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OMG! 18 Examples Of Unexpectedness In Marketing

Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum
December 11, 2014
2 min read
OMG! 18 Examples Of Unexpectedness In Marketing

In today’s post, we’ll be covering the principle of being Unexpected.

But first, check out this video by TD Canada bank:

Doing something that people don’t expect you to do grabs their attention, and makes you instantly memorable.

Here are some brands that have gone against common expectations to be unforgettable:


1. Holy Crap cereal

Holy Crap cereal Unexpected ReferralCandy

Originally called Hapi Food, one of their first customers exclaimed “Holy crap… this is amazing!”

Sales increased by 1000% after changing they changed their name to Holy Crap cereal.


2. Eat24 - Advertising food on pornographic sites

Eat24 Unexpected ReferralCandy

Where do you think a 24-hour food delivery service advertised that made them famous?

Eat24 ads Unexpected ReferralCandy

On pornographic sites, of course.

According to them:

“... after they’re done with the video, they’ve worked up an appetite. It’s the perfect time to remind them to wash their hands and order a large pizza with extra bacon for delivery.”

3. Dairy Queen's upside-down Blizzard

Dairy Queen Blizzard Unexpected ReferralCandy

Dairy Queen’s famous for serving their ice cream shakes and cones upside down, to show how thick and value-for-money they are.

4. Coke Happiness Machine

What people don’t expect from vending machines: flowers, balloon animals, and pizza.

They don’t usually accept hugs as payment either.

Read next: C9 Examples of how Coca-Cola generates word-of-mouth


5. Chubbies - Radical Shorts for Men.

Chubbies shorts Unexpected ReferralCandy

Selling only swim trunks and shorts that end above the thigh? Hell yeah.

6. LittleMissMatched - Odd socks sold in threes

LittleMissMatched Unexpected ReferralCandy

Socks are normally sold in pairs, and in matching designs. LittleMissMatched sells socks in threes, and in totally different designs.

You never have to bother finding matching socks.

7. Undz Underwear - Colorful and zany designs, with free penis insurance

Undz underwear 2 Unexpected ReferralCandy

Apart from offering underwear in flamboyant and eccentric designs, Undz even offers penis insurance.

Yes, you heard that right.

Undz penis insurance unexpected ReferralCandy


8. Drunk Elephant Skin Care

Drunk Elephant skin care Unexpected ReferralCandy

Drunk Elephant doesn't sell alcohol strong enough to knock out elephants. Instead, they sell skincare products that are gentle and good for your skin.

Their name comes from the myth that elephants got drunk after eating the fruits from Marula trees, which is a major ingredient in their range.


9. Hot Tub Cinema

Hot Tub Cinema Unexpected ReferralCandy

Who would've thought that watching movies with a bunch of friends in a hot tub could be so much fun?


10. NoPhone

NoPhone Unexpected ReferralCandy

For those who always need their phone in their hands, the NoPhone provides a healthy alternative.

Just don't expect it to accept calls, or do anything for that matter.

11. Sony's bottled Walkman

Sony Bottled Walkman Unexpected ReferralCandy

What communicates confidence in your waterproof products?

By packaging it in a bottle of water, of course.


12. Nimble TV ads - "When unexpected happens"

That German duo in the sauna was something I'd never expect to see. And the fact that I never forgot this ad is proof of its stickiness.

13. Embrace Life seat belt ad

Most seat belt safety ads like to send the this-is-how-your-face-will-end-up-if-you-don't-use-a-seat-belt message.

It's vivid, yes, but people can get desensitized when every seat belt ad is done that way.

This Embrace Life goes against the norm, and lets you draw the connection between your family's happiness and wearing a seat belt.

14. Zappos 365-days free return policy

Zappos Unexpected ReferralCandy

Most return policies last for a couple of months, tops.

Zappos' 365-days free return policy strikes us as being very generous.

Read next: How Zappos generates crazy word-of-mouth by focusing on customer service

15. Gmail - 1GB email

Gmail logo Unexpected ReferralCandy

When Google first announced the launch of Gmail in 2004, it offered 1GB of space, 500 times more than Windows Hotmail was offering.

That and the fact that the news was out on April Fool's Day made it even more memorable.

Unfortunately for their competitors, the 1Gb was real.

Read next: 6 ways Google generated word-of-mouth for their products

16. Ling’s Cars

Ling's Cars Unexpected ReferralCandy

Ling's Cars is truly a master in the art of being unexpected.

Despite being awarded for the worst website created (which is proudly shown on the site), Ling's Cars has 100,000 unique visitors per month.

They also have £3.5 million in leases per month and has been praised by Seth Godin for applying internet marketing best practice.

If you need further convincing, here's a list of all her press features.

17. Leesa mattress - 100 nights free trial


What, I can try out your mattress for 100 nights for free? Read about the results of their program here.

18. You Need Nothing (no longer operational)

Nothing Unexpected ReferralCandy

What do you buy for someone who's rich enough to own everything?

The answer: Nothing.

This handcrafted block of wood encapsulates the meaning of being unexpected and satirical.

Shatter your customers' expectations, then delight them with great value

The key to mastering the Unexpected principle is to:

  1. Identify what your core message is
  2. Go against what your customers would typically expect
  3. Delight them with your product

Identifying your core message prevents you from creating a surprise that isn't related to your brand message. Having an unrelated unexpected element will only confuse them.

You want them to go "Ah, I see what you did there" and not "Wait, so what are you trying to say here...?"

As always, stay tuned for more posts about the other principles of stickiness!

Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum

As a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man contest, Samuel is ReferralCandy's fashion eCommerce expert and resident sartorialist. He is obsessed with human behavior, social psychology, and handstands. He is also the lead calisthenics trainer at Weightless.

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