This one sent along from my brilliant colleague Pierre Vanacker (when someone as well-read and tech-savvy as Pete is a Friend of Pow!, you know this concept is a far-reaching one indeed).
What's the best way to get kids to brush their teeth, especially after eating treats?
Free samples of toothpaste and funky toothbrushes, right?
This stroke of genius from Colgate and Young & Rubican Thailand (of all places). They replaced the sticks of ice cream and cotton candy with gentle, but VERY effective toothbrush-shaped Surprise cause-and-effect reminders that say, simply, "Don't forget."
Well well, what better way to start a week than with a kindred spirit who embodies the spirit of this blog...and mixes it up with profit potential.
Such is the story of Maya Gilbert who, along with two friends, has put together a company called "Surprise Industries," which--as she puts it--"crafts surprise experiences in NYC." (To paraphrase the ancient Red Rose Tea slogan, "Only in New York, you say? Pity..."). According to Ms. Gilbert, she got the idea by visiting the Something Store (found here and featured in my Pow! book), but said that the real, word-of-mouth-generating win would be from concocting life-altering experiences instead of a random product at your doorstep.
Sound crazy? Well, these guys seem to be busy planning everything from flight school to sword swallowing (check out their insanely busy schedule), and you never know what you're embarking in or on...until you get there.
Response has been great, so check out the video below (which does a way better job of selling the concept...and the thrilled delightful response to it).
And then hit Maya up for a franchise for your town.
Here's what we're giving out for Hallowe'en over at Surprise Central:
They're called Washington Walnuts, a classic tactical use of the Time-Bombing tactic explained so eloquently in my oft-mentioned Pow! book. Each real shell contains a folded up dollar bill, mixes undetected into a bag of regular walnuts, and pays off to a lucky Surprisee once cracked...sort of a positive spin on the ol' razor-blade-in-the-apple or needle-in-the candy Hallowe'en tricks of yore.
They sell for a somewhat steep $15 per bag of three; such is the cost for ingenuity and painstaking labor, I suppose. You can get yours for yours online from the Shopsin's General Store.
And now, off to answer the first of many knocks at the front door...
Add yet another member to the Pow! Astonishing Business Card Club. Embodiment of the Second Great Surprise Theory, namely "Little Things Mean A Lot,"(read the book for the other three) these relatively puny pieces of paper (or plastic, or metal, or what have you) produce results, generate oodles of word-of-mouth, and perform other feats of marketing magic on a dramatically disproportionate level.
That said, check this one out:
Comes from a place called "Gotstyle," which is perhaps the hippest men's store in all of eastern Canada. (So many menswear shops purport to be a "lifestyle" boutique or "full experience," but this hidden gem is the real deal. Check 'em out here...but back to their card.)
Now, every well-dressed man knows the value of a proper collar stay (this blogger even has his own set of multi-length brass ones in a leather pouch...which would sound perverse if I weren't talking about collar stays...but I digress), and what happens when one goes missing. Not that you'll ever put this card into action, but the fact that you could if you need to makes it efficient, Pow!-worthy and fun. (Truth be told, these things make a nice little weapon if you need to poke someone's eye out...but I digress once again.)
Before you dismiss this idea as a bit of harmless (well, almost) fluff, consider that the Gotstyle card is one of many made by a company called Collar Card, which includes such sartorial superstars as Saks 5th Avenue, Nordstrom and Brooks Brothers as clients for its patented product, one their website describes as "the perfect product for the traveling businessman or any contemporary man on the go."
Got this recently from another most generous and enthusiastic reader, Robleh Jama.
I'm a Torontonian slash web entrepreneur (sold my baby sneakerplay.com - a social network for sneaker heads earlier this year) - and the guy who tweeted about your book a couple of days ago.
I recently purchased your book and I only read the first chapter before my brain was flooded with cool ideas on how to surprise and delight customers...I will definitely be applying this to the project I work on in the future....and am looking forward to reading the rest of the book on flight I'm going on later this evening.
(Okay Andy, enough ego-stroking...get to the point!)
I just had to share this really creative application of "Surprise" service from a cafe in Japan that I came across via PSFK. It's about a mystery cafe called Ogori:
"In a nutshell, you get what the person before you ordered, and the next person gets what you ordered. Thus, if you’re in on the game, you can choose to be either a generous benefactor, and treat those that come after you – or try your luck at being cheap. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment that explores surprise, kindness and encourages interactions." (See photo below.)
How cool, and exciting, and scary, is this? Gives a new meaning to "Uh, I'll have what she's having," doesn't it? Check out the full story here.
So...why do this? Well, one of the four main theories of creating Surprise is "Sometimes, There IS No Reason." There's a lot to say about the Karma you're puttin' out by playing the game, and it indeed DOES get people talking more than they would about your average Japanese corner snackbar. To quote Cabel Saasser, who sent the story into the PSFK blog, "It was SO worth it."
No arguments here.
Love this for many reasons, not the least of 'em being that it was sent from my son Hayes over the weekend from Chicago.
You've seen this in high-faultin' restaurants, haven't ya? (You know, the ones where you don't use words like "high-falutin'" and "ya.") Where the '84 Napa Cav is paired with the sauteed duck, and the Brunello is paired with the veal paillard?
Well, this from the cuisines of Burger King and the cellars of Coca-Cola:
If you can't read it, Coke is described as "Real, full-bodied taste with a refreshing bubbly finish" and pairs well with Whoppers. Sprite has a "Crisp and full body with a whole lotta character" and pairs well with BK Chicken Fries (of course!), The Angus and Tendercrisp, while Dr, Pepper, whose "23 fruity flavors give it pep" pairs well with all of BK's Stackers.
A wine and cheeseburger party, anyone?
