| Apr 26, 2023 | | 12 min read

Surprise and delight campaigns: New ways to delight customers in 2023


Surprise and delight campaigns could be your secret weapon, whether you’re looking to gain traction on social media, leave your clients’ customers feeling seen and heard or simply spread goodness into the world. Let’s look at some of the big brands that do it best and share a few tips and tricks for agencies looking to create their own magic moments for their clients.

Discover 101 free tools for digital marketers. DOWNLOAD the guide and tap into tools without cutting into your budget.

Define delighted: What exactly is surprise and delight in marketing?

In the world of marketing, the phrase surprise and delight refers to those moments of marketing magic where customer expectations are exceeded in an unexpected and positive way. In a world brimming with endless marketing messages for products and services vying for our attention, surprise and delight in marketing is one the most effective ways of cutting through the noise and getting a business noticed.

Learn all about bundling and get the guide: How to scale revenue by selling high-margin product and service bundles.

The idea behind the surprise and delight marketing approach is to deliver a memorable experience that catches the customer or prospect off guard and leaves them with a smile on their face. When done right, this strategy can foster customer loyalty, enhance brand image, and generate positive word-of-mouth marketing. By going above and beyond what is usually expected, businesses can catch customers off-guard by surpassing their expectations and offering them something extraordinary. When we get to some real-world surprise and delight examples, you’ll see exactly what we mean.

So, what are the components of an effective surprise and delight marketing campaign? There are lots of ways to create that positive feeling in audiences, but the basic anatomy of a successful campaign will include these elements:

Know the audience

The first step in any successful surprise and delight marketing campaign is understanding the target audience. Businesses should know their audience preferences, pain points, and values, and use this knowledge to inform their campaigns. To truly delight customers, it’s important to know what makes them tick.

Be genuinely surprising

To delight the customer and elicit a strong emotional response, campaigns need to get creative and be genuinely surprising. Offering predictable promotions or rewards might be welcome, but these strategies will fail to create the desired emotional impact that is the goal with surprise and delight marketing. Aim to break away from the norm, and experiment with new and inventive ways to engage and please the audience.

Create a memorable experience

While different audience bases might define delighted in different ways, surprise and delight marketing tends to share one thing in common: it leaves a lasting impression and invites buzz. This can be achieved through personalization, exceptional customer service, or offering unique, shareable moments that customers will want to rave about.

Be timely and relevant

Surprise and delight marketing campaigns are often aligned with some kind of current event, season, or trend to maximize the relevance and impact of the campaign. If your campaign is linked to an event, time of year, or trend, acing the timing can go a long way in delighting customers.

7 Surprise and delight marketing examples

There’s nothing like successful real-world surprise and delight examples to show exactly what can be achieved with this unique, customer-focused approach. Check out this roundup of 7 successful campaigns, and start jotting down your own surprise and delight ideas.

Delight customers: Swoop Airlines


Canadian discount airline Swoop provides an excellent example of how a routine, unremarkable marketing effort like a limited-time coupon can be transformed into a memorable surprise and delight marketing campaign with a little ingenuity. Instead of just posting their coupon to social media accounts and sending out to their email list, Swoop wrote their coupon into the sand on a sunny Mexican beach and live-streamed it on their Facebook pages.

Customers had a limited time to use the coupon before the tide washed it away, creating an unexpected constraint and a stronger sense of urgency than a simple online timer might have created. Not only does this approach delight customers and encourage them to purchase airfare before the deal is gone, it also has the surprise element that is sure to get Swoop mentioned around water coolers and dinner tables as people recount the fun campaign they saw.

That’s the beauty of surprise and delight marketing: it amplifies the effect of each campaign by generating buzz and conversation, encouraging others to look it up or creating a positive impression of the brand associated with the campaign.

Delight customers like Twitter


Public discourse about social media often focuses on its downsides, like it can be a procrastination tool or its role in making people feel more atomized and alienated. Twitter changed the conversation and delighted audiences both online and in the real world with its 2022 campaign “If you dream it, Tweet it.”

Twitter printed billboards across several major American cities with tweets—some of them a decade old—of now-famous and successful individuals seemingly manifesting their futures by tweeting about their victories before they happened.

