Anticipation is Half of the Reward

Anticipation is Half of the Reward

September 29, 2014

How much time do you spend anticipating a vacation? If you’re like me, you spend some time on TripAdvisor, hang out in the Travel section at Barnes & Noble, and download destination apps on your smartphone. You probably also think about what to pack, do a little shopping, and ask everyone on Facebook for restaurant recommendations.

Summer is just barely behind us, but I’m already planning my next summer vacation. We’re going to Stockholm, Sweden, and for the last few days, I’ve been doing a lot of browsing for a side trip to take from there: Swedish Lapland? Helsinki, Finland? Talinn, Estonia?

Or maybe we should just fly Icelandair and spend a few days near Reykjavik… Truth be told, this is the best part. I love this time of imagining and reading up on places, of looking at flight itineraries, and checking out the specs of the sleeper cars on overnight trains.

It turns out I’m not alone. In the NY Times article, “What a Great Trip! And I’m Not Even There Yet,” Stephanie Rosenbloom reports on recent research showing that travelers are happiest before their trip has even occurred. She writes, “We get an extra happiness boost if we consciously delay any tye of pleasure. Doing this allows us to build up positive expectations, to relish how enjoyable the experience might be.”Rosenbloom tells us “there is an art to anticipation.” She refers to research by Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia, saying access to information and images regarding the destination, “encourages you to not only learn about your destination, but to dream, providing some concrete details for your mind to latch onto.” And this dreaming actually improves our experience on site because – remarkably – we’re less sensitive to little disappointments, as long as the overall experience aligns with our expectations. In fact, talking to people about the upcoming trip extends the experience socially and actually makes people like one another more!

This is something incentive marketers know well. Program communications are incredibly significant. In addition to a clear and accessible rules structure, it is critical to provide images and text that get the imagination going. An eligible participant anticipates the feeling of their toes in the sand the minute they receive the link to the promotional website and land on a page with a white, sandy beach. They begin to anticipate what it will be like to walk across the stage at the awards dinner: hot lights, friends and colleagues applauding, the handshake and photo…  This emotional link to the potential experience helps those participating in the contest to keep the momentum going.

Incentive travel is considered the most powerful reward to motivate a workforce. And anticipation has a good deal to do with that. From the moment they are eligible to compete for the trip, participants are already halfway there in their minds. The constant stream of communications reinforces desirability and accessibility until the day of departure. For the entire contest period, the power of anticipation is leveraged to drive organizational goals. What’s more, upon the return, there is a residual “afterglow” which is carried back to the office and which helps to build the anticipation for the next program.  There’s nothing else like it…