A few years ago, I was working on the rebrand of a popular toilet paper in the UK. The toilet paper’s marketing team was explaining their brand’s commitment to “surprise and delight customers.”
I mentally rolled my eyes. Surprise and delight, I thought, that’s a stretch. They were a toilet paper, not a trip to Disneyland. The only surprise this brand could deliver was how expensive toilet paper could be. (Unless there were people out there who are delighted by wiping, but that’s just gross.)
“Surprise and delight” annoyed me because it was pure hyperbole for a commodity like toilet paper. It was a big ole promise that brand couldn’t truly deliver.
When you write something into your brand that you can’t deliver, those words become BS. And you set up your brand up to fail.
Fast forward a few years. I was a creative director in Philadelphia with a toddler, a baby and approximately 32 minutes of time to myself per week. Desperately in need of a reward at the end of the day, I’d fix myself a fancy little gin and tonic. I made it with Bluecoat, a delicious gin made in Philadelphia.
I don’t care how cool Bourbon is right now. I’m a gin girl through and through, and this Bluecoat is some seriously good stuff.
At the time, Bluecoat was running a $2 rebate for every bottle. So I collected my receipts over the course of seven months and had a $18 rebate coming my way.
(OK, I lied, it was a $28 rebate. My husband drank this too, I swear it wasn’t all me…)
A few weeks later, a small envelope made of thick, toothy paper arrived. Inside was a handwritten note from someone at Bluecoat’s distillery, thanking me for supporting their gin. And the rebate? 14 crisp, neatly folded two dollar bills.
There I stood in my foyer, both surprised AND delighted. Dammit! A brand had actually hacked its way through my skepticism to make me feel something. I was blown away by the specialness of a handwritten note and $2 bills. If I were to get all branding-y about it, I’d say this gesture perfectly aligned with their artisanal approach to distilling.
But really, it was just a simple, awesome way to show real customer appreciation. And it converted me into a fierce advocate. My husband must have heard me tell the story 50 times over the next few weeks. Here I am, still talking about it.
So now, I don’t hate surprise and delight as a concept anymore. But ONLY if you make a good effort to deliver it.
Just focus on the surprise part, and the delight will come naturally. How can you add a dash of the unexpected into a customer’s experience? A bit of humor, a personal note, some unexpected and cheeky copy in your packaging.
The online space may be super crowded, but there’s still plenty of room to get yourself noticed in the real world.