By including screen stars like Simu Liu and Issa Rae, musicians like Megan Thee Stallion and Demi Lovato, among sports heroes and other celebrities who tweeted their visions for the future, Twitter delighted users and invited them to share their own dreams on the platform.

Delight customers like MasterCard

Mastercard is well-known when it comes to its viral campaigns of goodwill. The holiday campaign, delivering a truckload of love to grassroots toy drives in different communities, really hits you. Not only is it a genius marketing move to release feel-good, highly shareable content during a season when the world is typically more receptive, it’s also doing a lot of good. Who wouldn’t want to be one of those Mastercard employees, wrapping up pallets of gifts and dropping them off where they’re needed most.

Delight customers like Kleenex

Here’s another big brand shining bright in the world of surprise and delight. The company launched  Feel Good by Kleenex with great success. The team at Kleenex started by scouring Facebook for status updates of users who were feeling ill. After contacting family and friends for address information, a Kleenex kit filled with get-well items was delivered to their doorstep within hours. The campaign generated more than 650,000 impressions and resulted in 1,800 interactions between the brand and social-media users.

Delight customers like Nescafé

During a time when many people around the world are still unable to get together with friends, family, and neighbors for a simple cup of coffee, Nescafé’s Nextdoor Hello, feels like a campaign that could easily happen under today’s social distancing guidelines. There’s something about a warm drink, a friendly smile and exchange of kindness with your neighbour that we can all relate to.

Delight customers like WestJet

Canadian airline company WestJet got it right by encouraging passengers to give their Christmas wish list to Santa, through a virtual, live meet-and-greet before boarding their flight. Much to travelers’ delight, a team of shoppers had been busy gathering all of those gifts while the flight was up in the air. When the plane touched down and passengers proceeded to baggage claim, their wish list items were right there waiting.

Delight customers like Lego

A 7-year-old boy was on the receiving end of Lego’s goodwill after he wrote to the company, asking for a new figure when he accidentally lost his Ninjago character during a grocery store trip with his dad. Lego responded with input from brand character Sensei Wu, sending the young boy a one-of-a-kind replacement we’re sure he still treasures to this day.

Why you should always delight the customer

These campaigns are all examples of how great PR can boost brand awareness, bolster customer loyalty, and create meaningful moments with viral potential and a ripple effect of  impact. In a LoyaltyOne survey, 95 percent of respondents said they were left with a positive perception of the company or brand behind a surprise and delight promotion.

In the Kleenex campaign, 100 percent of recipients posted a photo of the positive interaction on their social feeds. Every single person was so delighted they immediately became a brand advocate. Advocacy is worth its weight in marketing gold, with 90 percent of consumers trusting suggestions from family and friends, and 93 percent of consumers saying that online reviews influenced their purchase decisions.

Here are some compelling reasons why your business should always strive to create delightful experiences for customers:

It boosts customer retention

Delighted customers are more likely to stick around and choose the brand that delighted them over a competitor, leading to increased customer retention rates. Greater retention means more repeat business, higher customer lifetime value (LTV), and a more reliable revenue stream for businesses.

Encouraging customer retention isn’t just a nice vanity metric for businesses: it has serious impact on the bottom line. A 5% increase in customer retention can increase revenues by anywhere from 25-95 per cent (Hubspot). Considering the high costs of customer acquisition, anything that supports higher retention rates can help your SMB clients.

It encourages word-of-mouth marketing

When you delight the customer, they will be more likely to share their experiences with others, generating valuable word-of-mouth marketing. The Kleenex surprise and delight example is just one example of how delighted customers can become brand advocates, but there can also be huge number of untrackable—but still impactful—conversations taking place offline after a surprise and delight marketing campaign.

It can be a powerful brand differentiator

Delighting customers helps businesses stand out in a crowded marketplace, even for widely available and generic products like tissues or coffee in the examples above. By going above and beyond to create memorable moments and impressions, these brands position themselves as truly caring about their customers and valuing more than just generating more sales and profits. From the customer perspective, surprise and delight marketing creates lasting positive impressions of the brands that practice it.

