What Do You Expect?

On this day in 1805, Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson kicked some Napoleonic butt when he soundly defeated the combined navies of Spain and France at the Battle of Trafalgar.  The British were outnumbered 33 ships to 27, but managed to rout Bonaparte’s fleet – sinking 22 of them in the process and not losing a single vessel themselves.


Just minutes before the decisive battle began, Nelson ran the following message up his flagship’s mast, for everyone in his command to see:  “England expects that every man will do his duty.”  No exhortations to be brave, or win one for the Gipper, or attempts to psych up the men or whip them into a murderous frenzy; just a simple reminder of what was expected.

It sounds simple to do what people expect most of the time, but it isn’t always in marketing.  And most of the time, people don’t like not getting what they expect.  (There are exceptions of course, like surprise parties, twists in plot, stumbling on a beautiful patch of flowers in the woods, etc.) 

If you pick up the phone, you expect a dial tone.  If something newsworthy happens, you expect it to be covered in the local paper.  If your bar is a cozy place with wood paneling and British paraphernalia on the walls, you expect it to have good scotch and a variety of imported beer.

You could think about what people expect from you before you decide what to give them.  Or, from a marketing perspective, you can decide what you’re going to give people, then work to make sure they expect it.



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