There used to be an old expression: "Everything old is new again." It works the other way 'round in creating Surprise, because
"Everything new is old again."
It useta-be that an innovative company would enjoy a little bit of breathing room after introing a new product. No more. These days, product life cycles are increasingly short. New products and ideas go from hot and hip to ho-hum in record time (think PT Cruiser or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. I could go on for hours). Rabid competition leads to rapid indifference. New becomes nu? (a great Yiddish term that roughly translates to "So, already?") real fast.
That's why more than just being creative once, true Surprise requires "shocking the system." Again. And again. And again and...
Any one Surprise doesn't last; the concept must exist as a continuum for it to pay dividends.
Here's a perfect example of what the hell I'm talking about:
Many moons ago, 1974 to be exact, singer/songwriter Jim Stafford had a huge hit with the novelty song My Girl Bill. "Holy jumpin' jeez," was the initial reaction, "this guy's singing about his girlfriend, who's name is Bill!" (Remember, this was the early '70s, when this was somewhat shocking...)
The end of the song pays off the lame-o joke. He wasn't singing about "My Girl Bill," he was singing about "My Girl, Bill" (note the placement of the comma; he was talking to his buddy Bill about his girl). I know, I know...you're just about splitting your sides right about now. Pull yourself together for the point of all this:
- The first time you heard My Girl Bill on the radio, you were taken aback.
- The second time, you watched to see if anyone you were with didn't know the twist, and waited to enjoy their reaction.
- The third time, you wanted to shoot the radio.
- The fourth time, you wanted to shoot Stafford.
- The fifth time, you wanted to shoot yourself.
Like anything majestic, rare and delicious, Surprise is a perishable good. A rapidly perishable one at that.
An old Surprise is like a rotten peach. At one time it was gorgeous, fresh, tasty and good.
Now, it's just yuck.
(And by the way, you can still catch Jim Stafford's act in Branson, Missouri. Tell him I sent ya!)