It’s an online reputation booster

A brand's reputation is shaped by the aggregate of the experiences its customers have. By consistently delighting customers in new ways as part of an overall reputation management strategy, brands can build a positive reputation that attracts new customers and encourages existing customers to keep coming back. This positive reputation, or good will, can even help businesses down the line if they suffer some negative press or operational issues that would otherwise damage their reputations.

Surprise and delight ideas to kickstart your own campaign

You don’t need a multi-million dollar marketing budget to execute a strategy at the agency level and for the clients you serve. Here are ways brands can leverage similar tactics to generate goodwill and create more brand advocates on a local level:

Surprise and delight ideas: Write a handwritten note

You may know your customer recently had a new baby or they’ve been going through a rough patch getting their small business off the ground. Handwritten messages show you care about what’s going on in their lives on a personal level, and that they have your support in tackling any challenges.

Delight customers: Host a giveaway on social

Not only will it allow you to gift an awesome prize to someone who’s already a brand advocate or at least one in the making, by building in a requirement for tagging other friends in the comments you reach an audience beyond those who already follow you. Check out some guidelines for launching a Facebook giveaway here.

Surprise and delight marketing: Make a meaningful connection

The Nescafé campaign did a great job of this. Interpersonal connections are one of the most powerful interactions we have as human beings and if you can make those moments happen you may come out of it a hero. Perhaps you volunteer to mentor a group of students in a field you’re passionate about, or recommend that a real estate client should help out in their local Habitat for Humanity shelter. These are ways to give back to people in your community and grow new connections and relationships.

Delight the customer: Celebrate birthdays

Send a special discount code to a customer on his or her birthday or even a card and small gift for higher-touch clients. Acknowledging special days like birthdays and anniversaries goes a long way toward building brand loyalty. If you don’t have a lot of extra time or live far from a client - try these e-gift card suggestions.

Surprise and delight ideas: Don’t forget about your team

Your staff are some of your best advocates. Employers who apply these same surprise and delight tactics on their employees are sure to create an army of brand ambassadors who know your business from the inside out. Springing for a work lunch on a Friday or offering frequent and meaningful recognition will encourage good work and excellent outreach, too. Workspaces like the ones at Google, Salesforce, and Facebook have strong and unique company cultures that go above and beyond when it comes to taking care of the people who work there.

Delight customers: Offer exclusive discounts or promotions

Providing exclusive discounts or promotions to loyal customers or subscribers makes them feel appreciated and encourages repeat business. This could be in the form of a loyalty program, a limited-time offer, or a secret sale available only to select customers. However, the key to distinguishing this from run-of-the-mill promotions is to incorporate some element of the unexpected. The Swoop airlines surprise and delight example provides a blueprint for how you might turn a limited-time promotion into something delightful and buzzworthy.

Surprise and delight marketing: Personalize your interactions

Taking the time to personalize interactions with customers can enhance their experience and make them feel like more than just another number or customer service ticket. Even small things like repeating the customers name in a conversation, reference their past interactions with the business, or offer personalized recommendations can add an element of delight.

Delight the customer: Organize special events or workshops

Hosting special events or workshops can be a great way to delight customers through memorable experiences, especially for businesses that normally only interact with customers online. These events can be educational, entertaining, or simply an opportunity for customers to connect with one another and with the business they support.

Surprise and delight ideas: Support a local cause or charity

For SMBs, aligning with a local cause or charity not only shows commitment to the community but also allows customers to support something meaningful through their support of a business they like. Fundraising or volunteer events can be fun, memorable, and unexpected, delighting customers while building trust and creating a positive brand image.

Delight customers: Respond promptly and thoughtfully to feedback

When customers feel heard and their concerns are addressed, they are more likely to be satisfied and loyal to a brand. Making a point to ask for reviews and respond thoughtfully to customer feedback, suggestions, and criticisms can surprise customers who might not expect a fast, personalized response.

About the Author

Nicole Lauzon is a Content Marketing Manager at Vendasta and has spent the last decade of her career helping local businesses tell their stories. Kickstarting her professional journey as a writer and producer for a major Canadian television network, Nicole would later spend five years as a PR Agency Creative Director, managing brand journalism, social media, blog and video content for corporate, non-profit and local business clients. Whether Nicole is marinating over her next piece of writing or enjoying some down time with her family, she likes doing it in floral print.

Share This