure guest attendance during them.
To begin, building anticipation around an event is just as much about what you show your audience as it is about what you don’t show them. Think of modern movie marketing. Today, there’s always a “teaser” trailer before the release of a longer, fully featured trailer. In 2015, when Disney was rebooting the Star Wars franchise, they released a teaser early in the year that got people hyped up even though they knew little about the film then. The teaser shows dramatic shots of new heroes and ends with a shadowy reveal of a new villain—lastly, the series-iconic Millennium Falcon sores briefly across the screen.
That was it.
Many months later, the full trailer released and showed more semblance of the plot and the appearance of classic characters Han Solo and Chewbacca. Fans were beyond excited and the opening night broke record sales.
Sure, the franchise name alone certainly drove sales, but Disney’s strategic marketing efforts that left fans speculating about the film added completely free marketing by word of mouth—which, these days, includes social media conversations as well as in-person discussion. Building anticipation increases word of mouth, and speculation over what’s happening translates directly into free marketing.
So, say your bar is going to have a popular musical act play there months from now. You might draw a crowd based on the name alone, but to really get people talking, you can start “save the date” promotions without ever saying exactly what they’re saving it for. Yes, you should let them know it’s a popular musical act of some kind—this will be your “Millennium Falcon” teaser moment, if you will—but let your guests speculate and create some buzz for each other. Closer to the date, when you make the big reveal, people will be elated to learn who it is and get some closure, whether they guessed it correctly or not.
Marketing expert and author Louie La Vella explains using a similar tactic to drive anticipation around a DJ that was performing in one of his nightclub clients’ venues. With the goal to sell out the club for New Year’s Eve, his promotional materials featured a silhouetted figure with a question mark over their face. He then told three promoters about the event, giving each of them a different DJ’s name. Rumors spread and speculation drove excitement and anticipation until it was finally revealed—and quickly sold out.
There are many other examples like this, but you probably get the picture by now. Hopefully you can even drum up some ideas of your own to help boost your events!
I’m sure you’re well aware of how digital signage can improve your sales, but like any useful tool, one has to know how to use it. Building anticipation with clever ads around your venue, especially eye-catching digital signage that’s far noticeable than print ads, is a creative and rewarding way to increase participation in your bar or restaurant’s special events.