Uh, where was I last year when this was all the rage? Rip Van Winkin' perhaps? Jeez, I could've used this as a prime example for the Pow! book...
If you haven't already seen this (and if I missed it, chances are...), take a look at a most ingenious campaign for the next wave in all-inclusive mobile devices. Who needs an Apple iPhone when you can have a Pomegranate MePhone?
Don't want to blow it for those of you who will see it for the first time (click on the link above or the picture), but given the truly inspired approach, I can forgive the somewhat contrived connection between the device and the reason for its creation.
Once you get there, and get it, think of all the other ways--boats, lobsters, fish--the client could've TRIED to get your attention.
And think about what you've done that is STILL getting attention one year later.
Too late for the book indeed. But definitely an add to the Pow! speeches.
I don't often involve my entire family in my blog, but given what transpired last week, it would be a great disservice not to.
To celebrate a landmark birthday, they hit me with a monumental Surprise. No, not the perfunctory party, but going for multiple sweetspots, they presented me with a piece of jewelry whose emotional make-up and personal relevance far supersedes the astonishing bling factor.
First of all, the ring was designed by my two sons, Hayes and Aidan. Both creative beyond their years in their own fields (Hayes works with his hands and Aidan with words), they were tasked by my wife to create a Nulman family ring that would be worn by all three of us Nulman males. Hayes initially formed a four-N square out of tinfoil that would be used as a base, and then the two got to adding bits of pieces of us to it. In addition to the inspiration, my wife provided the diamonds, taken from her original engagement ring.
I could try to explain this four-sided masterpiece, but it's best left up to the "Map" the boys wrote and made me read to fully understand the piece as it was presented to me. I've edited a bit for brevity's sake, and to avoid long-winded explanations of family stories, (but added my comments in bracketed italics):
We've spoken about it before, but we never knew what the right occasion was, Dad, it's finally here. You're turning 50 Time for a(nother) "balling" ring. This time, with 23% more meaning. (That's Aidan's warped sense of humor.)
Side 1: The Snowboard
As always, you were way ahead of the curve on this one (we started over 15 years ago). We're very proud to be a family of snowboarders--not just two dopey kids who do it--and now we can show it off, even when we're not on the mountain. We can't wait to hit the POW!(der) again this year, and for many to come. (Note the Pow! exclamation marks on each side of the board.)
Since music is such a big part of your life, it's always been a big part of ours, too. Whether it was journalism (I started my career as a rock journalist at the age of 16), taking us to KISS concerts, or listening to the sounds of the '60s in your 'Vette, we're glad you shared this love of yours with us. If only Mom had joined the Bar Mitzvah Band (Aidan played drums, I sang and Hayes played guitar at his Bar Mitzvah), we could've been the Jewish Partridge Family.
Side 3: The Hockey Stick
Going to hockey games together has been a Nulman tradition ever since Zaidie Harry (or longer, we're not sure). (My grandfather was a furrier, who made coats for the wives of the Montreal Canadiens in the '50s and '60s.) Now that you're a player again (I just made the transition from goalie to defenceman after 20 years in nets), I can't wait to finally be on your team. (Hayes is still a goalie...and way better than I ever was.) Let's name the team the Westmount Warhols. (As a tribute to our love of contemporary art, note the paintbrushes that flank the hockey stick.)
As we see it, there are only two things that bring the four of us together, other than ourselves, of course. Now that we hatchlings have left your nest, we're always looking forward to Jewish Holidays and winter vacations. (The winterized Star of David embodies them both.) They are, after all, when we make it an even bigger point to spend time together.
So what can I say? The result is so eye-catching, I have to repeat the story over and over to whomever sees it (from now on, I'm just giving them this URL). And feeling a little left out, my wife has ordered her own version of the ring, making it a true, gender-inclusive, family heirloom.
Best. Birthday. Ever.
Okay, misleading headline. I actually appreciated getting this in my inbox last week:
Dear Mr. Nulman,We hope you are enjoying your Dyson vacuum.
To help keep it working at its best, please make sure you wash the filters every now and then. We recommend you wash the filters on your DC16 every 6 months.If you'd prefer one of our experts talk you through it, call us toll-free at 1 877 397 6622.
Dyson Customer Service
The difference between this and the swampload of other email drivel
I get from companies--whether or not I opted-in--is that the
information from Dyson is needed, not necessarily known, and most
likely not remembered.
This is a value-add to a product I already invested in. No sell job, no nonsense, just something I could use. And a very positive thought bubble about Dyson that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
Here's the little I've learned about company-to-consumer communication:
People don't give a damn about YOUR news.
People care about themselves.
Help them...and you help yourselves.
And now...off to wash some filters.
I have all the respect in the world for salespeople.
My late parents both pounded the pavement for years, and despite some highfalutin titles I've enjoyed over a storied career, I know that deep down, my most notable achievements were merely selling others on things, concepts, events and people that I passionately believed in.
This is why, instead of shooing them away with disdain, I watched with admiration two people try to sell us a new photocopier at Airborne last week.
Gotta give this pair a lot of credit (I didn't get their names, as I observed them interact with our receptionist Julie Arsenault from my office). In a still-tough economy, they were hustling door-to-door with an intriguing pitch. The opening line was pure Pow! "Rear View Mirror" tactical brilliance:
"Hello. I would like to know if I could BUY your photocopier."
The follow-up to an astonished Julie was a little more typical, but in a cash-for-clunkers scenario, the pair were willing to pay us to take away our current machine...as long as we replaced it with one of theirs.
We didn't bite for a couple of reasons, main being that we are quite happy with our relatively-new Pitney-Bowes machine.
But I gotta tell you...we listened. And we talked about it after. How many people do that to YOUR sales pitch?
A different time, a different scenario, perhaps this would've paid off for the pair monetarily.
For now...well, at least there's a laudatory blog post.
