Where Will Tom Peters Pummel Andy Nulman?

Or…Want Great Marketing?
Ignore Consensus. Create Surprise!

This week Andy Nulman’s book POW! Right Between The Eyes! Profiting From The Power Of Surprise Marketing is featured on the Post2Post Virtual Book Tour. Yesterday, Andy got skanky with Erika at The Simplest Thing That Works and today is my day with Andy, and I’m excited to share our eDiscussion.

POW! Right Between The Eyes!
Profiting From The Power Of Surprise Marketing


Before we jump in… let me lay some groundwork for those of you who haven’t read the book yet…

POW! Right Between The Eyes! is about using surprise as an attention-getter. To quote Andy, “The only way to please people who expect it all is to give them what they don’t expect. When they least expect it… Surprise inspires new ways of thinking, new ways of acting, and most importantly, new ways of interacting.”

Surprise can help you get noticed and is surely an ingredient in being remarkable. On to our discussion…

The Interview

So, Andy… how do you really know whether what you’re doing is ‘surprising’ or Pow-worthy? Many companies think their services, or products, or marketing is awesome… when it’s really humdrum. Is there a b.s. rule-of-thumb you can offer?

There’s an easy barometer, Paul: Ignore the consensus. Here’s what I mean: If the proposed idea – any one! – is universally adopted and admired within your company, you know it’s not just humdrum, but a loser. Surprising ideas shock, challenge and enrage the public, but usually start their “dirty work” inside company walls.

That said, you know you’ve got something good when your own colleagues get pissed off at it, bark “I won’t put my name on that!” or, better yet, threaten to quit because of it. Every time I see a great Surprising marketing move, I say to myself “I wonder who quit or got fired over that one?”

You share the story of a university presentation. When arriving on campus, you were disappointed to learn the venue was hidden away in some basement of a random building. As it turned out, you found out some of the best thinking and most interesting people were underground. This inspired your writing about the importance of “Underground Thinking” and how it can help you “bring the thunder.”

I want to learn more about getting into the basement… the bunker. I “get” the concept… but is there anything else you can explain about creating this place… or getting yourself into the vibe? How do you build/create for yourself this bat cave?

You don’t need to build anything, Paul. I’ve always said that the advent of Starbucks (or any other cafe-like place that allows for laptop lingering and general hanging out) has been a locomotive for new business innovation. For years I’ve told my employees to “get off the floor and out the door”; in other words, find your inspiration in pedestrian malls, boutiques, bars… anywhere that will provide alternative, non-office points of stimulus. You can’t create Surprise in a boardroom. The antiseptic nature of those four walls kill the creative germ.

But if you are lucky enough to have a home office, or a room in your company dedicated to non-traditional thinking, my advice would be to decorate it with visuals – and audio! – that inspires and challenges. Put up stuff you like, but stuff you don’t like as well. Change decor often. Ensure an ample supply of record-keeping devices, from whiteboards to notepads to laptops. And pay special attention to lighting – it’s a mood thermometer.

About half-way through the book, you write… “Surprise is about shouting.” Not simply being loud, crass, or aggressive. But, shouts that make you interesting and get you noticed.

You continue stating, “Great shouts are inspired, not contrived.” Do you have a way to test whether something is inspired versus contrived?

Watch the eyes. People squint at inspiration, they roll their eyes when things are contrived. The squint makes them want to focus better on the idea; the roll says they’re looking for something else. The harder you work on something, the more likely it’s contrived. If it comes easily, almost a divine intervention, you know it’s inspired. Let it find you, don’t chase it.

You say that surprise takes courage and being ballsy. What if I lack the moxie? Or, my team is too timid? Any suggestions for the wuss-at-heart?

Start slow. Generating Surprise is like riding a bike. You don’t go from a tricycle to the Tour de France in a weekend.

To help people understand, and develop, their “Surprisability” (a dopey term I coined), I’ve been working with scientists and scholars from the prestigious Institute of Emotive Psychological Studies, which is part of Sweden’s renowned Karoninska Institutet. Together we have developed a 12-question test that evaluates one’s Surprise Factor. You can take the test by visiting thebigsurprise.net/

I really like the notion of Surpriseland and Surprise U. Do you plan to do anything more with these?

I could tell you, but that would ruin the Surprise. But, hmmm… I’m quite friendly with the Dean of Management at McGill University (we graduated in the same class; look at HIM now!). Perhaps we can discuss a new faculty-within-a faculty…

My last question Andy. You deflate Tom Peter’s WOW! concept, writing that your POW! beats his WOW! You write… “Wow is surprise in neutral. Surprise trumps wow and takes it to the next level.”

Tom Peters can’t be happy with what you done to his life’s work. If you could pick the venue where Tom Peters will kick your ass, where would it be?

To a standing ovation in Carnegie Hall, with a cast of 17, following a rambunctious night in a suite at the Plaza.

Thanks, Andy, for your frankness and time today.

If you want to read more about Andy’s book… please check out the three prior posts on Andy’s virtual book tour, and the final interview tomorrow.