Jodi’s Journal: Modern marketing demands creating delight, surprise

Oct. 28, 2018

She has done it again, I thought to myself.

As I looked at the flower-covered wall of Oh My Cupcakes in a social media post, owner Melissa Johnson told the story behind it.

She had been traveling in Europe, looking for inspiration for her decade-old business when it struck in the form of flora.

“One thing we found over and over is everybody is doing floral,” she said. “In some places the entire wall is flowers or they come around you when you sit, and I loved it. So when I came back here, I knew I wanted a flower wall, and I didn’t know what it would look like until got started at it.”

In true entrepreneurial fashion, she crafted the wall that’s now installed at her 57th and Western location in her garage. It will be a focal point of other updates she’s doing at the store, including a more open layout with redesigned seating.

In her debut photo online, she set a big goal for the flower wall:

“I’m hoping this spot will be one of the most Instagrammed places in Sioux Falls ,” she said.

To help things along, she’s drawing two free cupcake winners a week from posts with the hashtag #ohmycupcakes.

“You have to continue to innovate and stay fresh and relevant,” she told me.

Johnson is an example of someone who has done this continually. She was first in the market with a cupcake shop before the trend took off here. She delivers a quality product. And her space is attractive. It’s the type of place you feel good going and the sort of setting you want to photograph and share – even before the flowers.

This is all marketing, albeit a modern approach that still hasn’t clicked with some businesses. Johnson, who realizes cupcakes probably now are a mature dessert category, is working on new product development. My guess is wherever she goes with the business will have a good shot at working.

“Our hope is we’ve established ourselves as a brand. We don’t make cupcakes. We celebrate special moments,” she said. “People will always have birthdays and  anniversaries and weddings, and we hope to be part of those special moments not only now but for years.”

Figuring out how your product fits or can fit people’s lives is critical to building a successful business.

I found a great example of this recently in Pizza Hut, which set out to make the most of its new sponsorship with the NFL this season. Along with special deals and pizza boxes customized in the markets of each of the league’s 32 teams, the pizza chain introduced Beanbag Blitz. It’s an app that uses augmented reality to turn your pizza box into a recreation of the classic tailgate game cornhole.

Download the app, line up your phone’s camera with the pizza box and start tossing virtual beanbags onto a virtual cornhole board with the click of a finger.

“We tapped into technology to deliver a truly immersive game-day experience to fans – specifically combining what they’re most passionate about: their team, the spirit of competition and, of course, pizza,” Zipporah Allen, chief marketing officer, said in a news release about the app. “Incorporating this AR component into our lineup of new experiences is broadening our digital portfolio and engaging fans in a completely new way.”

Pizza Hut’s president put it a bit more candidly when I saw him interviewed.

“The whole strategy for us is to make home the most fun place to watch NFL football,” Artie Starrs said, calling the concept “homegating.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it? The more people watch the game at home, the more potential pizza to sell.

Then there’s the new trend of ax-throwing, which recently arrived in Sioux Falls.

This, too, is all about offering a unique experience. But even just weeks into the business, JJ’s Axes & Ales found a way to keep it fresh. In this case, it took the form of a small skull filled with red food coloring and fastened to the center of the bull’s-eye. Nail it with the ax, and watch the “blood” flow down the board.

And it’s only an extra $5!

“This business is everything capitalism is intended to be,” I wrote in a message to owner Tom Slattery when I saw it.

But seriously, that’s just smart thinking. Offer something different. Stand out in a positive, fun and memorable way, and business is going to follow.

Old-school marketing sometimes used so-called guerrilla tactics – basically doing something bizarre to attract attention. Modern marketers seem to have a better understanding that “bizarre” is probably not what you want coming to mind when people think of your brand.

More effective ones are instead focusing on an approach that has come to be known as “surprise and delight.”

For instance, longtime department store Lord & Taylor used the strategy a few years ago to increase its social media base.

It encouraged followers online to post any item carried by its store with the hashtag #obsessed. Weeks later, surprised and delighted followers returned to social media to share photos and gush about the items that had shown up at their door courtesy of the store.

The Kleenex brand also used social media to deliver a similar experience. Its team monitored Facebook for posts about people being sick and then contacted friends and family to help with the surprise. Within hours, “Kleenex kits” filled with Kleenex-branded get-well items were delivered to the sick.

“One hundred percent of the recipients posted about their Kleenex surprises, and the buzz surrounding this Feel Good by Kleenex campaign led to over 650,000 impressions and 1,800 interactions with the brand and social media users,” according to Inc. magazine.

That would be enough to make any marketer feel a little better too.

This is an interesting time if you’re a brand trying to connect with customers. Many traditional strategies are losing effectiveness. But whether you’re a big name or a local business, the opportunities to break through and offer something memorable are exciting too. It might require a little shift in thinking, but the payoff likely will be worth it.

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Jodi’s Journal: Modern marketing demands creating delight, surprise

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