A little dicey, but man, the Pow! factor on this is incredible.
Chris Fitch, who ran TalkTalk's "put-pocket" squadron, said the campaign was designed to “give something back for a change” to cash-strapped consumers."Every time I put money back in someone's pocket I feel less guilty about the fact I spent many years taking it out.”
Apparently, the London police ain't too fond of the initiative,(well, what did ya expect?), but here at Surprise Central, we raise a toast to TalkTalk, particularly for the textbook following of Surprise-generating tactic #5 "Look In The Rear-View Mirror" (all nine of which are featured here, by the way).
Whenever I've given the Pow! speech on the power of the element of Surprise (based on the best-selling book of the same name), perhaps the most popular segment of the "show-and-tell" portion is the look at eye-opening business cards from gutsy businesspeople all over the world. There's something to be said about the disproportionate jaw-dropping, word-of-mouth-inspiring effect of a diminutive piece of paper in this digital day and age.
That said, here's the latest to add to the collection, from a Toronto company called Agrie Paint Services (hence the painted-over masking tape) and its agency, the Extreme Group:
Couldn't fit this in the original Alinea post, but its supreme Surprise factor bears a mention , so here we go...
After 20 or so courses of the diverse "Tour" menu, and despite the presence of ice cream, cotton candy and assorted other sweets throughout the meal, it was time for the "official" dessert.
Our mahogany table, bare all evening, was covered with a greyish rubber tarp, and bowls of assorted good-looking liquids, globs and chunks were placed alongside the table's edge. As I reached out to grab the contents of one of said bowls, I was chided by a waiter.
"Don't touch it." he said sternly. "Be patient. We'll tell you when you can eat it."
Okay. Here we go with the flow, I guess. After a few minutes of waiting, Grant Achatz himself appeared. Determinedly, he emptied the contents of all bowls onto the table with the flourish of a Jackson Pollock, took out a brown block ("Frozen chocolate mousse," he explained), cracked it into pieces and added it to the mix.
Brandishing three spoons, he bid us adieu by saying:
"You eat it off the table. Dig in."
A child's dream! The literal cherry on top of a cornucopia of Pow! While not precisely Willy Wonkaesque in "You can even eat the dishes," this came very close. We devoured it like juvenile junkies.
But before we did, we took the picture below. For two reasons:
Here's a big statement to start your day:
A dinner at Chicago's Alinea restaurant should be obligatory for every major executive in America.
I'm no "foodie," but a 35-year business career has taken me to some of the finest food emporiums all over the globe.
Well, nothing, but nothing, has even come close to the epicurean delight I experienced at a most majestic place called Alinea. It didn't merely shatter expectations for a restaurant, it was one of my great life experiences, period. (I am forever in debt to my son Aidan for being the driving force in jumping on a cancellation and getting us in front of the two-to-three month waitng list.)
The 20-some-odd (and I do mean "odd," but in the most complimentary and awe-inducing way) course "Tour" menu was the most expensive meal I have ever eaten (just one bottle of wine, at $80, hardly put a dent in a bill that masqueraded as a mansion's mortgage payment)...but it was a great bargain nonetheless.
Calling Alinea a "restaurant" is a disservice to the establishment and what it does. It is to other eateries what Cirque du soleil is to Barnum & Bailey (a woman at the table next to me coined the phrase "Cirque du manger," or, "Circus of Eating"). It markets itself brilliantly by being itself brilliantly. I could go on for terrabytes about the food (which included Dr. Moreau-like hybrid delicacies like onion cotton candy, hot mustard ice cream, olive oil sorbet, powdered A-1 steak sauce, watermelon bombs and bacon-flavored challah bread), but amazingly, Alinea rises far above the palate-acrobatics it induces.
Needless to say, this was a Surprise junkie's paradise. Everything, but everything, set off waves of euphoric shock, starting with the entrance-way (off the street, you walk down a narrow hallway towards a natural "V" but enter the restaurant via the hidden door, pictured below, that slides open on the wall to your left), and ending with an 4:29 a.m. email from much-renowned chef Grant Achatz (that's him above), who admitted to personally following the progress of my consumption throughout the night after being informed that I left the meal's first course uneaten.This type of attention to detail permeated the experience, and the magical, enchating results were beyond staggering (Saul Colt would be in heaven). Tables are bare wood (albeit near-black mahogony) to optimize the visual component of each dish (water is served at a specific temperature to ensure no condensation rings on said tabletops). Walls are covered with art that, while tasteful, do little to draw the eye away from the focal point of one's food. If the silverware and glassware are not specifically chosen to match the course being eaten (as was the case of the antique crystal and cutlery chosen to highlight an old French recipe for quail), they are created specifically for Alinea by one of its partners, Martin Kastner, and his Crucial Detail design firm.
Alinea is a team effort, but a team like the New York Yankees of the '50s or the Montreal Canadiens of the mid-'70s. Achatz has assembled an executive partnership that shows the grand vision of his dining experience, working hand-in-hand with a business manager, architect, interior designer and sculptor. Even the wait staff, outfitted in Zegna, rise far above industry greatness, never mind the norm. They complement each course put down with a story, factoid or red herring about it, and are single-minded in their corporate duty. When I asked one of our servers, a brilliant South African young man, why he gave up his studies to work as a waiter, he said: "Because I want to help Alinea be recognized as the top restaurant in the world." No need to guess what this place's mission statement is...
Alinea and Achatz have been much ballyhooed (Grant's personal story is a movie just waiting to happen...but not until he can direct it himself, I suspect), but after my adding to the ballyhooing, here's the reason why it should be required eating for every American exec:
So imagine American business being built on this backbone. I know, I know...this is one restaurant; one tiny microbe in the behemoth that is the economy.
