In Praise of the Surprise and Delight

I’m a huge proponent of the good ol’ marketing tactic of “surprise and delight.” We see it in many forms these days – across industries and in many different contexts. The problem is that most of these stunts are thinly veiled attempts to promote the brand, which, I think devalues the very reason to surprise and delight a customer or an audience.

I’ve always held to the belief that when we surprise and delight a person or group, we have to do it selflessly. That is, we have to do it with the expectation that we (as a brand) will get nothing in return. The thing is, when you go into it expecting NOTHING is typically when you see the biggest payoff. When you go into it expecting a big return then you are building that into the stunt in the first place, which the typical consumer can smell a mile away.

Surprise and delights are just that – surprising and delighting. They get shared. They get talked about. They are very WOM-worthy. As talked about in the Brains on Fire book (shameless plug) and my former colleague Greg Cordell used to say, “Be famous for the people who love you, for the way you love them.” Or another way to think about it is to become “Fans of your fans.”

I recently stumbled onto what I think is a good start for a surprise and delight campaign with “Honda Loves You Back.” Simply, they saw that a band recorded all of their videos in their Hondas, so they set out to do “everything we can to make them famous.” Here’s the story:

And then, of course, those kids at Coke and their never-ending stream of Happiness. I never get tired of these videos.

Sure, not all of us have the revenue or time to have big Surprise and Delight campaigns. But sometimes the smallest things mean the most. Like picking up the phone and thanking a customer for being a customer. Or sending them to a secret website to pick out a t-shirt for free (and hey, maybe that shirt doesn’t even have your logo on it!) The point is, we’re all capable or it. Surprise and delights put the human factor into all this marketing. And we all know we could use a lot more of that.

Feel free to share a surprise and delight that’s happened to you or one that you’ve heard of. I’m always curious.

9 Comments

  • September 25, 2012

    kai

    My favorite surprise and delight lately was when you sent me a signed copy of your book after I complained that the Kindle version didn’t have page numbers. That was cool of you. Thanks :)

  • September 25, 2012

    Matt McDougall

    The VW “Piano Staircase” always leaps out at me.

  • September 25, 2012

    @deanshaw

    I remember one time a guy sent me 30 Pabst Blue Ribbon beers in the mail for almost no reason at all. It was an awesome surprise ;)

  • September 26, 2012

    Lindsay Bell (@belllindsay)

    Great post – the key to surprise and delights is that they don’t have to be huge and pricey – I wrote recently about a small, personal “surprise and delight campaign” that I experienced recently – brands should take notice. And it involves booze. ;) If I may be so bold to share:
    http://www.lindsaybellonline.com/2012/09/20/booze-and-brand-advocacy-a-social-media-story/

  • September 26, 2012

    Jon Thomas (@Story_Jon)

    I love these.

    I was at a wedding this weekend where two of my closest friends got married. At one point during the night I looked at my wife and told her, “I love love.” And I do. I love love. I love happiness. I love selflessness and caring and seeing people (even brands) opening their hearts to make the lives of other people better, even if just for a moment. I don’t know why we’re not inundated with campaigns like this. Scratch that. I do know why. But I know that those reasons won’t stop the best brands from spreading a little joy in this world.

    Thanks Spike.

  • [...] of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his [...]

  • […] of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his […]

  • […] more, check out Spike Jones’ post on the video and his explanation of why “surprise and delight” is such a powerful word […]

  • […] more, check out Spike Jones’ post on the video and his explanation of why “surprise and delight” is such a powerful word […]

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