In praise of the surprise and delight

This is a guest post from Spike Jones — Group Director of Engagement at WCG and co-author 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 blog.

spikejones-freegiftI’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.”

A while back, I 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 of 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.

About Spike Jones

Spike Jones is a results-proven communications professional, specializing in digital and offline word of mouth marketing. With more than 15 years of experience, the career path goes something like this: Baylor University; a decade at Brains on Fire; SVP of the Customer Experience team at Fleishman-Hillard; Group Director, Engagement at WCG; and now SVP, Managing Director SW Region at Edelman Digital. Spike is also a co-author of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.

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