Are the Sliding Doors Closing on Serendipity?

31/03/2017

In our post-truth, algorithm-laden and filter bubble-rich world, we bandy the terms of serendipity, surprise and delight around At the same time, we are chased around the internet by products we may have idly browsed a week ago.

It amazes me that no-one has bothered to even ask: how important is serendipity to the modern consumer?
In a recent Lightbox study, we found that two in three Brits love when they stumble across something useful or interesting. The same proportion feels that learning about something new makes life more exciting, yet only one in 10 believes there is more chance and serendipity in the modern world.

The key to doing serendipity well is in remembering that, by its very definition, it must benefit the subject. A giant Ghostbusters character in the middle of Waterloo Station at rush hour is unexpected, yes, but may irritate and inconvenience more than it delights.

Icelandair showcased the smart use of serendipity in marketing with #MyStopOver, surprising lucky travellers with an unforeseen stopover in Iceland, highlighting the possibilities beyond the planned. Lidl has centred its comms on the concept of the unexpected with #lidlsurprises – with double digit business growth each year.

YPlan is an app which negates the need to make plans, offering a curated list of last minute experiences at a heavy discount. Finally, a reward for being late to the party, so to speak.

This is a nod to the future. Curation and recommendation working together to give consumers the right amount of surprise and delight when they need it.

Advances in AI and health wearables will be key to driving this personalised, accurate recommendation. Virtual personal assistants will be programmed to create these moments at times of physical or mental stress, or even boredom. Less about serendipity, and more about what’s right for right now.

Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, set out the ambition: “One day we hope to get so good at suggestions that we’re able to show you exactly the right film or TV show for your mood when you turn on Netflix.”

Until then, how do you encourage serendipitous discovery of your brand, content or products?

It could simply be about playing in territories they don’t expect you to be in. Changing your channel or title mix. Pushing for stockists that sit outside your comfort zone, or product formats that are innovative or unexpected. Clever media partnerships that associate you with a trend, consumer behaviour or cultural phenomenon with a twist.

Mood marketing is an area barely explored but rich with opportunity. Try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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