I Was Hit with Andy Nulman’s Best Shot
Welcome to the latest stop on the Post2Post tour of Andy Nulman’s new appropriately titled book, “Pow! Right between the Eyes! Profiting from the Power of Surprise.”
Before I explain the “appropriately titled” remark and get to my interview with Andy, I want to do a little commercial for Post2Post. For the uninitiated, Post2Post is a web-based book tour — for 5 days, a new author/book is featured on 5 different blogs. It’s a brilliant 3-way win for authors, bloggers, and readers! Post2Post is the brainchild of Idea Sandox‘s Paul Williams and I’m honored to be the 2nd stop on POW!’s virtual tour (see the first stop from Jeff Brainard here.)
Now, onto the tour.
Andy Nulman certainly delivered on the title of his book — Pow! caught me off guard and threw me off a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever read a such an focused expository on Surprise (I’m capitalizing the word because Andy does) — in fact, I have to admit I never really have thought that much about Surprise. But Andy’s book examines its subject matter with such zeal and zany-ness, it makes for a provocative read.
Pow! recounts many examples of how companies use Surprise (defined by Andy as “expanding the boundaries of delightful extremes“) to catch people’s attention, to make a lasting impression, and ultimately to win them over. Here’s what Andy had to say about the book:
me: Who is “Pow!” for?
andy: The market for Pow! is vast. I believe it should be required reading for everybody imprisoned in a world of grey, boredom, sameness and routine, and looking for a way to break out. It’s more than just a business book though; in addition to the customer/consumer bond, Pow! breathes new life into all types of relationships (which makes it an ideal anniversary or wedding present as well). If I had my way, Pow! would also replace Gideon’s Bible in every hotel room on the continent; apply some of its tactics, and I guarantee a religious experience equal to or greater than what that book will give ya. In a nutshell Denise, I don’t wanna be unrealistic or greedy…I just think everyone who ever read a Malcolm Gladwell book should read mine.
me: Does the current economic environment make for more or less fertile ground for Surprises?
andy: Surprise works in all economic environments, but I think it is more NEEDED in today’s. All economic benefits aside, Surprise provides more than a hard sell it provides a little tingle, a little thrill, to delight consumers. This is an essential factor in solidifying the bond between customers and companies. A little French lesson to help explain what I’m talking about—a Gallic euphemism for an orgasm is “La petite morte” or “The little death.” Well, Surprise is “La petite spectacle” or “The little show.” This is why during the Great Depression, the lights never went out on Broadway…people NEED to be entertained. Surprise is part of that picture, which makes it more relevant than ever these days.
me: Some people just don’t like Surprises – how should companies take this into account?
andy: Well, some people also don’t like puppies, ice cream, cotton candy or hot oil massages, either. You can’t please everyone. But really, other than perhaps the Taliban, I think the right delightful extreme can cut through the most torqued-up tight-ass.
To that end, in an attempt to better understand the effect of Surprise, and better apply this effect in a corporate environment, I have conferred with neuroscientists at the Institute of Emotive Psychological Studies at the renowned Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and commissioned a unique 12-question test that evaluates an individual’s Surprise Factor. You can find it, and take the test, at www.thebigsurprise.net .
me: Since your book title references “profiting,” what are specific examples of profits companies have generated through Surprise?
andy: Well, one of my favorite examples of profit-generating, “surprise companies” is Target. A 2008 article in Fortune about Target said that the “element of Surprise, it turns out, has been part of Target’s DNA for some time.” These guys have become the golden child of both Wall Street and Main Street by mixing the spirit of Wal-Mart with the showiness of the Museum of Modern Art and the madness of Cirque du Soleil. And they keep pushing the boundaries. Events like a floating temporary store in the Hudson River in 2002 or a “vertical fashion show” in 2005, where acrobat models actually walked down the side of New York’s iconic Rockefeller Center, earn the company upwards of $7 billion a year in free publicity. Profitable enough for ya?
I trust by now, you get the idea that Andy Nulman is unlike any other person you know and Pow! is unlike any other book you’ll read — but in case you needed one more reason to read it, here’s one last gem:
me: andy, does your wardrobe scare children?
andy: No, it scares adults. Kids usually love what I wear (except, perhaps, some of my more gruesome skull-wear). They like the vibrant colors, the sparkle of the metal, the things that hang down, jingle and move. It’s their parents, who are usually too restrained from trying anything new, that are afraid. I just came back from my high school reunion when one of my oldest friends, conservative and boring, got a little drunk and put on my long scarf and black velvet coat. Everyone thought he looked great. Even he was amazed. People always say: “Oh, I wish I could get away with wearing what you do.” I ask them: “What’s stopping you?”