Top 3 Surprise & Delight Campaigns That Brought People & Brands Together

Category: Marketing Strategies & Tips

Driving to work early in the morning in the dead of winter has its perks. Being up before the sun makes you feel like you’re in on a secret that few know about, and you get to savour little moments for yourself. For me, it came in the form of listening to early morning radio shows on my favourite stations, namely 102.7 The Peak.

In late 2014, the radio station teamed up with Trust Cloud, a free money transferring service, to giveaway lump sums of money to unwitting contestants who were nominated by friends through the #PeakItForward initiative. In essence, the campaign made a call to action to people who would nominate their buddies — some who wanted to fly home for the holidays, others who spent their savings donating to charity — to win some cash. The radio hosts would call aforementioned unsuspecting nominee, tell them they’ve won X-amount of dollars with which to use for flights home or to reimburse them for their generosity, and then pay the identical amount forward to the nominating friend/family member.

I drove all the way to work listening to these stories, mascara streaming down my face.

Call me a sentimentalist, or a masochist. This campaign gave me the feels in a big way, and introduced me to Surprise and Delight Marketing. For anyone saying a big, “Whaaaa…?” right now, here goes.


For years, many companies have relied on paid actors to give “spontaneous” reviews of their products, but few realized the value of surprise and delight offers. Air freshener giant Febreeze comes to mind, as well as A&W’s hormone-free meat ads.

Source: Youtube – David Forbes

Surprise and delight campaigns can include bringing unexpected gifts or simply creating special moments for consumers. The best part about them? They happen to real people, bringing brands and their buyers together IRL*.


Grab a box of Kleenex for a few of the most successful surprise and delight campaigns to come to consumers.

In 2012, Budweiser told two small-town Ontario hockey teams that they were filming a documentary about recreation league hockey. Instead, the beer brand was gearing up to create an NHL-style game, complete with “flash fans,” confetti, and game announcers. The high-stakes emotion embedded into the memorable campaign floored the hometown league hockey players, and left audiences wiping their eyes and raising a Bud to their TV screens.

Source: Youtube – Budweiser Canada

Budweiser connected to their audience through feels-driven marketing, and realigned themselves as the everyman’s beer.

Meanwhile, TD framed itself as the bank that cares about its clients with the Automatic Thanking Machine video. Taking note of the interests and behaviours of individual clients, the financial institution surprised clients with gifts of thanks for being long-time members. With gifts ranging from Disneyland tickets for single moms to a vase of roses for their senior clients, watching TD’s surprises were sure to win over prospective members and give a sense of pride to belonging ones.

Source: Youtube – TD

Even for the most discerning of skeptics who think banks are evil may have been converted after these sentimental efforts. The brand garnered even more loyalty from members who were already on board.

The mother of all surprise and delight campaigns screamed “It’s a Christmas Miracle!” in 2013, as WestJet airlines delighted their flight guests with gifts they’d haphazardly requested from a video-interactive Saint Nick at their departure terminal.

Source: Youtube – West Jet

Upon arrival, those flyers received their gifts while waiting for their carry-on luggage, inciting cheers and tears from unsuspecting customers. WestJet completed the campaign with their WestJet-blue Christmas outfits, fake snow, and tons of feel-good, family sentimentality — hammering home that random acts of kindness do exist, and we, as consumers, can be part of the miracle.


The above companies honed in on surprises based on how their customers interact with their brand. As a result, they created longer-term loyalty and a higher potential for a shareable experience. As some marketers may recall, 20 per cent of your customers give you 80 per cent of your business.

But it’s not all just numbers — marketing teams for these brands wanted to show they cared by listening to their clients’ desires and needs. With a little research, they learned a couple of the top surprise and delight rewards customers find most appealing were receiving special privileges for being a long-time customer (90 per cent of respondents agreed) or receiving a special offer over the holidays or their birthdays (82 per cent of respondents agreed).

Whether you hide gifts of thanks in ATMs, or treat your clients to an unforgettable, miraculous experience, incorporating surprise and delight into your strategy will inspire emotional responses, create brand loyalty, and build an audience full of advocates. Because, surprise, we all want to be part of the miracle.

* in real life

Header Photo: Ed Gregory via Stokpic

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Faye Alexander

Faye Alexander loves to type, scribble and scrawl because words are her favourite play things. As an editor, writer and social media professional, she brought her skill-set to the evolving world of Marketing. She has a passion for inciting meaningful dialogue through crafted content and opening doors to two-way conversations. Some of her favourite words include, but are not limited to: feminism, effervescent, spoon and malarchy.

My Loud Speaker Marketing | Creative Strategies. Authentic Approach. Proven Results. We Get Sh*t Done.

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