But if more people gave a damn, if more people treated customers as partners in a journey and not just a necessary evil, if more people dared to delight and lead instead of follow the latest onslop (a word I just made up) of surveyed public opinion, and if people did this in such a way that whatever you paid seemed worth it, well...the business world--the world itself, Godammit!--would be a better place.
One of the nine tactics of creating Surprise (oft-mentioned here and obviously fleshed out in my even more oft-mentioned Pow! book) is to "Take Things Out Of Context." Even the slightest deviation from the norm is amplified out of proportion, resulting in buzz, word-of-mouth and, of done really well, increased sales. Perfect, and I mean PERFECT, example:
Check out the reaction of the "real" cyclist on the left. The stunt served to promote Funktion Personal Training, and not only turned heads and stopped traffic, but became the golden child of the marketing press for a few days. The following is from of Marketing Magazine, with commentary in red itals from yours truly:
A stationary bike appeared to break free from the gym and into the streets of Vancouver yesterday, part of a stunt put together by Rethink for Funktion Personal Training, a local fitness company that likes to do exercise differently. (You can't promote the fact you're different if you do the same damn thing as everyone else.)
“Escape your boring gym” (Two key Pow! terms: escape and boring) was the message on the side of the “stationary” bike meant to capture the attention of passersby as it moved around the city.
Mark Krysko, co-owner of Funktion, said his customers range between 20 and 50 and are tired of gym workouts. They’re looking for a bit more excitement–everything from boot camp in the park to running behind a parachute. (And as different as these are, they wouldn't have garnered the same attention had they been done in public; the important thing here is the bike, the juxtopisiton of the familiar in an unfamiliar setting.)
“We wanted to think about what separates us from our competitors and the one thing is we are different,” said Krysko. (There's the all-important "different" again.) “Our workouts are dynamic and fun.”
The street-legal stationary bike will tour Vancouver all summer. (Be careful, guys. Better start thinking up the next one before people tire of seeing this one. Remember that Surprise is a flow, not a one-off.)
Bad joke. Equally as bad would've been Pow! Right Between The Legs.
But from Holland, the land of the very liberal, comes this very Surprising marketing stunt from Libresse, a global (and as of this stunt, extraterrestrial) feminine hygiene company.
Those weren't raindrops that fell on the heads of beachgoers at six Dutch beaches a week ago, nor were they stray jellyfish, they were...uh, well, tampons on parachutes...all in a very targeted approach to remind the younger female set of the value of having one of these around at all times.
Interesting in a "hmmmmm" sort of way...but somehow, I don't think this would play at the boardrooms of P&G. Or at Cape Cod.
See the stunt in action on the YouTube clipo below.
And trust me, you don't need to speak Dutch to understand this one.
Mid-July in Montreal ushers in the annual Just For Laughs Festival, an event at which I spent a very enjoyable and exciting decade-and-a-half of my life as its CEO, amongst other things.
One of my great early Pow! stunts that has somehow got lost in the recesses of my memories was just unearthed during a bout of reminiscing with an old colleague, so what better time to share the story of Ray Romano and the golf balls (before I forget it once again)?
Ray was a young touring comic when he first did the festival, and unlike others who forgot we existed once they made it big, Ray stayed a friend of the fest, and agreed to host one of its prestigious Gala shows once he had hit the jackpot as the star of "Everyone Loves Raymond."
In addition to introducing ten comedians on the night's bill, Ray did some of his stand-up and a couple of sketches. One that opened the second half (a trouble spot due to a tired audience coming back from intermission) involved his old golfing buddy Jimbo Skormowski (owner of the Comedyworks Club where Ray headlined often).
Ray is an ardent golfer (as is CBS sitcom-mate Kevin James), so the sketch involved Ray and Jimbo, in golfwear, coming on stage with clubs, setting up balls on an astroturf mat, and trading dopey golf jokes and stories while launching the balls into the audience.
At first the audience was horrified (no, not by the stories), but quickly realized by the arc of the balls' flight that they were plastic, "Whiffle" golf balls. The patter continued, about 20 balls were hit and caught, and the relatively pedestrian piece ended to polite applause.
But that's when the fun REALLY began!
Before introducing the next act, Ray dropped the Pow! bomb by saying:
The place erupted. Went nuts.
Everbody loved him even more, trust me.
Those who had balls (well, you know what I mean) realized that the cheap souvenir was actually a most golden ticket to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
And as for the other 2,280 people who didn't, they were warmed by the gesture, and were pumped up beyond belief for the show's second half.
So, the moral of the story: Surprise comes in many forms. Keep those hands as open as your eyes...as Cheap Trick once sang, "you never know what you'll catch."
This from faithful FOP (that's "Friend of Pow!" for all you newbies) Tyler Wordsworth, who raves about the "next step" in the all-important Surprise Continuum from--pardon the pun--ballsy Air New Zealand:
Tyler has reason to be excited (aside from the obvious). In a most moribund industry, this relatively tiny Kiwi airline has out-Virgined Virgin Air in (sorry!) cheekiness and has (sorry again) showed more staff spirit than Southwest.
The tease factor is incredible; you can almost hear yourself yell "Lower!" or "Zoom out!" to the obviously well-disciplined camera operator (who seems to have cut his or her chops shooting final scenes in Austin Powers flicks). Perhaps travel writer Mike Barish put it best when he said:
Anyway, without any further ado:
This incredibly-comprehensive, perhaps exhaustive, campaign for "The Dark Knight" won the Cyber Grand Prix in the "viral" category at the Cannes ad competition last week, but over and above (perhaps that should be "beneath and permeating") the campaign was the ongoing use of Surprise as a driving force.
Phones in cakes, hidden bags in bowling alley lockers; tactics like "Time Bombing" and "Looking in the Rear-View Mirror" outlined in the Pow! book were put to good use...much to the delight of not just everyone at Surprise Central, but obviously to hundreds of thousands around the globe.
