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What are you doing to create unexpected delight?

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On a road trip across the desert, I slammed on the brakes. On the side of the road was a lion. Not a live lion, which would have been surprising, but a five-foot lion statue, the kind you find at a Chinese restaurant. Even more surprising, considering there wasn’t a restaurant in sight. In fact, there was nothing but miles and miles of desert.

Just a lion.

It was enough to make me stop, get out in the blazing sun, and capture a photo. Further down the road, a sign indicated that hundreds of acres – around the lion – were for sale. The lion marks the spot.

There could have just been a sign – an ordinary ad with a big phone number on it. You know: The kind of thing we ignore these days.

Instead, the unexpected lion caused me to take notice.

These days, capturing another person’s attention is hard. Either we’re distracted by what’s happening now, now, now on our devices, or we’re trying to hypnotize others with our selfies. Interrupting the anesthetizing pattern and making an impression – online or off – requires creative construction.

From a marketing perspective, recent approaches seem stuck between extremes:  For some, the goal is to go viral. These people are just trying too hard. A few occasional pieces deserve viral attention – the UPS video we wrote is one. But these are rare: More likely we end up with something that should have been left on the cutting floor of a Borat movie.

Then, there’s click baitunnecessarily provocative headlines supported by pure drivel. The electronic world is drowning in it: Most tweets are ridiculously worded, often even insulting. Sponsored ads at the bottom of new websites border on the crazy and the creepy. It’s exhausting, saps credibility, and burns trust. Great marketers would be wise to leave this approach to teenagers.

That’s why the lion statue worked so well.

It was neither noisy nor ridiculous. It captured attention because it was incongruous, not roaring. It knows we’re wired to focus on things that stick out. It was a nice twist to the monotonous desertscape . 

Plus, it made me smile. As my friend Darryl Davis says, the lion caused me to smile by design. Great impressions are made on purpose.

What are you doing that’s unexpected into your relationships with others? Breaking the predictable pattern creates a delightful opportunity to make a lasting impression in the mind of a friend, colleague or client. Such moments underpin relationships: they create trust, loyalty, and a positive expectation for future interactions.

Unexpected actions can be simple.

It’s a easy as answering the phone and your client says, “Oh! I didn’t expect to get you in person!” Or showing up an early for a client who is used to people always running late, creating chaos.

They don’t cost a lot of money, either. We notice when someone displays good manners in a public space. We want to shake hands with a flight attendant who offered the solider a whispered thank-you for his service. We are stunned by a handwritten note from hotel housekeeping thanking us for the few dollars we left that morning.

We can receive the benefits of the unexpected: people like to recognize and reward the little extras we’ve long given up on. We don’t have to be the loudest, cheapest, biggest, or fastest. We simply have to be a step beyond the ordinary (such a low bar these days) to create whatever we want: a new client, a loyal friend, a smiling co-worker.

We can be lions. Others will brake for us.

 

 

 

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