The tactics of marketing have evolved dramatically over the last decade, with consumers now demanding more personal and customised experiences from their favourite brands. Despite the spectacular advances in technology, one key marketing principal remains the same – your customers must be provided with unforgettable experiences, slogans or ideas that set you apart from competitors and ensure your brand is memorable. One particular strategy for achieving this, and one that certainly seems greatly under-utilised by branding agencies in particular, is surprise and delight marketing.

Today’s consumers exist in a highly digitalised world, making it more and more difficult to ensure your brand’s digital strategy stands out amongst the vast array of digital experiences on offer. The beauty of surprise and delight marketing is that it cuts through the digital noise, consequently resulting in very happy customers who then perceive your brand in a highly positive light. As a result, many branding agencies are beginning to use the strategy to their advantage, and receiving tremendously successful outcomes.

How does it work?

A recent study at Emory University confirmed that we humans truly love being surprised. Whether it’s a free coffee from your favourite cafe or a 20% discount for being a loyal customer, a small surprise can make a person’s day. The emotion of surprise is extremely influential and triggers an extortionate amount of positive feelings in the brain, including happiness, self-worth and importance. The leader of the study at Emory, Dr. Gregory Berns said, ‘The part of the brain that has always been associated with pure pleasure really cares about when you get something unexpected. So if you get a present for your birthday, that’s nice. But you’ll like it a lot more if you get a present and it’s not your birthday.’ And co-leader Dr. P. Read Montague agreed saying, ‘The region [in the brain] lights up like a Christmas tree on the MRI when your receive an unexpected surprise. That suggests people are designed to crave the unexpected.’


The power of the surprise emotion makes the surprise and delight strategy highly effective. It operates by targeting groups of people or individuals who are to receive an unanticipated gift or experience. Surprise and delight campaigns can include anything from receiving special, unknown privileges for being a long-time customer, being given a special offer or discount on your birthday, or simply creating special moments for existing or prospective consumers. The most beneficial aspect of this strategy? It has the strength to instantly unify brands and their buyers, creating longer-lasting, stronger customer relations.

Here are a selection of our favourite surprise and delight case studies featuring brands who successfully acquired customers for life and dramatically raised brand awareness.

1) MasterCard ‘Priceless Surprises’

MasterCard have been promoting their Priceless advertising slogan for the last 17 years, and more recently launched their corresponding ‘Priceless Surprises’ marketing campaign. The campaign connects the company with it’s consumers on social media, and offers them unique surprises, such as discounts at local restaurants, free Uber taxis, festival tickets, and recently even VIP tickets to the Grammy Awards! Winners are chosen totally at random and it takes minimal effort to be eligible. All you have to do is, be a MasterCard holder, use the hashtag #PricelessSurprises on social channels Twitter or Instagram, or simply just use your MasterCard. The company now has nearly 100 thousand cardholders in the US (Note to self – become a MasterCard customer).

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2) Beyonce

For Beyonce, the days of publicity tours are long gone. Instead, the star chooses to simply spring surprises on her fans with little to no warning whatsoever. Most recently, Queen B utilised the tactic for the release of her latest album which followed a teaser video aired on american TV channel HBO. The short and snappy teaser gave away very little, only that fans could expect a ‘world premiere event’ the following Saturday night. The tailing event shocked Beyonce’s fans around the world, with the release of her visual album ‘Lemonade.’ Beyonce also took to social media during the event to promote its release. In the first week, Lemonade sold 485,000 copies and earned the singer her sixth consecutive number-one album in the US. Beyonce has had her share of practice though, and is not new to the surprise marketing game. Her previous album ‘Beyonce’ and single release ‘Formation’ both used similar tactics. Keep your eyes peeled for B’s next spontaneous surprise, it could be just around the corner.

Watch the teaser here:


3) Kleenex

Kleenex’s branding agency combined the power of surprise with social media for an unforgettable campaign. The tissue brand monitored Facebook statuses, looking for people who were posting about being ill with a winter cold. The company located 50 relevant posts that each indicated different degrees of illness, went on to contact their friends for relevant addresses, and prepared each one a special “Kleenex Kit’. Within 1 to 2 hours of the Facebook posts, the poorly people received their unexpected Kit, stocked with an array of get-well Kleenex products. The chosen few were overwhelmed with the excitement of the surprise that 100% of people posted a photo of their personalised kits to their Facebook wall. The campaign created an immense buzz and stirred a trend of people looking to grab the attention of Kleenex for their own Kit. Kleenex acquired over 650,000 impressions and 1,800 interactions highlighting the success of the campaign.

Watch it here:


Looking to implement a surprise and delight campaign for your customers? Our experts are here to help! Get in touch today.