"Delight is not a campaign" - How to create meaningful customer engagement

One delightful surprise. 

It might be that simple. Hooking a customer for life can depend on just one interaction that leaves them feeling noticed, appreciated, valued, or happy. In this post, we're going to look at the concept of "delight" as a brand strategy that is relevant for any business across the industry spectrum, and its role in turning customers into loyal brand evangelists.

Think back to a moment that you felt truly special as a result of something that someone representing a brand in your life did for you. Perhaps it was the insurance agent on the phone who listened to your story and made a special accommodation to your monthly rate. Or, maybe it was the hand-written thank you note in the box that your new suit arrived in. Or perhaps it was the bank teller who brought in a bag of homemade dog biscuits to hand to you over the counter, because she remembered that you had just gotten a puppy. In each of these cases, a brand representative gave you a moment of happy surprise, also known as delight. Delight can have a significant impact on the customer's perception of a brand, creating a positive memory and a feeling of connection and mutual respect. Those moments, however small, stick with us.

In today's excess economy, where choices abound for everything from orange juice to airlines to lawyers, consumers place a premium on meaning, connection, and delight. When the brain is having a hard time choosing between relatively similar options, the gut steps in, and emotions begin to govern consumer decision-making. Brands that consistently deliver authentically wonderful and unexpected experiences for their customers are the ones that will succeed, because they're the ones that will be remembered for making people feel something.

Maggie Lang, of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, shared a compelling case for delight as brand strategy in this talk given at the Delight conference in 2016. Give it a watch below:

Her talk contains many takeaways, but for me, one of the most striking realizations was that effective marketing is often more simple than we think. Strip away the fancy theories and stifling rules and you're left with the stuff that matters: connection, humor, kindness, meaning. Don't be afraid to be a little different. Listen carefully to customers' stories. Find ways to sprinkle delightful moments, no matter how small (the quirky load-time screen from Eat24 is a perfect example), into the forgotten corners of your brand experience. Take a break from your inbox and spend tomorrow morning thinking about your target customer. What would bring them so much delight that they'd text their friends to tell them about their experience? Start there.

Wrapping up basic human kindnesses in the language of branding, and turning simple thoughtfulness into a marketing ploy, can feel a little funny. It's not like we're coming up with a new concept here. And yet, we can all acknowledge that in today's increasingly digital, frenetic world, there's no such thing as too much humanity. It's easy for businesses to forget the opportunity they have to create a real difference in the way people feel day to day, especially considering that the standard measurements for business success are quantitative. It's difficult to justify investing CRM and marketing budget into a brand-wide delight strategy if you are only looking at numbers and spreadsheets, and not valuing the stories, experiences, and real happiness of customers. That said, the incredible success of companies that are seriously dedicated to prioritizing delightful brand experiences, like Zappos, Jet Blue, and Citibank, should be evidence enough.

Don't underestimate the power of delightful details to create intrigue, engagement, and conversation around your brand. As Maggie suggests, "engineer the unexpected" - and see what happens next.

How about you - what was a brand that went out of its way to make you feel delighted? Did you tell anybody in your life about it, or recognize that it was special?

Clare Albers