The Power of Surprise

I got married this September. It was done semi-secretly, so my friends in Singapore did not have opportunity to organize a bachelor party. I thought I was off the hook, but learned to my surprise that you can apparently have a bachelor party although you are already married. I was kidnapped from my morning run to a flight to Saigon. And the rest was history. Luckily all the kidneys are intact, no tigers were in hotel room and no one got a tattoo to a face.

In addition to a heightened appreciation for the great friends I have, this weekend reminded me of the power of surprise.

Surprise is one of the greatest emotions in the world that brands can tap into. There has been a flood of surprise & delight campaigns, but still good campaign always works. Surprise also comes with a range of different emotions. Sometimes the brand does not flex to be funny or really sentimental, but almost every brand can surprise (hopefully in a positive way). As long as the surprise is meaningful and/or really outrageous, the surprise & delight will work.

Many of the surprise and delight campaigns have been one-off stunts but the best brands have made it as a part of their brand behavior. KLM is a prime example of this and their latest “Cover greetings” just gets the job done:

Mastercard has also done great job by building a surprise platform with their Priceless Surprises:

One of my all-time favorite “surprise & delight” campaigns has been this Coke campaign for overseas Filipino workers. If this does not get you emotional, I don´t know what will:

These examples show that, it is not necessarily about the budget or the most overboard surprise, it is about the meaning of the surprise for the recipient. If you can spark a genuine human emotion, the surprise works.

There are naturally quite a lot of lackluster surprises. Especially this is true with one sub-category of surprise campaigns: prankvertising. Humor is always delicate matter and one man´s prank is other man´s insult. To every awesome Pepsi Max Stunt (or Uncle Drew anyone), there is always the raining bus stop –stunts, which just makes you question quite hard the future of our industry.

To put the flood of surprise campaigns in proper perspective, this “surprise video” really cracked me up:

It is funny because it is true.

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