Little things mean a lot in Surprise marketing, but see what happens at the other extreme when you decide to throw a lot of money, time and brilliant people at it:
What better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than with perhaps the most inspiring ski promo since last year's Alberta subway "you are the ad" campaign?
This one's from Irish winter holiday operator DirectSki.com. During the winter months, they placed these die-cut flyers on car windshields overnight, and if mother nature cooperated, the next morning's snowfall or frost converted the slanted glass into slopes, creating countless Pow! moments in parking lots and city streets.
Inspired, brilliant and effective. Not expensive either. Ah yes, little things indeed mean--and impact--a lot. (Much thanks, Slumlord Amin!)
Tomorrow's the day.
Pow! rocks the bay.
Brian Caulfield writes in Forbes about the anxiously-awaited Surprises from the always-Surprising Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco tomorrow. Says he:
Brilliant. In more ways than one, Steve Jobs and co. are after my heart. Delivering a consistent flow of Surprise. Constantly expanding the boundaries of delightful extremes. Generating the Battle Cry of Surprise, namely "What Will They Think of Next?" As Caulfield goes on to explain:
So let's see what transpires...
By the way, Apple ain't the only digital behemoth exploiting the power of Surprise. Take a gander at the opening minutes of Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra's intro of Google Wave. Man, if the word "Surprise" was the F-bomb, this would be like watching an episode of The Sopranos:
One of the landmark moments for any teacher is when he or she is "surpassed" and learns something from one of his or her students.
This is what makes Paul Williams' recent coup-de-grace so wonderful. Turning the Surprise tables on yours truly, the head of the Idea Sandbox marketing consultancy (and the author of this stunning blog), Paul asked this somewhat hackneyed question as the grand finale of his email interview for my oft-mentioned (and hopefully incessantly-purchased) Pow! book:
7) Finally, what's the question you already have an answer to that hasn't been asked, and you wish it had?
Oh Christ! That's how I used to end interviews with rockstars like Peter Frampton and Kiss and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ask your parents, kids) when I was a teenage journalist. Their answers were usually wordless, communicated via a vacant look. I had to do better. So, I said:
I left it at that, thinking it would be left there as is. Imagine my Surprise then, when Paul deftly picked up the gauntlet I had tossed, and constructed the following:
What more can I say than: "Touche." And "Ouch."
But I must admit...it hurst so good!
Saw this while in Boston last Saturday. In town to pick up my son Hayes and catch a Red Sox game at Fenway, I stumbled across this trio playing in Faneuil Hall:
Mom and two sons in the well-branded and very aptly-named College Fund Band. Throughout their lengthy set of pop classics, Mom maintained a steady presence on keyboards and the two boys bounced back between vocals, guitar and drums; think the Partridge Family in a recession. While CFB won't challenge Coldplay, AC/DC or Green Day for live tour receipts this summer, safe to say that this is a novel, heartwarming (and as the less-than-perfect video below shows, quite successful) way to accomplish a very positive and simply-stated goal. Truth in advertising indeed!
More fun than spending weekends working in a fast-food joint or factory (not to say that either boy is old enough to do even that), not only do I think that this will raise the funds necessary, but will probably raise enough awareness for a scholarship at some business (or music) school...or at least for an appearance or two on a talk-show (seems perfect for a 10:00 p.m. Leno).
Update on June 22: Ignore my beef below; "Mom," namely Debbie Gantt, reached out (see comment below) and assured that the site www.collegefundband.com is now up and running. Read more about her, Jack and Dan by clicking the link above, or checking out this piece from the Boston Globe.
That said, my only beef is the emptiness--and I do mean that literally--of the trio's website. Flashed full-frontal on the bass drum, www.collegefundband.com leads you only to a static silhouette logo, so I can't even tell you the names of these people. Nonetheless, I hope Mom has another kid at home--or at least a cousin, niece or nephew--with a modicum of web-savvy to improve their digital presence...and their potential to raise funds.
All that said, kudos to the kids for doing something so upbeat, and to Mom for knowing where her kids are on the weekend. The family that plays together rasises together...
16 variations on a very basic design.
And one of the best web experiences in selling it.
Well, selling the agency that created it, that is
In the oft-metioned Pow! book, Surprise-generating Tactic #5 is "Look in the Rear-View Mirror," explained as:
I love it when people take me verbatim.
Check this out--an ad for the Eating Disorder Education Organization, a group that helps the sufferers--most who do so in silence--deal with, and find help, their illness.
Nothing to make fun of, and this spot certainly doesn't. What is DOES do though, is make a very powerful, and visual, statement, about the abnormality of eating disorders.
It's simply entitled "Cream Ice," and can be viewed, I suspect repetitively, below:
One thing I love most in advances in digital technology is that it forces the analog world to step up its game.
Case in point are these business cards, sent along from most faithful FOP Cary Goldwax. I may have these people in my Outlook (or or more notably and recently, in my Xobni, the best damn email plug-in ever), but their digital data could never pack as much punch, could never speak as loud, could never tell a story as well, as these:
Think these are anomalies? Well, here's a link for 98 (!!!!) more over at WebDesignerDepot.com.
Enjoy. But more importantly, get your atoms inspired.
Without Craig's enthusiasm and sense of fun, I would've been a stiff. He made me comfortable, and made the interview a joy. Was every bit as fun as it seemed. (By the way, the jacket I walked on with was a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind work of art by artist and former Andy Warhol assistant Steve Kaufman.)
Hope you enjoy watching as much as I did yapping!
And to that end, take a gander at this double-sided “Do Not Disturb” sign I, uh, "borrowed" (sorry!) from the Sandman Signature Hotel. I was at the chain’s Toronto Airport location last weekend for a family affair (by the way, this was, by far, the BEST Airport hotel I’ve ever stayed at; a boutique feel in the middle of industrial-land) and was enamored with the hotel’s attention to detail, even with something like said sign, which most havens of hospitality sadly take for granted.
