POW! Right Between the Eyes!
A few months ago, I was invited to be part of the Post2Post Virtual Book Tour, created by Paul Williams of Idea Sandbox. I think it's a great idea – a wonderful use of this online community. And, it gave me the chance to read a really interesting, fun book – POW! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise and to have a conversation with Andy Nulman, the author. Andy's premise is that Surprise (he always capitalizes it) is the most powerful tool for success in the business arsenal. Now, I have to say he hasn't convinced me of that! BUT he makes a darn good (and very funny) case for his point of view. And, perhaps more important, by the end of the book, I had a much broader and more nuanced understanding of Surprise as a business driver: it made me look at my own business differently. And that was surprising!
So here, without further ado, is my Q&A with Andy:
Erika: Hi, Andy! Let's start with a big-picture kind of question. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve found people have about Surprise?
Andy: That it’s frivolous, superficial, the stuff of kiddie parties or peek-a-boo games. While Surprise indeed democratizes by “kidifying” us (namely it lowers resistances and weakens defences by bringing out our “inner child”), it is a powerful, sales-inciting and relationship-building instrument that is woefully underutilized by business.
To that end, in an attempt to better understand the effect of Surprise, and better apply said effect in a more corporate environment, I have worked with neuroscientists at the Institute of Emotive Psychological Studies at the renowned Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and commissioned a unique 12-question test that evaluates an individual’s Surprise Factor.
Erika: So, given that people have this misconception about Surprise – that it's frivolous and superficial – how can companies that have “reliability” or “trustworthiness” as part of their brand best incorporate the Power of Surprise?
Andy: I hate to answer a question with a question, but why does Surprise have to compromise either one of those attributes? I think people trust and rely on products and services from companies like Apple, Virgin, Target or even Oprah (and one must consider her conglomerate a “company”), and they have exploited the Power of Surprise as part of their DNA for years.
All Surprise is, at its core, is a way to cut through an increasing cloud of corporate boredom, connect with one’s customers, give them something to talk about and ultimately, solidify a company’s relationship with them. And because of that, I think that it’s an essential tool to establish not merely the two attributes you listed above, but a deeper and more profound bond between company and customer as well.
Erika: Please talk more about Surprise as “the lubricant to Yes.” Mostly because it sounds so sexy…
Andy: Oh Erika, I love the way you purr “please.” You’re such a kinky little blogmistress. But you want me to talk more, right here in public? Uh, perhaps you can meet me in the more private recesses of my own blog a little later on, with a lava lamp and a bottle of Sonoma red. Until then, here’s what I can reveal without getting arrested by the blog morality squad:
In business, there’s no term that matters more than “Yes.” It’s the sweetest sound of all, a three-letter symphony, the universal key that opens all locks.
And Surprise helps get one to “Yes” faster. It does this by delivering a special feeling that I call Euphoric Shock. It’s the moment that jumpstarts a modern marketing relationship by “upsetting” one’s system, putting it into a state of flux.
This internal stirring and accompanying euphoria reduces resistances, leaving a happy, excited customer that makes fewer demands, asks less questions, and is almost completed by consummating a transaction.
There. Now I’ve got to take a cold shower.
Erika: Whew! OK, here's another thing: I’m still not clear about how to create “the constant flow of Surprise” – Can you say more about that?
Andy: No I can’t.
Okay, I’m kidding. One Surprise is never enough. It sets the stage, but it demands an encore…again and again and again. It’s very demanding as a concept, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Ultimately, Surprise needs to work as a continuum; people should be left wondering “What WILL they think of next?”…and it’s up to us to deliver upon it. Surprises are like pearls; one is nice and impressive, but a long string of them is magnificent and admired.
Problem is that once someone succeeds with a Surprise, they think that a flow means “do the same one over again.” There’s nothing worse than that; it’s like trying to light a firecracker twice. You can’t re-package a bang.
Erika: You talk about putting on "Virgin Contact Lenses"; looking at your situation, your business, or your challenge as though you've never seen it before. Can we put on “extended-wear VCLs” – make ourselves more surprise-receptive overall? And would that be a good thing?
Andy: Just like ignorance is bliss, innocence is foundation. A major problem in business is that experience taints our views and our actions. If we all saw the world as a new place on a constant basis, there’d be so much more innovation, and way more solutions to our problems.
I truly believe that life would be so much better with the extended-wear version (I really dig that notion, by the way) of Virgin Contact Lenses. If we all had the memory spans of a goldfish, who knows how more advanced we would be?
Erika: What do you love most about Surprise as an art and practice?
Andy: That it works. And that it allows me to be flippant in interviews.