A few weeks before the 1994 movie, The Lion King came to theatres, my son and I went to the movies. The theatre aired the 90-second trailer of this new Walt Disney film. Elton John’s The Circle of Life played in the background. All the animals of the wild kingdom gathered at the base of a high mountain. The baby lion cub, Simba, was triumphantly lifted into the air before hundreds of adorning animals as the preview ended in an emotional crescendo. My son and I turned to each other, now both of us in tears, and said: “We gotta see that movie!”
The power of trailers is everywhere in our lives. Most church service begins with a “get ready for” procession. Who can forget the heart-tugging music of Pomp and Circumstance as new graduates march in wearing colorful robes and mortarboards, the overture of a symphony, the appetizer before a gourmet meal, or the foreplay of samples in an upscale grocery store? Most weddings begin with the “ritual of seatings” before the main event launches with the emergence of the bride on her father’s arm. And we stand for the National Anthem before most athletic events. So, where are the trailers for great customer experiences?
I served as a consultant to Manheim Auto Auctions, at the time, the largest auto auction company in the world. On bi-weekly auction days, open only to wholesale buyers and sellers of vehicles, millions of cars were auctioned off in their hundred-plus auction sites throughout North America. Imagine an auction house that could auction off sixty cars a minute using thirty auctioneers in thirty lanes selling two vehicles a minute for six hours straight.
Their trailer was in their lobbies, where buyers arrived to register for the auction and get a badge that identified them as eligible for entry. Most buyers had done their pre-sale homework and were looking for specific cars to buy, typically destined for used car retail stores. A unique car was on display in the lobby. Customers might get to sit in an antique Rolls Royce, a retired Secret Service van (complete with cool tactical gear), or a famous race car from an Indy 500. Famous car scenes from movies like The Cannonball Run, The Fast and Furious, or Days of Thunder played on a giant screen.
Trailers set the tone for the customer experience and outcome that follows. Done well, they attract, intrigue, and most of all, invite. They serve as an anticipatory set designed to shape expectations, elevate enthusiasm, and prepare the customer for the service climax–the fulfillment of a need, hope, or expectation coupled with a delightful memory customer cannot wait to share. So, start your customers’ encounters with a trailer and watch a noticeable increase in their consumption, commitment, and compliments.