Most marketing looks, feels, smells and tastes like marketing.
That’s a shame because marketing that doesn’t look and feel like marketing has a major advantage: surprise.
Great marketing is almost always surprising. Unexpected.
But to harness the power of the unexpected, you need to understand what is expected in any given situation.
In marketing, what’s expected is that “Company X is about to say something great about Company X”.
Or, “Company Y is about to push their agenda”.
So what if you didn’t do that?
What if you did the exact opposite?
That would be… surprising.
The pseudo-neuroscience of surprise
When any of us receive a message, we do a cool little calculation:
- We listen to the message
- We bring up our file about the sender of the message
- And we compare the two
If the message is consistent with everything we know about the sender, we yawn and look elsewhere for stimulation (or food or sex or whatever).
But if the message clashes with what we know about the sender, we stop in our tracks and send a signal to our eyebrow that says, “Initiate raising procedure.” Then we do something really really important: we pay attention.
And attention is what it’s all about.
Take the obvious and do the opposite.
One technique for exploring surprise is Negation: make a statement that you’d like people to hear. Then say the exact opposite thing and see how it feels and how you might tell a story that leads with it.
So: You expect BurgerCo to say, “We’re not just about fat and salt — we do healthy salads too!”
What if they said, “We do burgers. They have fat. Fat is the thing that tastes good in burgers. We prefer burgers that taste good. Don’t eat one every day. But when you do eat one, enjoy the hell out of it.”
And you expect an energy company to say, “Here’s us in a green, green field helping a farmer and an orphan save the planet for us all.”
What if they said, “You got a problem with oil? Don’t use it. But if we stop pumping it, the economy grinds to a halt and your ass is out of a job. Till something better comes along, we’ll do oil.”
Now that would be surprising. And refreshing. And effective.
Give it a go.
Image by Nick Maxwell at www.goodphun.com