How to WOW your audience with 'surprise-driven' marketing 🎁
The unexpected edge of marketing with positive curiosity & hidden elements
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Who doesn’t love a good surprise? 🎲 A 2016 study found that people are more likely to appreciate “40% off” when the discount is revealed later (at check-out) rather than upfront.
Life is full of surprises, and your product should be, too.
Surprises ignite curiosity. By hiding some elements of our product on purpose, we can activate the ‘curiosity gap’ (= people are hardwired to seek information that fills their knowledge void) and win our audience’s attention 🤓
But there is a right and a wrong way to do it:
🚦 The Right Way vs. The Douche Way
The wrong approach? LinkedIn hiding profile viewers or Bumble pixelating faces until you pay up. This method can feel like holding information hostage.
The right way is to embed the element of surprise INTO your product. With balance. It should be an added value, not a withheld one. Let users choose if they want to be surprised or not, like Spotify’s shuffle or Netflix’s ‘surprise me’ button.
Here’s your guide for winning hearts with surprise-driven marketing:
🎁 The Right Way: Case Study
Travel startup Srprs.me offers vacation packages where the destination is a surprise. Wow, I think that’s crazy. They let you choose basic travel details, but the destination itself? It's a mystery until you're at the airport. ✈️
Sounds a bit too much, right? Well, curiosity alone isn't enough for Srprs.me to work. Two other principles come into play here:
Autonomy Bias: Giving travelers some control over their preferences.
Certainty Effect: Providing essential information to counterbalance curiosity's potential anxiety.
There is one critical piece of information travelers can't do without: the weather. About a week before your trip, you receive an email with updated weather conditions for your mystery destination. Rain in the forecast? Pack that umbrella! This small dose of certainty ensures curiosity doesn't morph into anxiety and panic.
That’s why the key is in the balance. While the main destination remains a secret, travelers can state preferences, exclude places, and choose dates. This way, Srprs.me finds a sweet spot between autonomy and surprise.
📈 Why Become Surprise-Driven?
Plenty of reasons why:
🔍 Retention: Hidden features or surprises revealed over time can rekindle user interest and deepen engagement. No matter how good a new experience feels, our feelings eventually revert back to normal after long use. Surprises can flip that.
😵 Analysis Paralysis: In a world overflowing with options, random surprises can eliminate analysis paralysis, the fear of missing out, and the anxiety of making "wrong" choices. There's beauty in not knowing.
👥 Conversation Starters: Products with a surprise factor are natural conversation starters. I think I personally told 10+ people about Srprs.me since I found it so interesting. Surprise-led products give users something to talk about over coffee or on social media, driving organic word-of-mouth.
🤌 Sense of “Wait for it”: When I launched the Viral Post Generator, people told me they got addicted to the fact that you can never know what post you’ll receive once you click “Generate”. It’s like a rollercoaster ride that is worth waiting for.
🧪 3 Ways to Surprise
You don’t have to create an entirely new product to leverage the surprise effect. Srprs.me is the extreme way to do it. Here are three actionable tactics for implementing surprises into an existing product:
Shuffle Function: Can your product offer a random selection feature?
Secret Features: Introduce hidden elements that are revealed after a set period or usage.
Randomized User Experiences: Like Zoom’s random breakout rooms or Slack’s coffee bot, can you introduce elements that randomize user interactions by default? By reducing the number of choices users can make (and by randomizing them instead), we can make the product more fun and prevent frustration. The best example of random UX is this magazine subscription that reader Juris had sent me: you get a random mag delivered to your home every month.
Remember: The goal is to delight (not frustrate). Balancing autonomy and surprise is key.
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