“That is a real page turner.”
“I was glued to my seat.”
Things you would say when something is suspenseful.
Suspense isn’t reserved for movies, TV, and novels. You can use it in your marketing campaigns as well. Actually, it can be a useful tactic to engage your audience for periods of time.
As humans, we gravitate to suspense for many reasons. The key reasons are our mind wants to worry and it does not like uncertainty. We can use these reasons to better fuel our marketing.
Read on to learn how to use suspense in your marketing campaigns.
Why are we compelled to engage with suspense?
We use suspense to engage our audience.
Our minds crave completeness. Anything incomplete causes us some level of anxiety. That anxiety forces us to engage with what’s causing the anxiety. We have to find closure.
This is why a story will keep us on the “edge of our seat”. It’s why we describe a book as a “page turner”. It’s our natural desire towards closure.
Using suspense is preying on this human desire for closure. This is why suspense is so effective on us.
Naturally, there is a lot of nuance when talking about suspense. Especially if you begin reading about suspense in psychology.
For a marketer, understanding this human desire for closure, and using it in our marketing campaigns, is the core tenant of suspense we should use for engaging our audience.
Download our marketing campaign storytelling template to incorporate suspense in your marketing today.
How to start using suspense in your marketing
We are going to discuss the ways to use suspense in your marketing. This is broken into two categories.
The first category is suspense marketing strategies. The second is suspense marketing campaign tactics.
Suspense marketing strategies
The first area is strategy. Ultimately, using suspense in marketing is a long game. It takes some time to build up the strategy prior to launching a suspense marketing campaign.
To begin working on this long game, there are the two strategies. These are necessary to effectively use suspense in your marketing.
Build emotional connection
The first strategy is building an emotional connection with your audience. Whether this is prospects or customers, getting them emotionally connected to your brand is step one.
To do this, you have to work at building your brand. While growth marketing is popular, there is still value in brand marketing. This branding is your vehicle to creating an emotional connection with your audience.
This doesn’t occur overnight. It should be an overall strategy.
As you build your brand, you can find ways to emotionally connect with your audience on a campaign level as well. Take these small emotional connections as ways to build significance in the minds of your audience.
In order to make suspense work, you have to find ways to emotionally connect with your audience. Your narrative has to have significance.
Marketing strategy incorporating suspense
The second strategy of suspense is incorporating suspense into your overall marketing strategy. To properly build suspense, it has to be incorporated into your overall strategy.
Since suspense is a long game tactic, you have to have a strategy that allows you to build the necessary elements that make using suspense effective.
This means your strategy is building your brand. It is launching campaigns with narratives that get audiences emotionally invested. All these elements take time to grow.
Investing in this over time only works if there is a strategy that makes it possible.
Building these two strategies opens up many options for tactics.
Suspense marketing tactics
As you begin planning marketing campaigns where you want to create an element of suspense, there are a few tactics you can use.
We will go ahead and discuss three potential tactics you can use to create an element of suspense in your marketing campaigns.
Hint early to create anticipation
The first tactic you can use in a marketing campaign is to hint early to create anticipation. This tactic works great for product launches.
For launching a product, you can begin hinting there is a new product coming. Then, leak information about the product that will be launched. This begins to create anticipation and suspense around what is going to be launched.
Apple are masters of this tactic. Regularly, they will “leak” an early version of an iPhone. They do this by having someone leave the iPhone in a public place so it can be picked up and shared.
This creates a media frenzy around the potential design of the new iPhone. Which, generates huge anticipation from their loyal audience who are all emotionally connected to the brand.
Find ways to hint early about what will happen and use anticipation to create an element of suspense in your marketing campaign.
Create narrative based marketing campaigns
Another tactic to building suspense in marketing is using a narrative in your campaign. This is basing the campaign around a story, or a series of stories.
This can look like content that is broken out into episodes. For example, detailing a customer’s journey in a series of stories.
Another way this can be used is through a series. For example, HubSpot wrote the “Customer Code” as a series of stories. Once you began following the series, there was a desire to complete the series. This triggers our desire for closure.
The idea behind creating a narrative is to use a story that connects with your audience. Get them emotionally invested. Then, utilize the components of suspense to keep them engaged.
The only thing left is to determine the marketing campaigns narrative.
A great way to create suspense is to utilize a competition. This is the tactic that sports get to benefit from. Each sporting event has the suspense of competition.
Who is going to win?
Another example of creating suspense from competition is when Jimmy Fallon had a drum off with Will Ferrell and Chad Smith. This created a lot of anticipation for the event, it was funny, and generated some suspense of what is going to happen.
Creating competitions is a great suspense marketing tactic that is sure to keep your audience engaged.
Using our suspense marketing strategies and tactics, you can easily begin executing marketing campaigns with an element of suspense.
Suspense marketing case studies
Now that you how to use suspense in your marketing, we should take a look at some great brands incorporating elements of suspense marketing.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you understand the anticipation of everything Harry Potter.
For me, when the original books were coming out, I would get the new copy the day they came out. I didn’t necessarily wait in line, but I knew plenty of people who did.
Then, when the Harry Potter play came out, there was another frenzy of waiting in line to see the show in London.
For that, I did wait in line to get tickets. The line just happened to be online.
Harry Potter is an excellent story. As a brand, it has had the ability to strongly connect with its audience. Such that when there is something new, the suspense is huge. People anticipate new products and everything Harry Potter.
Harry Potter started with a great story and connected with its audience. Now, it uses that connection to provide more of what the audience wants.
Chubbies is a men’s shorts brand. Their start came from designing shorts that were short. Tired of wearing shorts that went below your knees, Chubbies designed shorts at a length that was popular in the ‘80’s.
“Skies out thighs out” is the line.
What they did was not just create a new pair of shorts. They created a brand that emotionally connected with their audience. One that was based around nostalgia of the way your father wore shorts. Then, used some humor to go with it.
That emotional connection has served them well in their strategy. Now they have a strategy of new releases of shorts that power their business. By using the emotional connection, they have built with their brand, they have the attention of their audience to engage with their new releases.
This is another example of anticipation being used. But, it’s built on the foundation of a brand that an audience is emotionally connected with.
Who knew sneaker releases would garner lines waiting to pick up their new pair?
Well, Nike is quite famous for its loyal fans lining up to get their new sneakers. A big one being the Air Jordan’s. Nike has created a following and regularly uses anticipation as a suspense tactic in their new sneaker releases.
Nike is well known for being a branding company. And, they are masters at it. Having built a brand with a loyal following, they can use suspense in their marketing campaigns.
They are a great example of what marketing tactics are available for brands that take the time to make a connection with their audience.
Target and Vineyard Vines
In 2019, Target ran a collaboration marketing campaign with Vineyard Vines. The campaign was a collaboration for a limited time.
While Target has an emotional connection with its shoppers, they were able to use that significance to create suspense with a limited time collaboration campaign. They did this with a summer collection with Vineyard Vines.
This goes to show, with a sense of urgency and anticipation, you can create suspense. For their campaign, it was a huge success. There was significant press and they rapidly sold out of the collection.
This is a great example of when suspense works.
Suspense marketing can be a great strategy. Understanding why we engage with suspense, what makes something suspenseful, and how we can use it in our marketing are great places to start.
With this, you are armed with thinking about how you can begin to incorporate this into your marketing campaigns.
The mind wants to worry. As marketers, let’s give it something to worry about.