Create a Crowd—Advertising that is Worth the Wait

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

This is a follow-up to my previous blog, Harness the Power of Word of Mouth, posted on September 10, 2013. Actually I am amending that post where I wrote that the most powerful form of advertising is word-of mouth. Yes, I still believe it still is, but I would like to add “creating a crowd” as a great form of advertising.

Waiting in LineNow this may seem obvious, but many people miss the fact that a line is actual advertising. In fact this is a phenomenal way to advertise a business. When people are waiting for food, more people will want it. It’s almost as if it were contagious.  GENERALLY THE ASSUMPTION IS THAT IF PEOPLE WILL WAIT FOR IT, IT MUST BE GOOD. Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t include food at the ballgame. It just pertains to food in regular restaurants, cupcakes or other short-order items. It might also apply to retail items such as a run on a new style of blue jeans, tennis shoes or a particular “must-have” toy for the holiday season, or tickets for a rock concert, pop star or latest movie phenomenon. When people see a line they are curious and want to find out more. We all want a piece of the action. A line is in your face and it gets noticed.  It’s peaks our curiosity.

Making people “wait” fosters anticipation and strengthens the desire to possess something that we can’t yet have. All of this is part of the psychology behind marketing decisions and our basic desiresmacha green tea sweet donut on white background inherent in the purchasing of non-essential items.  In short, “producing a line” often translates into “positive buzz” and often increased sales.

After I wrote this blog, I actually happened to see a wonderful movie this weekend, called Chef, which illustrates this very point.

Is it not true that sometimes the longer we wait for something and the harder it is to get, the more we desire it? In other words, sometimes, a good marketing strategy can consist of playing “hard to get.”  It’s basically a the law of supply and demand.  If you tighten the supply channel for a product or service already in demand, in many but not all cases, the demand for a product will rise and so can the price.

DonutHaving a new recipe for a specialty item such as donuts, ice cream, or cupcakes can get people to wait in long lines for an item that is normally considered ordinary or commonplace.  We see these lines and wonder what is all the fuss?  We ask ourselves, “Maybe I need to try it to see what everyone is ‘buzzing’ about.”  In other words, I don’t the want to be left out, kind of like jumping on board with a politician who has momentum behind their campaign. No one wants to be associated with a loser but everyone wants to be part of a “winner.”

So the next time you see people in a long line (and not at the bank or DMV), ask yourself, “What is the merchant doing different to generate this type of demand?” More importantly, ask, “What are the unique selling points of their product or service and how does that differentiate and/or make it better than that of the competition?”

Make your customers line up at a visible place and you are sure to generate a following. The big issue is how do you create increased demand and hopefully create a crowd?

Some tips:

  1. Create a completely “new” and never before heard of recipe or formula for a product or service.  It may also be a new process or way of doing business.
  2. Limit supply.  It might be good to run out.  Then you can take orders for the next day.
  3. Create an event around the release of a new product.  This may involve a costly advertising campaign that promotes “anticipation” as well as excitement
  4. Create excitement around the line.  Give people something to talk about.  Generate press releases. Hand out samples and coupons to people waiting in line and hold contests. You might even try providing music and hiring a band to promote the experience. Make it a community experience.
  5. Tie it in with a benefit for a local charity.  Maybe 2% -5 of profits could go to help a local non-profit foundation to give back to the community.  People will feel good about patronizing your establishment.
  6. Maintain consistent quality and value and try to keep it “new” for as long as possible.
  7. Use social media to develop events around a product and excitement.  Sending out Tweets and developing an active Facebook and Instagram following along with a blog will help to get people wondering and may even drive them to your business.

Create a line.  You will create “buzz” and more people may line-up to get your product or service.  It  will be a “crowd-pleaser.”


If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique solution for a promotion or a marketing campaign, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more, please visit

Harlan West is the author of and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

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