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You could have a new career as a Surprisologist. The latest issue of Psychology Today magazine profiles a Brooklyn woman named Tanya Luna and her company, Surprise Industries.

Surprise Industries creates surprises. They began by selling mysterious tickets for a certain date and time, and customers would show up with no idea of what they would be doing. They could be steel drumming, ice sculpting or kayaking.

The concept became so popular that people began requesting customized surprises. A school came to Surprise Industries looking to surprise a beloved teacher who had been paralyzed in an accident.

Surprise Industries arranged to surprise the teacher with a flying lesson. As the teacher flew over the school, the teacher was surprised again when she saw hundreds of students and families waving signs for her.

Surprises are powerful experiences when it comes to building relationships with consumers. When I worked at Lululemon, “surprise and delight” was a key element of their branding and customer experience. Lululemon’s workout clothes are known for surprises like hidden pockets and secret messages woven into the hem.

One example of “surprise and delight” was the time a yoga instructor in St Louis went to Lululemon to replace her yoga mat, which was stolen while she was teaching free classes at a community center in impoverished East St Louis.

Without hesitation, the clerk gave her a free mat. The instructor broke into tears and gratefully re-told that story to all her friends and to every one of her classes for the next week. That’s powerful marketing for the cost of a $68 yoga mat.

Radio and TV hosts can create powerful experiences for audiences through the use of surprise.

Erin and Mike delighted listeners on CHFI Toronto recently with a big surprise – for Mike! Mike’s favorite movie is “Somewhere In Time” starring Jane Seymour. Listeners were in on the plot as Erin surprised Mike with an in-studio visit from Jane.

Then, Jane surprised Mike’s wife Debbie with some of her jewelry and a personal message of encouragement as she is currently undergoing cancer treatment. You can hear a clip of that moment in this audio.

The Kid Carson Show on Kiss Radio in Vancouver was feeling spontaneous one Friday, and listeners heard Kid wake up a DJ at home and ask if he could come to the studio and be on the air in an hour. The DJ scrambled out of bed, and rushed to the station for a surprise club mix.

Listeners loved the surprise club mix so much, Kid brought the DJ back the next week and “Club Kid” became a top-rated feature of the show.

As you plan your content this week, include these questions in your process:

How can we surprise the audience? What are they expecting us to do – and how can we take them off-course into something they were not expecting?

How can I surprise my partner? What can you do on-air that will catch your co-host off-guard (in a fun way) so the listener can enjoy their reaction?

How can you surprise yourself? What is a feature that you have been doing the same way for so long that you can execute it in your sleep? How can you take yourself out of your comfort zone?


Photo Credit: Robert Meeks/Flickr

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