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February 17, 2009
Pow is the New Wow

A surprise is the most powerful and misunderstood modern day business tool. Surprised to hear that? Confused? Anxious and excited to hear more? You are inclined to keep reading aren’t you? Cha-ching$$$, you’re mine for the next 700 words. This was precisely the sort of response that Andy Nulman was trying to garner during the PMCQ’s February breakfast meeting. With his talk titled, “Pow! Profiting from the Power of Surprise,” he sure delivered.

Surprise seems to go against everything we pharma folks have ever learned. Plan, execute to plan, monitor the plan, measure the plan, plan for a contingency… I have never seen a KPI called “Surprise Quotient,” have you? Well, there was that one year when my bonus was… nevermind.

According to Nulman, surprise is crucial. But first, let’s be clear on what surprise is and what it is not. Surprise is not chaos. Surprise is well thought, well planned. It’s the basis of all great entertainment. Who can forget, “Who shot JR?” Even Sue Ellen didn’t see that one coming… but the writers and producers knew about it all along.

Surprise is the key to fashion. Who in their right minds would have ever thought that brown would one day become the new black? Surprise is the root of all sports (Azzurri, 2006, World Cup Soccer, need I say more?). It is the differentiator in a political campaign (Obama figured this one out) and surprise is the spirit of Web 2.0. The point is that surprise can manifest in so many ways, but it’s indisputable that in business, surprise is the lubricant to “yes.”

By delivering euphoric shock, a surprise reduces your customers’ resistance, it lowers their defenses, raises their happiness and makes them more susceptible to saying that magic word, “yes…” I will buy what you’re selling.

Surprise has the power to do this because at the heart of every adult is an eternal child who calls Disneyland home. Surprise is the elixir that brings out your inner child. Grasp this simple principle and, according to Andy, half your sales battle is won...

More than a feeling, surprise is a necessity, especially in today’s what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. Surprise allows you to give your customers what they don’t expect. Be careful however, because surprise is not frivolous. It is a way to form long-term bonds with your customers. Surprise is not merely unexpected customer service and surprise is not simply “wow…” it is “pow!” It is a constant expansion of delightful extremes.

A surprise that appears radical today will be so obvious tomorrow. Surprise is a discovery not a search. When you search you are satisfied with what you find. But when you discover, you are absolutely delighted because you were not expecting it. The excitement is the surprise not the expectation of it. Surprise is about the act.

It seems so simple, how come we are not all leveraging the power of surprise? Well, there is something called the surprise conundrum. Today, words travel fast. Everything new is old again. Product life cycles are increasingly short. How can surprise be sustained? One way is through the written word. A great surprise generates word of mouth (we call this PR). It generates a spark, which in turn generates stories. Stories touch people. People are at the heart of relationships and all marketing is relationships. So leverage the written word to sustain surprise and sustain relationships.

Another way to foster surprise is to “wear virgin contact lenses.” A 26-year-old intern at Post Foods was given the task to increase sales of a well-established, and frankly boring brand, Shreddies. So, he turned the square lattice shaped cereal on its corner to create and launch the “New Diamond Shreddies.” How do you sustain and capitalize on that surpirse? Create the “Combo Pack” cereal, which includes the classic square and the new diamond Shreddies… Surprised? Oh yeah.

Other ways to sustain surprise include the “shock and aah” approach. Ever heard of a chain of burger joints called the Heart Attack Grill? Google it. The waitresses wear nurse outfits and the menu includes items such as the quadruple bypass burger. Seems ridiculous, right? It made the news and attracts tourists (and big business) to this day.

No matter what tactics you use to create surprise, you want to generate the battle cry of surprise, the music to your ears that goes something like this: Well, I never… what will they think of next? And leave them salivating for more… Isn’t it about time for some POW! in our pharma efforts?

By Enza Cignarella


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

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