Surprise me, please. I'll love you for it.

Supper club dish

I discovered a secret over the weekend worth sharing. It came by way of a complete…

Surprise

People love surprises. They make life glow a little brighter.

We carry surprises in our minds forever. They become threaded into the connections we have with one another. Years later, we’ll flush with emotion when something triggers our memory of a surprise.

Surprise is also an element of great branding. In 2009, The New York Times did story on Hyatt’s random acts of generosity and its positive outcomes worth reading. (Thanks to @bradleynelson  for supplying me with this article).

Take a moment and recall your last surprise. There’s a good chance it gave you…

Goose bumps

Branding is the process of creating positive associations between your company and the human beings it touches.

These associations begin with simple things, like a positive reaction to a logo. Or a pleasing Website experience. They continue through personal interactions with you, your products and your employees. A hundred things in a hundred places.

They solidify over time.

But in reality, they very often do not solidify. That’s because each of the things I just mentioned aren’t all that special. Instead, they are just expected. Your logo should be attractive. Your Website should be easy to use. Your product should work your service should be professional and your employees should provide good customer service.

When these things occur, in reality, they don’t stand out.

While meeting expectations has long been a staple of sound branding, brands aiming for something higher need to go beyond.

Being good is something anyone can go. Being great, not so.

This is strongly evidenced in our real estate world. There’s a lot of bad, some good, but hardly any great. No surprises there.

While you pound your marketing team to come up with new ways to differentiate that include doing the very same things your competitors do only maybe doing it a bit better, consider instead a different, more enduring, path to greatness.

It will require your business to behave and think completely different.

The first supper club 

Porter Wincuinas, like many young chefs, is trying to build his brand. His strategy began by attempting to eradicate the things he believes detract from even the best dinning experiences and focus on the parts that can become magical.

Me and 13 other people experienced the Porter Wincuinas magic last Saturday night. What occurred will, unlink any other dinner I’ve ever had, stay etched in my memory forever.

It started with an invitation to a mysterious home secured for one evening. The dishes would not be revealed until served.

The evening itself was rich with surprise. From the Fellini-esque decor of the home, to the unfamiliar aromas escaping the kitchen, to the assumption-breaking presentations, to the uncommon ease with which people unencumbered by “restaurant manners” managed to mesh. It was all new.

And of course the food. The food was outstanding.

One rush after another.

At the conclusion of the meal, Porter, his partner Judith and their team joined us at the dinner table and thanked us for our attendance. We stood in ovation. Judith handed each of us a hand written note of gratitude for participating in this experimental event – their first supper club.

Unforgettable

A Facebook alert woke me Sunday morning. I grabbed my phone and along with my wife, we laid in best flipping through the gallery of images Lynn, one of our fellow guests, had posted.

Our skin tingled with goose bumps.

By jostling the sensibilities of people expecting certain things when dining out, a young chef, his partner and team, created a unforgettable experience and began the process of building what may in time become a great brand.

Meeting expectations is a noble act. It’s a part of the branding process. People will always react kindly to it.

But today, tomorrow or soon, consider doing more. Strip something out of your process. Or the process. And delight a customer with something completely different.

Surprise them.

Give them goose bumps.

And see what happens next.

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