Surprise and delight: What it is and brands who get it right
Hosting a surprise birthday party is on my bucket list. What better way to celebrate a loved one than with meticulous, secretive planning complete with a bounty of presents and delectable eats?
Marketers can take a play from the event planner’s book by implementing surprise and delight for their audiences through social media.
In this article, we’ll define what surprise and delight means, along with some ideas to get you inspired. We’ll also showcase brands that have embraced their inner hostess with the mostess to surprise their customers and develop their brand affinity.
What is surprise and delight?
Surprise and delight is a marketing technique that attracts and nurtures potential and current clientele by offering positive customer experiences and/or unexpected rewards like gifts or one-of-a-kind events.
This approach can foster brand awareness and affinity because it creates memorable moments with customers, especially if the brand personalizes the gift or experience. Some companies use it as a retention strategy as well.
Everyone loves random acts of kindness, but if a brand is able to show they understand the wants and needs of their customer base, they can gain customer loyalty. If a surprise and delight idea is executed well, customers are more likely to advocate for the brand, especially on social media.
How to surprise and delight customers
Surprise and delight marketing in practice can take various forms. Gifts like coupons, discounts and certificates are used, but brands can get creative when it comes to surprising their customers.
Use social listening to power connections with your customers and fuel your surprise and delight marketing ideas. After all, the goal of surprise and delight is to foster or maintain a relationship with your customers.
Reviewing customer conversations and trending topics can help you pinpoint opportunities for your brand. By paying attention to social listening trends, you can figure out what is capturing your audience’s attention. For example, if there’s a trend that your audience loves, it’s probably a good indication to hop on the wave.
Along with social listening, use social media sentiment analysis to see how your customers feel about your brand. This will help inspire surprise and delight efforts based on your customers’ perception and expectations.
Surprise and delight ideas
Here are a few quick bulleted ideas to help you understand what surprise and delight looks likes in practice:
- Rely on emotion. The heart of social media is human connection, so sending an emotional gesture like a thank you card can go a long way.
- Host an event. Turn your online connections into a real-life experience.
- Digital surprise. Send a phone screen background or customized profile picture. Get creative with today’s tech.
- Offer a free sample. This one is self-explanatory—we all love free stuff.
- Help them celebrate a milestone. Send a bouquet, trophy or another celebration gift.
- Send a care package of personalized goodies. Show you took the time to think about what your customer would enjoy.
- Provide a solution. Show you care for your customers by giving them personalized assistance.
Surprise and delight examples: the brands who’ve won over hearts
Let’s go over a few examples of brands who really understand surprise and delight marketing—they would definitely be go-to coordinators for a surprise party:
Qualtrics made guests’ dreams come true at Brandweek 2019. The experience management company asked conference attendees to Tweet them a wish and they promised to deliver in real time.
A pillow, a dog, a margarita and a lot of @PopeyesChicken sandwiches were dreams made real at #brandweek. Meet the @Qualtrics Dream Team that made it happen. https://t.co/eROFs1ZUcZ pic.twitter.com/qH6OOXOT9I
— Chris Ariens (@ChrisAriens) November 14, 2019
The Qualtrics DreamTeam granted everything from a pair of Nikes to an adorable new puppy:
The @Qualtrics dream team asked everyone at #brandweek what their dream is. I said a pair of @Nike’s so I could get out of my heels and an hour later I get these 🙌🏽 pic.twitter.com/yP2gKlVw4l
— Jasmine Atherton (@jazmalek) November 5, 2019
The @Qualtrics Dream Team is fulfilling special requests for #Brandweek attendees. They brought in a puppy! 🐶 If you're with us, send them a message via the Brandweek app! pic.twitter.com/pdgTQBpIrQ
— Adweek (@Adweek) November 5, 2019
Telfar x Rainbow
The Telfeezy. The Telfy. The Bushwick Birkin. Whatever the fashion world calls it, the Telfar Shopping Bag has become one the most coveted “it bags” over the past few years. The iconic bag is only available for sale online and is known for selling out within seconds, but Telfar surprised fans with the opportunity to secure one during New York Fashion Week 2022.
Just two days before the event, the unisex luxury brand announced Telfar x Rainbow on Instagram, a brick-and-mortar pop-up shop offering fans the chance to purchase up to five shopping bags in any size and color—an opportunity fashion aficionados dream about since they’re hard to get.
