Advertising agencies and brands have long spoken about how "The Consumer Is King" and this has never been more apparent than in this age of social media.
In the age of connectedness and transparency, we now have trigger-happy customers ever willing to call out and punish brands for bad customer service or product experiences online. On the flip side, consumers are also ready to share great brand experiences that go beyond their expectations. Known as "Surprise and Delight Moments" or "Random Acts of Kindness" (Procter and Gamble calls these moments "Blowing People Away"), these comprise of acts of generosity that are performed by brands that can help or cheer up an individual or groups of people.
The catalyst for brands going the extra mile to surprise and delight customers stems from the knowledge that with social media, each satisfied customer can reach out to hundreds and potentially thousands of others. These acts are akin to the old days when receiving a bottle of champagne from the restaurant while celebrating your anniversary or getting free cake because the waiter overheard that it was your birthday drives you to share such stories of brand goodwill at social gatherings with friends and family.
Many brands have started leveraging on such surprise and delight moments to build positive word of mouth with consumers and to win over many new fans in the process. One of the first to have done so successfully is KLM Surprise, an experiment by the airline to see how happiness spreads when a few airline staff went out of their way to prepare gifts for passengers who tweeted about their pending departure on a KLM flight at the airport.
These feel-good moments generate a warm buzzing feeling to both the actual recipients and those watching a video of the experience. Case in point, the Coca Cola Happiness Project where true happiness is created for a few of the 11 million Filipinos working overseas when the brand brings them home for the holidays or even this really awesome act by Tropicana creating "sunlight" for the remote Artic town of Inuvik, where residents live without sunrise for weeks each winter, as part of its new "Brighter Mornings for Brighter Days" campaign. Admit it, even this Unexpected Luggage Surprise moment courtesy of Spanair for customers who had to fly over Christmas Eve brings a nice, feel-good moment that leaves you warm and fuzzy.
What has led to these socially driven surprise and delight moments?
1. Trust in brands and corporations is falling. People are growing suspicious and cynical of brand promises and empty advertising messages. There is visible erosion in consumers' trust in advertising messages. Consumers are fed up with distant, inflexible, and self-serving corporations. More and more, consumers want brands to create "acts" instead of just "ads." Truly, actions do speak louder than words and actions help brands create content that is sharable and has great social currency.
2. There are a lot of people who use social media platforms as an outlet to complain. These complaints range from simple inconveniences in life to circumstances that have caused much unhappiness. Fueled by increased transparency in technology, these publicly shared personal information on Facebook and Twitter - details about their lives, their moods, and whereabouts (current and intended locations) help brands that have an established social presence and listening protocol to easily track, identify, and engage with these consumers.
Just to be clear, these surprise and delight moments are not about rewarding customers for liking your brand or product on Facebook or for tweeting about them. It goes beyond free gifts, lucky draws, or samples and focuses on selective yet random acts of kindness that aim to surprise and delight the customer and (hopefully) get them talking about and sharing these moments with their friends and on their social networks.
So what is in it for brands?
Other than the opportunity to drive positive word of mouth and have recipients spread this brand goodwill across their social sphere, brands can also leverage on the content created to generate conversations in the social space. Much has been spoken about how brand videos go viral, and one of the key reasons is the moment of unexpectedness, when you are pleasantly surprised by something nice.
People crave human brands and the informed consumers of the social age are also people who buy from brands whom they deem have similar values and beliefs as they do. Such acts of generosity, compassion, and humanity create a personable brand affinity that people actively want to associate themselves with and be a part of.
How should brands get involved?
Brands need to ensure that their efforts to create these moments are guided by a consumer or social insight, so that it is contextually relevant to the target audience.
The act itself should also be implicitly tied to their brand or product purpose and communicated through a unique point of view, such that it reinforces the message and creates a somatic marker in the consumers' head. This helps build a positive emotional attachment to the brand that can guide preference when it comes to decision-making.
Here are three great brand examples:
a. Edge Shave Gel - Building on the product proposition of preventing shave irritation, Edge sought out users who were irritated by everyday problems and were complaining about them on Twitter and helping them relieve these "irritations" by sending humorous replies and gifts (in the form of cereal, iPads, computers to megaphones) to them.
b. Kotex Women's Inspiration Day - A great campaignwhere the feminine hygiene company created Women's Inspiration Day as a day of celebrating each woman as a unique individual. The brand then scoured Pinterest (the discovery and curation platform where most people go to get inspired) and found 50 inspiring women to reach out to. By going through these women's pin boards, they found what inspired them and created care packages filled with objects they wanted, decorated in the styles that caught their attention. To get these customized gift baskets, all they had to do was to re-pin Kotex's invitation to them on their boards.
c. Kleenex Feel Good - Tied in nicely with the brand purpose, Kleenex reached out to people who were feeling under the weather via their Facebook status updates and sent them special Kleenex kits to help them get better.
Businesses have long understood that creating great customer experiences during key moments of truth (such as the retail store) can help build great brands. In the age of digital and social, well-designed moments of kindness and generosity online can help build a truly great social brand.
Home page photo from Shutterstock.
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Vincent is the co-founder and partner at C//IQUE, a product development studio and incubator that focuses on developing digital products and services that disrupt traditional business models and empower consumers. He has over a decade of experience both on the client and agency side, most recently as a digital planning director at BBDO/Proximity and lead digital strategist at Publicis. Prior to that, he started-up and managed the Hong Kong office of Splash Interactive Group and built the online business at Citibank and HSBC. Connect with him on Twitter @intersphere.
March 19, 2014