Targeted, unexpected, customer surprises are a wonderful and effective way to engender loyalty to your brand, known in the trade as the “Surprise and Delight” effect. A marketing approach that views customers as individuals, with unique preferences, and sets out to forge an emotional connection through meaningful and unexpected moments of delight.


What if you were in your favourite bar and the first drink was on the house? Got an unexpected upgrade on a flight? Or you got a gift card on your birthday from your favourite online shop? It would make you feel good, right?

And just like in one’s personal life, a pleasant surprise is of course always welcome! But it’s a lot more strategic and measured than simply throwing free things at random people. Customers need to feel like they are more than just a revenue stream, they need to feel like they’ve a genuine emotional connection with your brand – and if Surprise and Delight tactics are executed correctly, the emotional connection formed can lead to increased loyalty and longstanding brand advocates amongst your customers.

Here’s how to effectively Surprise and Delight your customers, increasing their emotional and loyal connection to your brand…

One little cog.

The beauty of a pleasant surprise is that it feels like a stroke of luck – as if the stars have aligned and universe has decided to treat you, if only for a moment.

But, while that unexpected treat might feel delightfully random to the recipient, it’s usually just one component of a much larger, highly targeted strategy, driven by deep customer insight.

And if executed correctly, has the power to build longstanding, loyal, relationships between you and your customer.

Choosing the person and the surprise.

The key to a successful Surprise and Delight campaign, is to truly understand your customer’s current behaviours and feelings towards your brand, and to what extent you would like to influence new behaviours and feelings, or  reinforce existing ones.

As a result, customer insight is fundamental to ensuring a Surprise and Delight campaign is a success. Customer insights not only help you to identify the correct customer(s), the right communication channel(s), and the right time(s) to make contact, but it will also help you to decide the level of reward, and how it may impact a customer’s emotional connection and ultimately their loyalty to your brand.

A great example of using customer insight to drive a Surprise and Delight Campaign is Kleenex; their insight was beautifully simple: People need tissues when they’re sick, so let’s send them some. They undertook a Facebook status search looking for people who had recently posted about feeling ‘sick’ and ‘under the weather’, and found 50 such posts. After contacting the individual’s family and friends for address information, Kleenex prepared a special personalised ‘Kleenex Kit’ for each person, which was then hand-delivered within hours of them posting on Facebook. This campaign was a huge success, generating over 650,000 impressions, and over 1,800 engagements.

Another customer insight led example is TD Canada Trust, a small commercial bank. They took note of the behaviours, interests, and personal circumstances of their individual customers over a period of time, identifying what they were saving for, or what they enjoyed spending their money on. After gathering enough information, TD surprised customers with incredibly thoughtful gifts of thanks, via an ATM or Automatic Thanking Machine. Gifts included Disneyland tickets to a mum who had never been able to take her two children on holiday, another mum was gifted flights to Trinidad to visit her daughter, a little boy received cash to help kick-start his savings account, and a huge baseball fan got tickets to watch his favourite team play. The video that captured this very special campaign, was used to win over prospective customers, as well as give a sense of pride to TD’s current customers.

These two examples, successfully demonstrate that the better you know your customers, the better equipped you are to surprise them in a meaningful, relevant, and impactful way – one that really drives their affiliation, emotional connection, and loyalty to your brand.

How to do it right.

Credit cards often struggle with image problems, and for some, they represent unwelcome bills and balancing books. For others, they’re a form of stress, as interest rates on repayments climb, and debt accumulates.

MasterCard were the early adapters to the Surprise and Delight trend, introducing their globally renowned “Priceless” campaign over 27 years ago, which showcased, and continues to highlight, the most incredible money can’t buy experiences.

The credit card company connects with regular customers via social media, and gifts them “Priceless Surprises”, such as an intimate concert with Grammy-winning artists, or dining on top of a Times Square billboard in New York City.

Additionally, with their App, MasterCard have made it super easy to share this good news across their social media accounts. These surprises thus serve two purposes: they increase customer loyalty and affection for the brand and create hugely positive viral content.

Their Surprise and Delight campaigns add a positive emotional component to their relationship with customers, and serves as an opportunity to enhance their business image, proving that brands can inject a sense of fun and excitement into a financial product.

MasterCard have changed the ongoing conversation with their customers so that communications aren’t always bills or sales pitches. For loyal customers who stick around, a letter from MasterCard can be something to really look forward to!

Measuring success.

The beauty of Surprise and Delight campaigns is that they have the potential to influence and reward your most loyal customers; they also have the power to be measured against your marketing objectives.

Surveys, website visits, spending habits, and email response rates, are just some of the ways in which a Surprise and Delight campaigns can be analysed and assist a brand in understanding the impact of running future campaigns.

It can make a difference.

Surprise and Delight campaigns don’t have to be hugely elaborate. Something as simple as a free coffee to the right customer can truly make someone’s day.

And if it’s done right, every instance will pay for itself: Your brand’s reputation will grow and improve, customer loyalty will flourish, customers will become cheerleaders, and positive associations will blossom.

Like any new venture, trying Surprise and Delight campaigns for the first time is a small leap of faith, but the depth and breadth of its positive impact might surprise you.

And we can make a difference too.

Chilli Pepper have years of experience in developing and executing innovative strategic Surprise and Delight campaigns across many B2B and B2C brands.

Contact if you would like to find out how we can support you on your next Surprise and Delight campaign.