I'm not sure who first coined the catchphrase "surprise and delight," but whoever it was, created a pretty excellent distinction. It's worth noting that not everyone likes surprises...(as I slowly raise my hand). Honestly, they just make me nervous. Perhaps it's because they bring me back to a particularly traumatizing Tuesday night in the 90s when my mom took us to "Kid's Night" at Pizza Hut. A night that would normally be every kid's dream quickly turned nightmarish for me when we were "surprised" by an aggressive clown demanding I stop eating dinner and take a picture with him.

Adding insult to anxiety, my awkward Polaroid was then put on the wall of the only pizza place in town! A week or so later, my friend Josh, solemnly confessed that he saw me on the "wall of shame" and that he too had met the terrifying "surprise" with pretty much the exact same reaction as I'd had. In his account, all he kept saying was "I just wanted to eat my dinner."

Me too, Josh. Me too.

As this adolescent tale of franchise PTSD clearly illustrates, surprises don't always equal delight. In some instances, the "surprise" interrupts a business' objectives and puts people off for much longer than anyone would ever imagine.

And sometimes these campaigns are just haphazard and lack creativity. One company recently announced they like to "surprise and delight" their customers by giving them coupons. That kind of surprise is just not that impactful. So, if you're gonna give it try, be creative and make sure the surprise aligns with your brand. Oh, and maybe skip the clowns.

Here are 10 companies who did surprise right:

Suja Juice

Suja Juice is an organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed beverage company that offers cold-pressed juices, probiotic water, smoothies and drinking vinegars. As part of their #ItsTheJuice marketing campaign, the company used social listening to identify people who were either having a bad day, tired, sick, hungover, etc. and offered to brighten their day with a delivery of nutritious juice.

The team searched Instagram for hashtags like #sick #mondayblues #mondays #hungover #butfirstcoffee #isitfridayyet #gradschool #momlife #momprobs #lackofsleep #mood and during final exams week at colleges looking at #finals #midterms and #deadweek hashtags. With their data, they began to reach out to these individuals and offered to set them up with a juice delivery. In total, they reached almost 400 people and successfully dropped or shipped nearly 6,000 bottles of product.

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes Benz USA got in on the fun during the holiday season. The brand for their luxury cars, I mean the emblem alone screams style, and they turned up the style factor with a social media campaign that spread some serious holiday cheer. Inspired by the nearly 100 messages the company gets on Facebook and Instagram daily, the company launched the #MBSecretSanta program. The goal was to personally engage with customers, both current and potential, who engaged with the company via direct message and help customers find the perfect holiday gift. And they did just that by providing over 1000 gifts, ranging from branded bears, baby clothes, watches and Bluetooth speakers. The message that Mercedes Benz really cares about their 1 on 1 customer relationships was sent out loud and clear.


Known as America's most convenient bank because of extended hours during the week and on weekends, TD Bank has a reputation for taking care of their customers. Well, they took it up a notch with a campaign called #TDTHANKSYOU. In an effort to thank their long standing clients, the financial institution created a special ATM (Automated Thanking Machine). By literally taking notes on the kinds of situations their clients were in and the interests they had TD then surprised clients with personalized thank you gifts ranging from Disneyland tickets for a single mom, roses for the elderly, and airline tickets for a mother who wanted to visit her sick daughter. With these amazing gestures of appreciation, TD surely garnered more loyalty from their customers and by documenting the ATM experience on video, social media allowed them to make it clear that TD not only cares about their client's bank accounts but their lives as well.


Kleenex is a tried-and-true brand of paper products. They are so popular, the name brand has become a real word. Have you ever said, "hand me some Kleenex" when you meant the Puff's tissue on the table? Point made. Kleenex has recently been using social media to connect with customers for an incredible surprise. The company, most famous for their facial tissue, monitored Facebook looking for people posting about being ill or fighting a cold. They then contacted friends and family members who helped them orchestrate their surprise. Within 1 to 2 hours of the "sickly" posts, a "Kleenex Kit" filled with Kleenex brand get-well items was delivered to the sick people. 100% 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.

Master Card

Master Card has been running a long-term advertising program built upon the idea of rewarding customer loyalty with great surprises. The "Priceless Surprises" campaign, developed specifically to engage with their clients over social media, set out to surprise cardholders when they least expected it. These spontaneous gifts ranged from the small gifts like cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery to the more extravagant ones like concert tickets and VIP celebrity meetings. To date the #PricelessSurprises campaign has surprised 97,867 cardholders, spanning across 25 countries. An app and website accompanying the campaign are used to showcase their user-generated social media content which helps connect with potential cardholders. They even use it to inspire cardholders to give their own surprises to friends and family, expanding their reach by making each cardholder a vocal advocate for the brand.


Small businesses make huge impacts. Chewy.com is a Dania Beach, Fla.-based online pet food retailer. They've always prided themselves on providing a personal touch with impeccable customer service, and even hand written holiday cards. But with one simple gesture, they created brand advocacy in a way bigger campaigns strive to achieve. Observing a post from their Facebook page, Chewy.com took the picture of a cat resting in one their boxes and commissioned an artist to create a portrait of the cat and then sent it to the customer. Clearly, social media is important to this business as a way engaging and it helps them reward loyalty with personalized, sincere gifts of appreciation.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell has proven that there are no lengths they aren't willing to travel to get their products to the masses. Literally. After an elaborate prank stating the town of Bethel, Alaska (pop. 6000) was finally going to receive their very own Taco Bell, the closest one about 4 hours away, left people sad and confused, Taco Bell jumped to rectify the situation. As word reach headquarters of a town's devastation after learning about the hoax, Taco Bell, in the ultimate PR move, pulled off a "surprise and delight" to rival all "surprise and delights". To remedy the situation, they airlifted a Taco Bell truck to the town filled with 10,000 tacos. Talk about product placement!

Lord & Taylor

Lord & Taylor, probably one of America's oldest retail companies, had been struggling to keep up with their counterparts when it came to social media. With only about 65,000 Twitter followers, they decided something needed to be done to turn up the heat. They announced a week long Twitter campaign to boost awareness and catch up to their competition. They made a simple request to their customers, just post an item carried by their store with the hashtag #obsessed and see what happens next. Weeks later a flood of retweets started coming in from gushing customers shocked and surprised by receiving the very item they were #obsessed with. This completely free gesture led to a deluge of positive customer generated content, putting them back in the game.


WestJet, a Canadian airline, decided also to tackle the holidays as a way to surprise their customers. Taking their outreach to another level, they planned to capture a mass surprise on social media that would for take a team of hundreds to pull off. Creating the perfect Christmas Miracle, prior to boarding a WestJet flight, flyers of all ages, via live video, were encouraged to engage with a Santa taking wish requests. Then after the passengers boarded their flight, a team of hundreds rushed to stores to fulfill the requests. After wrapping each gift and addressing it by name, flyers were shocked when the baggage claim conveyor belt was flooded with the gifts they'd asked for. Customers were literally shocked to tears. Certainly that day, Westjet solidified loyal customers and the subsequent viral video surely created new ones.

"Surprise and Delight" marketing strategies work really well when done correctly because they serve a two-fold purpose, building brand loyalty and creating fans. Everyone likes to feel special and customers always want to feel that their dollars matter. Nothing says "I value you" better than when companies take the time to look for ways to personal surprise their customers. By giving just a little back, customers already in "like" with a brand are guaranteed to remain a repeated customers. Social media makes sharing customer satisfaction with how a company has spread-some-love quick and easy, but the results of that display have an invaluable affect on the brand.