Surprise and Delight

The lesson behind the Pokémon Phenomenon

For several weeks in July the world’s media was besieged by Pokémon Go.

The latest in a long-line of product extensions for Nintendo’s uber-successful Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Go immerses you into a virtual world hidden within the real world, creating a modern version of a scavenger hunt that leads you down streets and into public spaces on the hunt for waiting Pokémon.

“It’s amazing how many more people I see around the neighborhood while I walk my dog since Pokémon Go came out,” said one Facebook user. Indeed, there were multiple news reports of incidents caused by avid players walking into traffic or trespassing onto private property in their quest for new Pokémon. The image below is from a yard-owner who wasn’t so pleased by the many strangers wandering onto his front lawn.

Yard sign

To say that the launch of Pokémon Go was a success would be a huge understatement. One month after its launch, the app has been downloaded over 100 million times and is reportedly generating $10 million a day in revenue. Users could not stop playing. They could not stop hunting for the next Pokémon. They could not stop buying up levels. And they could not stop talking about it with friends.

In this success lies a lesson for marketers about brand and product experience.

We often speak about the value of “surprise and delight.” These emotions lead to consumer satisfaction and loyalty.

But surprise and delight is an outcome. We aim for it, but how do we achieve it? The answer is discovery—a process whereby we encourage consumers to look for more.

Discovery generates arousal, it stimulates our senses, and it engages our brains away from passivity. It’s easy to understand this magic in the context of a game like Pokémon Go, but how does it apply to other brand and product experiences?

Consider the case of Sonos, the wireless HiFi sound system. Apart from sleek industrial design, Sonos is functionally the same as many other wireless sound systems. But Sonos has achieved extremely high levels of customer satisfaction relative to its peers. It generates a high sense of delight because of a rich discovery experience. When a Sonos customer receives their first player, they are presented with an artfully designed box that includes fasteners, sliding panels, and carefully arranged compartments that form the basis of a guided tour. From there, the self-explanatory setup process is accompanied by visual cues that draw upon the user’s intuition.

Once the unit is plugged in and ready to go, a well-designed app leads the user through a “tuning” expedition that purposefully demonstrates the power of the speaker. It doesn’t stop there. Users discover compatible music services on an ongoing basis, expanding their opportunities to build their music library and enjoy the sound of the system.

Like Pokémon Go, the Sonos experience encourages the user to look for something else, to round a corner or to follow their curiosity. It turns out that this is a key factor in driving feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment.

In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers found that “varying a consumer’s state of arousal can enhance and inhibit emotional intensity and thus alter product evaluations.” In other words, discovery leads to delight.

Photo Credit: Paul Phillips via Stocksy

Perhaps the greatest example of this process can be found at any Disney theme park.Walt Disney understood the power of discovery to drive specific consumer behaviors. In order to influence the traffic patterns at Disneyland and keep guests moving through the park, he instructed his Imagineers to strategically place “weenies” throughout the park, luring guests to discover the park in search of emotional rewards. The inspiration for the word “weenie” was Walt’s dog, Lady. He observed that when he had a hot dog (or “weenie”) in hand, he could get her to follow him anywhere. She never knew when he would offer to share, which is why he had her undivided attention.

Disney Castle

Gif Credit: Giphy

Pokémon Go is full of weenies, which explains its massive popularity. How many weenies are in your brand experience?


Feature Photo Credit: JacquiMiller via Stocksy

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