With it, the Sandman adheres to the adage "There are two sides to every story." If you can’t read ‘em, here’s the text. One side gives it to you in detail:
(The Long Story)
We might be sleeping or not, could be working or relaxing, taking a shower, any number of things…
…OR maybe, just maybe, while looking for some ME time, I mean really, is that too much to ask. Just a few minutes, it’s not like we’re asking for something crazy like our own island or anything, just a little bit of time to ourselves. It’s not an unreasonable request. We’re usually quite friendly and sociable, almost always polite and so, all we ask, this one tiny little thing…
…please do not disturb. Thank you.
See, told you we were polite
On the other side, slightly more succinctly:
(To make a long story short)
…please do not disturb.
Not the biggest thing in the world, but when was the last time you noticed a “Do Not Disturb” sign…let alone stole one?
Not the biggest thing in the world, but when was the last time you noticed a “Do Not Disturb” sign…let alone stole one?
So tell me, what stories are you burying under a blanket of boredom?
The new millennia's version of "You stuck your chocolate in my peanut butter!" I suppose...
Given the panic around swine flu, perhaps not the best time to launch a cocoa and pork-product hybrid, but high-end chocolatier Vosges has come out with this--Mo's Bacon Bar, which is indeed what is says, a bacon-infused chocolate bar. Check out the site's product description:
"Breathe…engage your five senses, close your eyes and inhale deeply. Be in the present moment, notice the color of the chocolate, the glossy shine.
Rub your thumb over the chocolate bar to release the aromas of smoked applewood bacon flirting with deep milk chocolate. Snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue."
Nonetheless, it follows one of the Pow! tactics of "Taking Things Out of Context," indeed Surprises...and somehow fits within the strange bacon obsession of this blog (like this post, this one and this one), which is weird since said blogger is a health-conscious, fat-phobic, calorie-counting Jew.
Ran this close to three years ago, but given the subject matter of the past two Pow! posts, it deserves an encore.
What better way to mark this blog's 700th post than with the return of The Speedbandidts:
A month ago, Susan Boyle was an unemployed, middle-aged everywoman with a magnificent voice.
Today, she is a world-wide sensation.
Such is the power of the Internet, right?
Such is the power of word-of-mouth marketing, right?
Such is the power of social networking, right?
Such is the power of Surprise.
Without it, there is nothing to network.
There is nothing to talk about.
No words to spread, nowhere.
Face it folks,there are tens of thousands of people equally as talented as--more talented than!--our dear Susan, all who can also be found singing on YouTube.
But Susan Boyle's story is not one of talent. It's one of Pow!
"Without a doubt that is the biggest surprise I have had in three years of the show," gasped Britain's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan to Susan's breakout performance on the show. "I'm reeling from shock."
The dichotomy between the expectation set by Susan's frumpy appearance and the angelic sounds that emanated from her lips is what set the world on fire. It's a textbook case of one of the key Surprise-generating tactics--Play Against Stereotypes.
I couldn't be happier for Susan Boyle. Not only did she destroy all preconceived notions, but her success validates the raison d'etre for this blog.
1) Wanted to see how long it would last, but Surprise seems to have found a place mainstream as Time Magazine incorporates a pseudo Surprise-meter with its weekly "Pop Chart," which tracks the week's news items on a scale that ranges from "Shocking" to "Shockingly Predictable."
2) Embodying the spirit of risk-taking necessary to create bottom-line enhancing Surprises comes the slogan for the upcoming Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. flick "The Soloist":
Was sent this by a number of FOPs (Friends of Pow!), most notably the prolific Adam Lawrence--the story of Austin, Texas's wildly Surprising Alamo Draft House, a movie theater that's as entertaining as (if not more than) the films they screen. I quote directly from the source, Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell's Church of the Customer blog, one of the best in the business:
Many movie theaters say they're in the exhibition business, which is one reason why many movie theaters are not entertaining. But the Alamo Draft House movie theater in Austin, Texas continues to inspire with its innovations of fun, which it calls signature events (including Surprise Central's fave, "Air Sex"). Two examples within one week:
1. Renegade Karaoke.
The Alamo rented a bus to drive around Austin filled with customers who, with the assistance of a mobile sound system, sang karaoke amidst surprised onlookers at Starbucks, a police station, a fitness class, and a busy intersection. The theater brought along a video camera to record the fun and compile a 4-minute highlight reel which will, naturally, be shown as entertainment before movie showings.
2. A secret world premiere of the new Star Trek film.
It was billed as a big-screen showing of the 1982 Star Trek classic, "The Wrath of Khan," with an opportunity to see 10 minutes of the new "Star Trek" film. But 10 minutes into the showing of Khan, that film mysteriously "broke." Out walks Leonard "Mr. Spock" Nimoy. He suggests the theater show the entirety of the new Star Trek film. It was all a ruse to host an unexpected world premiere among hard-core fanatics of the franchise. How fun is that?
Compare this to the usual uninspired insipidness offered by your local multiplex...and tell me where YOU would rather see your next film. When's the next flight to Austin?
About a decade ago, I used to write a newspaper column called "The Short List." In my fifth one, about how to be truly effective in public protests, I mused:
Cut to Louisville, Kentucky last week, and see that I wasn't crazy back then...and certainly am not now. Check out the picture below, and the following excerpts from an article in Advertising Age:
"In an unusual
cause-marketing push, KFC is tackling the pothole problem in Louisville, Ky. in
exchange for stamping the fresh pavement with "Re-freshed by KFC," a
chalky stencil likely to fade away in the next downpour.
