If you’ve worked in any capacity of marketing, PR or advertising, you’ve probably heard, used or implemented the phrase and practice of “surprise and delight.” Whenever social media really took off (from a business perspective), giving your customers free stuff was THE thing to do. And today, as social media grows up and evolves, it’s still a great thing to do, to a point. If you work in the retail/consumer space, surprise and delight is still a tried and true tactic to implement in your overall social strategy. Here’s why (in my opinion).
The other week, I was scrolling down my Instagram feed (per usual), when I saw Pretzel Crisps posted a photo montage with a beer koozie with one of my favorite phrases on it, “These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty.” (For those of you who live under a rock, it’s from Seinfeld.) First, that’s super smart of Pretzel Crisps for putting that on their packaging. Marketing brilliance, if you ask me. I casually commented on the photo and asked where I could find that gem of a koozie. Much to my surprise, I was greeted by a friendly email in my inbox a couple hours later from a woman from the company asking me for my address so they could send me one. Talk about making my day! The next week, my day was made yet again when I got a package on my front doorstep with about six koozies and six bags of Pretzel Crisps (in assorted flavors). Score! I immediately took to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to share with my networks my awesome swag.
So why’d it work?
Pretzel Crisps saw that I genuinely liked the product, wasn’t trying to “get” anything from them, and have a decent social following. So, why not? They didn’t ask me to do anything either, which I think is great. I wouldn’t have minded a note with the package with any calls to action to follow them or post about them, but I did it anyway because that’s what I do for a living and love to share personal stories from brands I experience. Pretzel Crisps showed me they are listening and wanted to reward me for being a fan. Now I am stocked with delicious product. (Jalepeno is my new fave.) And it’s not a (sometimes worthless) Klout Perk that half my Twitter friends got, too. It’s targeted to me individually. Klout Perks are just blasted out to an audience in hopes of making people feel “influencial.” It’s not genuine in my opinion. Surprise and delight is.
Some other prime examples of surprise and delight
Taco Bell (source: Post Advertising)
No explanation needed here. Mad props to that high schooler for being awfully clever and Taco Bell for knowing who its target niche is and obliging. I basically love everything Taco Bell does in all of its touch-points — packaging, TV, digital, in-store, etc.
Aetna (source: Likeable Media)
A man battling advanced colon cancer used Twitter to debate with the CEO of his insurance company, Aetna. He was facing potential medical bankruptcy. To his surprise, Aetna’s CEO responded to address the issue and agreed to pay the medical costs. Now, we can’t all just pay for someone’s medical bills, but the CEO took to Twitter to make things right. It’s not often the CEO of a major company like Aetna casually tweets with his or her customer or user-base. This example showed they are listening and value their customers.
There’s a fine line between surprise and delight, and buying off your customers
Remember on Full House when DJ got mad at Uncle Jesse and he bought her a drum set to make up for it? (Yep, I just referenced Full House.) Well, DJ was pretty pumped but wise Mr. Danny Tanner stepped in and reminded Jesse that “buying” DJ’s love wouldn’t work every time he messed up. They needed to talk it out (which happened on every single episode of that show) and get to the root of the problem. The same thing applies to surprise and delight in social. Think about the “real life” aspect of it. How many times have you been out to dinner and something went horribly wrong and the manager stepped in and offered a free dessert or took something off the bill? That works with some, but really, they need to get to the root of the problem. If the pizza was cold, they need to cook their food longer. If the server took 45 minutes to wait on you, they probably need to up their staff or go through some more training. So, if a consumer complains on social media, instead of just shipping them a free box of something, ask them what you can do to make it right, and follow up to let them know the issue was resolved. Some people are free-stuff-loving, coupon mongrels (thanks for nothing, Extreme Couponing), but others are legitimate consumers not looking for free stuff, but quality service and/or products. Making it right goes way further than a free coupon in the long run, and that’s how you’ll keep those people and turn them into brand advocates. Oh and if all else fails, you can show up at their door and give them a hug like the Tanners would (although that could cause a restraining order…)
Surprise and delight doesn’t need to happen when something bad happens, either. I personally am a bigger fan of companies rewarding customers for just hanging out and interacting with their pages rather than trying to fix a problem (like Taco Bell). If you marry surprise and delight with active listening when there is an issue and letting your fan base know you will make it right, things should run pretty smoothly on your page(s). So keep on innovating in this space, but also stick to the good old fashioned roots of surprise and delight since it still goes a long way (says the now loyal Pretzel Crisps fan). Oh and it doesn’t have to be giving away free stuff either. It could be as simple as acknowledging a fan in a tweet or post. I STILL get excited thinking about when Target tweeted to me two years ago. I’m not kidding. #TargetFanGirl
Do you agree or think this tactic is SO 2010?