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The Power of Surprise in an On-Demand World

I love mashed potatoes. Always have.

When I was ten or eleven, I would actually dream about those steaming white piles of creamy delicious Idaho darlings. My potato dreams were not darkened with gravy, nay, they were always topped with shimmery golden butter dripping down those soft mountains of delight.

My favorite reoccurring dream included an Olympic-size pool that my butler (Hey, it’s a dream) – my butler kept filled with fresh hot mashers. The reason? I wanted mashed potatoes “on demand” — as often as I wanted and as much as I wanted.

Years later, I find myself signing up for more and more on-demand unlimited options. Take Netflix for example – one monthly fee – all the movies and TV you want. So, we binge watch three seasons of House of Cards. Why not right?

What about Amazon Subscribe & Save? Terrific, isn’t it? I will never run out of toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, razor blades again. In fact, I have them stock piled in the basement. If a guest at my house asks for something I don’t have upstairs, I say, “Let me check the back stock.”

How about my Satellite Radio? If I want comedy at 2am… Bam! — it’s there.

The latest country music? No problem.

Pop music memories? Click on Road Trip Radio — day, night, anytime.

So many parts of our lives are on-demand and almost unlimited in scope. We have so many automatic and unlimited choices. And that’s great. But, what’s missing is surprises. We seem to have a lot fewer surprises. And most people like surprises.

Sure, I do like unlimited music on-demand, but I also remember riding in a car as a teenager and “surprise!” — our favorite song would come on the radio. Just like “That 70’s Show,” everyone would be singing and playing their air guitars.

Do you remember Cracker Jacks — and the “Free Prize Inside?” Wasn’t that great? How about getting a postcard from a friend who is traveling? No, not an email or text — a POSTCARD. That was always a nice surprise.

The Surprise Alternative

On-demand will always be popular, but we can always use the “surprise” as a unique alternative.

I like to use them in things like meetings. Sometimes I’ll stick the word “Surprise” in the middle of a meeting agenda just to keep people alert as they wait for that moment.

I’m always trying to think of ways to pop a pleasant surprise into events, and videos and any sort of marketing or communication vehicle that has an opening for one. It can be powerful.

Think of some ways you can incorporate a “surprise” into your marketing and communication efforts. Don’t get hung up on the specific definition of the word “surprise.” You knew there was a toy in the Cracker Jacks and songs on the radio. That wasn’t the surprise. The surprise was what kind of toy was in the box and which song the played.

You can announce a “surprise guest” on your video blog, choose a surprise winner for a free trial of your new product line. Let customers choose a surprise gift. Send mailers out with pull-off tabs that reveal a surprise discount.

Can you think of more ways to implement “nice surprises” in your marketing? Send me note via email or social media with your idea. I’ll share it and credit you.  Let’s show our fellow marketers the power of “Surprise!” in an on-demand world.  

About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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