"'This program is a perfect example of that rare and optimal occurrence when a company can creatively market itself and help local governments and everyday Americans across the country,' said Javier Benito, exec VP-marketing and food innovation at KFC.
"The KFC program appears to be part of a growing body of consumer-service marketing that connects in a meaningful way. This past holiday season, Charmin provided a public restroom in Times Square for the third year running. Samsung has installed electrical charging stations in many major airports to help travelers stay connected while in limbo."
This is simple, cost-effective but insanely effective Pow! The blogosphere has exploded with chatter about this inspired tactic (here's just one example from Word-of-Mouth Marketing kingpin andy Sernovitz), bringing KFC a tidal wave of positive buzz...much needed after being tarred and feathered in so many ways over the past few years.
What does this have to do with selling chicken? Directly, very little, but indirectly, the goodwill generated by this Surprise may fill coffers KFC faster than KFC fills holes.
Now, if I could only find a corporation willing to clean my eavestroughs...
Perhaps inspired by Wednesday's post, perhaps by divine intervention, Ryan Barton of Rhyno Marketing sends along another fine example of what happens when people inadvertently (and quite hilariously) interact with, and become, advertising. This one, with the message "Get Up and Run," is a simple, chair-positioned sticker from a place called VIP Gym:
As repeated here relentlessly, incessantly, ad nauseam, Surprise is not a one-off stunt; for it to truly pay dividends, it has to work as a continuum, an on-going process of "What Will They Think Of Next?"
Here's two people who get it, and give it, big-time:
--J&D's Foods follow-up to Bacon Salt: Baconnaise (also certified Kosher!)
--Richard (Sir Surprise) Branson providing thongs to Business Class patrons and "Women's Only" toilets on Virgin Airline's new Australia-USA flights. As he puts it: "I think those sorts of things will show a sense of humour ... and we're not like the other guys."
What will they think of next, indeed.
Two, two, two Surprise-marketing tactics in one--Wear Virgin Contact Lenses and Take Things Out of Context--come together in the brilliant, kinda creepy, but ultimately effective ad for Frontline Flea & Tick Spray from the Jakarta, Indonesia branch of Saatchi & Saatchi.
This massive floor sticker in a Jakarta mall makes us humans part of the ad itself, and while interesting from ground level, the perspective takes on a certain power and majesty when seen from levels above. (Major props to Contessa Trujillo for this one.)
The decor was sharp and simple. The food was wonderful. Wine list was adventurous.
But the review said: "The focus at Kitchenette is on playfulness." (Kitchenette is a new restaurant I tried this past week.)
Here's what it meant, and here's what people talked about:
It's one of the four key theories in creating Surprise--Little Things Mean a Lot. It's also one of the Nine Tactics--Take Things Out of Context.
A little unexpected merging of two dichotomous items, soup and popcorn,can be the catalyst to a lot of talk, buzz and "I gotta try it"s. Gotta go back there with a camera to show ya...
Meanwhile, what little things are YOU doing to Surprise, delight and inspire your customers?
The launch of Apple's new iPod shuffle gives us a textbook example of the difference between Wow! and Pow!
Wow! is impressive, but expected. It moves incrementally. It takes you past a standard already set.
Pow! is also impressive, but totally UN-expected. It moves in leaps and bounds, sometimes in quantum leaps and bounds. It smacks you about the head, since you never saw it coming.
So in terms of the new shuffle, the Wow! is that it's now even smaller. Here's the incremental, expected process:
The Pow! though, is that the teeny weeny thing TALKS.
THAT's the Surprise. That's the "Holy Jeez!" That's what gets the blogosphere and the tweeters buzzing.
Next time around, the iPod Shuffle Wow! will be that it talks to you with celebrity voices, or in foreign accents, or something expected and incremental like that.
The Pow! may be that it'll be invisible.
Been doing a lot of interviews for the ol' Pow! book, and one question that's recurring on a regular basis is:
"How can Surprise tactics help in today's frightfully down economy?"
Here's the answer I gave all last week, courtesy of Jon Birger's article "Baseball Battles The Slump" in the most recent Fortune Magazine. In the piece, Jon talks about the efforts of the small-market Arizona Diamondbacks, most notably its tirelessCEO Derrick Hall.
In addition to outlining Hall's meticulous attention to detail and his obsessive response to the fans, Jon cites this "expanding the boundaries of delightful extremes" Pow! Moment:
"As focused as Hall is on keeping existing fans happy, he's even more obsessive about cultivating the next generation. If he's out to dinner and sees a youngster wearing a D-backs hat, he'll pick up the family's tab."
Thanks for the help, Derrick. It's stories like this that don't merely fill blog posts, but fill seats. It's this type of grass-roots, never-say-die action that may be the difference between survival and extinction as the abyss of the economy swallows up the bloated and the indifferent.
Next time I'm in Phoenix, I'll pick up a ticket or two for a sun-drenched afternoon game...
...and hang around local restaurants sporting a D-Backs cap. Just in case.
Was kind holding onto this one, but since Beth Negus Viveiros spilled the beans in a very appreciated piece about the marketing of a marketing book in Chief Marketer, I guess I should tell you about the official soundtrack to the Pow! book, which I call:
Pow! Right Between The Ears!
The soundtrack, the first-ever for a business book I suspect confidently, is filled with music to read Pow! by; a selection of songs that inspired parts of the book and/or fit its theme (too bad Springsteen's latest effort came out after I had locked down song selection, as his "Surprise, Surprise," while not my fave Boss tune of all time, still would've been a welcome addition. Nonetheless...)
Anyway, it's up and available for public consumption on iTunes, and can be downloaded by visiting my site and clicking the country-specific iTunes link button/flag.
So...as Ronnie Van Zant said to kick off "Sweet Home Alabama":
"TURN IT UP!"