NOBODY doing it like @TELFAR 💪🏾❤️🔥 & thats a fact! #telfar #telfarglobal #nyfw @rainbowshops #fashion #fashionweek
Telfar is a Black and queer-owned brand that centers on inclusion, which was celebrated during the pop-up. With customers performing catwalks adorned with bags, masked dancers voguing and chanting, the event felt like a tribute to ballroom culture and family reunions. Customers were also surprised by multiple special guests including Rapper Baby Tate, influencer Selyna Brillare and content creator Nate White to name a few. At the end of the event, designer Telfar Clemens announced another surprise in his closing remarks: the brand would host a similar sale online for one day only in the following weeks.
By surprising customers with an additional opportunity to grab their coveted bag, they not only delighted them but also demonstrated an expert understanding of their audience.
Along with understanding your audience, Telfar also offers an expert-level lesson in maintaining brand authenticity and listening to customer needs to carry out surprise and delight marketing.
The online pet retailer Chewy uses surprise and delight to help grieving pet parents.
When customers’ companions pass away, the company will refund money from unused food and send flowers along with a condolence note from the Chewy representative they spoke with. Chewy will also suggest customers donate the food to a local shelter.
I contacted @Chewy last week to see if I could return an unopened bag of my dog’s food after he died. They 1) gave me a full refund, 2) told me to donate the food to the shelter, and 3) had flowers delivered today with the gift note signed by the person I talked to?? 😭
— Anna Brose, MSc (@alcesanna) June 15, 2022
Also, notice how Chewy references the pet by name when interacting with customers on Twitter:
@Chewy truly is amazing. Thank you for the flowers and nice card following the loss of my Lillie. ❤ thank you especially to Justin @Chewy pic.twitter.com/AFsmEKde7e
— 🌊Karma is coming 🌊 🌻💉x3 (@subvertquo) August 9, 2022
Absolutely, Ava, we sympathize with you during this transition, and want you to know we'll continue being here for you. Even just to talk, or reminisce on the happy memories you shared with your beloved Cannoli with you. 💙
— Chewy (@Chewy) July 30, 2022
To pet owners, their animals are much more than companions, they’re family. Chewy’s compassion illustrates how much the company cares about pets and their families.
Tabasco brought the heat after pop artist Normani posted that her hot sauce was confiscated at the airport. The hot sauce brand responded by sending her hundreds of TABASCO® Minis:
This is a problem we can fix. You need TABASCO® Minis. Lots and lots of TABASCO® Minis. We’ll send over a few hundred to get you started. 😉 pic.twitter.com/4P6hV10MOO
— TABASCO® Brand (@TABASCO) March 17, 2018
This exchange shows the heart of surprise and delight marketing efforts: the customer has a desire or need and the brand provides a solution.
so romantic ☺️ @TABASCO pic.twitter.com/Nipk6UxHXV
— Normani (@Normani) April 25, 2018
Tabasco also leveraged social media after creator Bridget McFadden went viral on the app. The hot sauce lover gained attention for her #HotSauceJourney, where she attempts to refill a TABASCO® Mini:
It’s been one year since I posted the video that changed my life #hotsaucejourney #hotsaucewars #bridgetsfavoritehotsauce #teamfranks #teamtabasco #twilight
Tabasco saw the viral video as an opportunity to funnel that attention to the launch of their TikTok page. They followed up by surprising her with several delights and the cherry—or pepper—on top was a surprise party for Bridget:
Part 1 of the @tabascobrand party! Thank you so much for an amazing night, Tabasco! #hotsaucejourney #hotsaucewars
In just one week, the brand amassed over 54,000 TikTok followers, along with over 1.5 million organic views from their first video. The brand also earned over 11 million impressions.
In 2020, Nathan Apodaca captured the heart of TikTok when he posted a video of himself skateboarding and drinking a bottle of Ocean Spray juice while jamming to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams.
Apodaca was longboarding to work after his car battery died. A week after the viral video, OceanSpray gifted Apodaca with a new truck filled with cranberry juice as a celebratory ‘thank you’ for the online love.
How social listening improves surprise and delight marketing
Social listening can help inspire your surprise and delight marketing ideas. Use social listening data to find and engage with important conversations across your accounts. Dig deep into specific communities and profiles that are talking about and/or engaging with your brand.
For example, in the demographics tab of Sprout’s Social Listening tool, you can review profiles and the volume of conversations that have included your brand’s name and other related keywords.
If you create a list in People View, you can uncover and organize specific profiles that engage with your brand. You can also identify brand ambassadors and new profiles to engage with to help you grow connections. And Themes will help you filter, compare, analyze and monitor data over time.
Create surprise and delight for your audience
Inspire acts of kindness for your own brand with these surprise and delight ideas. Thoughtfulness illustrates how much you care about your audience.
Remember that paying attention to social media conversations about your brand can help identify more surprise and delight marketing opportunities. Use our social listening guide to help uncover more good deeds for your audience.
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