You never expected this

Roses. Chocolates. Hallmark. The customary expressions of Valentine’s Day love.

On any other day, these things would feel special. But doing what everyone else does – the expected practice – doesn’t quite capture the message I want to send to the most amazing person in my life.

So I do…

The unexpected

For 36 years, I’ve performed off script. Providing a detailed list of the different things I’ve done would obscure the greater point. What matters more is what I have not done: the obvious. The expected. The list of things we check off and do because that’s how it’s always been done.

For me, doing the expected would limit my expression and disable my ability to seize the moment, stand out and make a difference.

Great brands know this. They seize these moments with their customers, employees and partners and often do the unexpected, which enables them to stand out and strengthen their connections with their audience.

When building a brand, creating these moments can make all the difference in the world.

During a recent conversation with Tyler Smith, the founder of Skyslope, he shared with me the unique benefits his company offers to employees – the extra steps they take to make their people feel special. Along with expected benefits like 401(k)s and paid vacations, the company also provides unexpected perks like a pet-friendly workspace, pet insurance, daily catered lunches, unlimited sports drinks, $100 monthly wellness reimbursements, and more.

The message of love and affinity for employees this fosters is incalculable. Equally impressive is how infectious that expression is and the impact it has on outsiders like me who discover what they do and are moved by it.

While companies can use the unexpected to form brand impressions with their employees, there are also millions of opportunities to do this with consumers.

In real estate, consider the many touch points brands have with the public. These are opportunities to express ideas or feelings to your audience in a deeper, more affectionate manner. Too often, those interactions go through the motions and fall short of exceptional.

Emails. Ads. Announcements. Collateral. Websites. Each, so expected.

Case in point are the typical local neighborhood pages bolted onto broker websites that offer a two-paragraph, boilerplate description. These are expected. But if a brand really wanted to express its love for local neighborhoods, it would do something more – like spend a few weeks shooting 60-second videos that feature local retail shops, parks and people. The unexpected.

The unexpected in this case sends a much clearer message about how deeply embedded this brand is in its neighborhoods – how much it cares about these places and the people there. This message is much more believable than the textbook descriptions on a competitor’s site.

While producing the expected is sometimes unavoidable, there are far more opportunities to also create something customized and off-script to express a deeper sentiment.

A brand Valentine

If Valentine’s Day was purely about recognizing our loved ones, the expected path of sending flowers, chocolates and corporate poetry would do the job. But this day calls for more – an effort that stands to elevate our relationships to a higher plane.

Building a brand also calls for more. It calls for recognizing loyal customers, employees and partners in unexpected ways. It calls for seizing those moments that can create more meaningful connections.

So in honor of Valentine’s Day this year, try one act. One idea. One expression that hits people where it matters most and resides forever – their hearts.

These unexpected acts are just the type of thing that will put your brand closer to their souls. They don’t have to be big or expensive – they just need to be unique and thoughtful.

Happy Valentines Day!