Okay, one final Boston post for y'all.
One thing I hate more than unimaginative brunches are stultifying “Open/Closed” signs (hard to please suckah, ain’t I?).
I’ve ranted long and hard against the bad ones, but pump my fist in joy when I find a needle-in-the-haystack good one...like this from a clothing and accessory store called Motley (courtesy of one of its cooler brands, Sailor Jerry, and both worth a visit, particiularly the Sailor Jerry Blog):
Still in Boston, but now traipsing through the trendy boutiques of Newbury Street. Still stuffed from the Tremont 647 brunch (see yesterday’s post), but this bakery made me an offer I couldn’t refuse:
By the way, pardon the pun, but the icing on the cake was the third window sign which read: Zero Sugar (never mind the heavenly fumes wafting from within the place).
So, I climbed the stairs, justifying the unnecessary snack with visions of additional sessions in the gym, and found this:
Can there be any more blatant Pow!? Despite the bakery display cases, the bake sheets, mixing machines and wide-handled boxes, the only cupcakes for sale here were on the t-shirts and accessories created by their eponymous designer.
Even more impressive than this supreme Pow! Moment was the story behind it. Full details can be found on the Johnny Cupcakes eye-cradling website, but here is a guy who eschewed mass merchandising and built a multi-million-dollar business selling clothes to a hip and exclusive few…which had led him to being labeled a “branding genius,” and a hot property on the college lecture circuit (no fool is Mr. Cupcakes; his lecture tour is akin to a band’s, where he rakes in bushels of bucks by selling merch directly to his audience).
So instead of a tasty but gratuitous two-or-three-buck nibble, I instead picked up a stylin’-but-superfluous $35 t-shirt. You do the math.
And as a bonus, it added loads to my street cred account with the younger and hipper members of my staff back at the office as apparently, Johnny Cupcakes is quite the benefactor and supporter of the extreme edges of the indie music scene, providing merch and other help to bands like A Day To Remember.
And speaking of cupcakes, check this out. Passed along to me by my son Aidan, from the blog of much-admired author and personal fave Daniel Pink, comes this story of ethereal, edible art. The picture below is just the start; Dan's great blog will tell you the rest.
Wonder who's doing the t-shirts?
I hate brunch.
Okay, that’s kinda strong as a sentiment, but as meals go, it’s perhaps one of the culinary world’s most predictable and boring—buffet tables of overpriced, pre-prepped eggs and bacon and juice and roast beef served to a line of ravenous plate-wielding multitudes in bulk. All that’s missing is the trough.
That’s why, during my recent Boston sojourn, I begged, cajoled—pleaded with!—Vinnie the concierge at the Copley Plaza Hotel to please find me something different, unique—may I even ask for Surprising!—for my Sunday late-morning meal.
Well, Vinnie delivered. Despite its nondescript address-cum-name, the restaurant Tremont 647 (at
The main differentiating factor was its famed “Pajama Brunch,” where all staff are outfitted in assorted sleepwear (see a few above I assembled for the perfunctory Pow! pic), and the menu (below) wags its finger at you with a loud “Why aren’t you in your PJs?” reprimand (while all people at Tremont 647 are treated equal, the resto’s manager did admit that those who actually come dressed down are treated WAY more equal than the others).
Most places would never, ever even get to this level, but the majority of those that would, would stop right here: cute gimmick, now shovel out those scrambled eggs and sausage. Not so at this place.
Taking a lesson from its more elegant, evening-service brethren, Tremont 647 starts off each bruncher with a plate of “amuse-bouche” (we had some literal melt-in-your-mouth, mini cheese-danish-type things), and provide standards and specials that are far-from-standard and extra-special. While I’m no food critic, suffice to say that we ate well in bubbly, friendly surroundings for a more-than-fair price. Best of all, this was not a one-off “over the top,” where you would think to yourself that “Okay, I’ve done this once…and once is enough”; the restaurant bustled with spirit and happiness, the food was imaginative and plentiful, and I’d go back tomorrow.
Here's the story:
This was not a "meal"; this was a long-running, twice-weekly "happening." This was a hit show where people stood in line with their lovers, kids, parents, whomever, to get in and
Like yesterday’s Barbershop Lounge story, Tremont 647 shows that any business can integrate Pow! into its DNA. And when dealing with seemingly “its all been done” commodities like haircuts or weekend brunches or whatever your company does, one doesn’t have to throw in the towel and give up on finding a way to deliver a flow of delightful extremes to your customers.
Sleep on it.
Faithful FOPs know by now that I recently spent a weekend in Boston, and judging by the amount of Pow! I stumbled upon, this city should replace the rather unresponsive Surprise, Arizona as the spiritual home of this blog (now if we could only do something about those hated Bruins...).
That said, all this week we'll be featuring Boston's discoveries here at Surprise Central, continuing with the sign at right, from a men's salon called Barbershop Lounge.
This is the type of biz that has been the same for years; while hairstyles and services have changed, there's only so much a men's salon can do for its customers without breaking the boundaries of decency...or the law itself.
That's why I love what these people did. Following two of the nine major Surprise-generating tactics in one fell swoop ("Wear Virgin Contact Lenses," which urges one to see things as if it were their first time and "A Piece of the Puzzle," which suggests breaking down a problem into pieces and focusing on the shiniest one), Barbershop Lounge decided not to focus on what they were offering, but on how they were charging for it instead...hence the sign and its subscription.
We all know that gyms charge annual memberships, but hairstylists? Actually, the Lounge has multiple memberships, ranging from the one you see here to the Platinum, which includes massages, shoe shines, shaves, hand and foot treatments and even valet parking for a hair-raising $2275 per year.
Think of your biz. Can you get your customers to commit to a year's worth of your products or services? This is when it becomes less about money and more about a relationship. Are YOU worth the vow?