• Startling customers can have multiple benefits, and it flips the traditional marketing script. 
  • It can foster more profound engagement, enhanced brand perception, and increased brand recall value. 

“Startling” marketing strategy is a customer-centric approach that aims to surprise and delight customers and foster deeper engagement and loyalty. The core concept of this strategy is to shift the audience’s focus away from product or service promotions to creating a memorable and positive customer experience. Eventually, the surprise itself becomes the marketing tool.

Marketers should aim for positive surprises while not using scare tactics. The goal is to delight the target audience with an unexpected benefit, provide a sense of personalized touch, or offer something that goes beyond their expectations. This strategy has multiple benefits, including deeper engagement, enhanced brand perceptions, and increased brand recall value. 

How did Nike Successfully use a “Focus on Startling Your Customers” Marketing Strategy? 

Founded in 1964, Nike, Inc., is the world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel, headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon, USA. Experts say Nike is a master of incorporating startling marketing to engage its customers. The brand doesn’t just sell shoes and sportswear; it sells a feeling, an experience, an attitude, and a drive to “Just Do It.”

Cause-Driven Campaigns & Empowering Stories

Nike has always been bold in standing on social issues. Their popular advertisements featured athletes like Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and support the Black Lives Matter movement. This startling move positioned Nike in a political conversation, which might alienate some customers while resonating deeply with those who valued its stance. 

Marketers have ensured that Nike’s commercials are woven around powerful narratives. Some might showcase a young girl overcoming self-doubt and planning to dominate the basketball court; some might show an amputee athlete defying limitations. Strategic use of these stories startles customers as they challenge expectations and inspire viewers to push their horizons. 

Limited Edition Collaborations & Interactive Social Media

Nike actively collaborates with unexpected partners, like fashion designers, musicians, influencers, etc., to create limited-edition products. These collaborations and partnerships startle customers because they potentially create a sense of exclusivity and urgency. 

At the same time, customers have to act fast to procure the piece of history. For example, sneakerheads and fashion enthusiasts line up to get their hands on these unique items, driving up demands and resale value. Some successful collaborations are Air Jordan 1 & Dior, Sacai & Nike, Travis Scott & Nike, etc. 

Nike also actively uses social media platforms to engage with customers directly. Sometimes, marketers launch contests where users submit workout videos using specific hashtags. This could be startling because it can transform passive viewers into active participants, creating User-Generated Content (UGC) and fostering a sense of community. 

Breaking the Fourth Wall & Impact of Using This Marketing Strategy

Sometimes, Nike’s advertisements intelligently break the fourth wall to address the viewer directly. This can startle customers by pulling the audience into the commercial, making them feel involved and personally connected to the message. Similar to how sometimes the character of Deadpool breaks the fourth wall during a dialogue, it engages the audience and starts them. 

By using all these startling tactics, Nike managed to be relevant, spark conversations, generate excitement, and most importantly, involve the customer in the ever-evolving brand story. Also, by constantly surprising and inspiring the audience, Nike stays at the forefront of athletic wear; customers believe that they are not just selling shoes and apparel but a way of life.

How “Focus on Startling Your Customers” Is a Great Customer-Centric Surprise Attack? 

Interestingly, this marketing strategy hinges on delighting and surprising the target audience to foster deeper engagement and brand loyalty. The core here is to break free from mundane marketing tactics and create a memorable experience that strengthens the customer connection.

The Core Principle & Intelligent Customer Involvement

Traditional marketing entirely revolves around promoting products and services and their features. The startling technique flips the script, placing the customer’s experience at the forefront. Eventually, this surprise takes center stage and helps foster positive emotions and brand associations. 

Marketers should understand that surprising customers is entirely different from scaring them. Although the word “startling” might conjure images of shocking tactics, the goal here is not to frighten them. It’s more like creating a positive surprise, an unexpected benefit, or a personalized touch that goes beyond the scope of traditional marketing. 

The critical differentiator that separates this marketing strategy from traditional ones is the direct involvement of customers. The surprise should be tailored to the target audience’s needs, interests, past interactions with the brand, etc. Including this sense of personalization can create a positive brand perception and make them feel understood. 

Multiple Benefits of Incorporating this Strategy

Some significant benefits of incorporating this strategy include deeper customer engagement, enhanced brand perception and increased brand recall value. Surprise and delight could trigger positive reactions, strengthening the customer’s bond with the brand. 

Importantly, customers could eventually become loyal brand advocates when they feel genuinely appreciated. Also, a well-executed surprise can significantly elevate the brand image. It can be a testament to the audience that the brand cares about individual customers, fueling trust and positive word-of-mouth marketing. 

This customer-centric approach makes a brand stand out from the mundane crowd and significantly improves the brand image and recall value. Customers are more likely to remember the brand if it triggers a positive emotional connection. For instance, the Nike Swoosh is well known, and people associate it with quality goods. 

Pros and Cons of “Focus on Startling Your Customers” Marketing Strategy

Like every other marketing strategy, this “Focus on Startling Your Customers” strategy has pros and cons, as discussed below. 


A well-executed surprise or implementation of a startling tactic can leave a lasting positive impression on the target audience and make the brand stand out from the crowd. Surprise and delight can also foster positive emotions that can strengthen the customer’s bond with the brand and facilitate deeper engagement.

Marketers go that extra mile for customers, demonstrating that you care for them. Eventually, it builds trust, leads to positive word-of-mouth marketing, and enhances the brand image. Such memorable surprises can significantly improve a brand’s recall value, and by exceeding customer expectations, brands create a sense of loyalty and encourage repeat business. 


Poorly planned surprises can potentially backfire, especially if they come across as strange, inauthentic, or even intrusive; setting the right tone is crucial. If customers aren’t receptive to surprises, they can significantly disrupt their experience and have the opposite effect; hence, understanding the audience is the key.

Personalizing the surprise can be resource-intensive and time-consuming. Moreover, it isn’t easy to measure the impact of this surprise campaign, as tracking customer sentiments can be challenging. Also, living up to expectations of surprising customers can be a daunting task and difficult to maintain over time. 

In Conclusion, marketers must remember that the surprise must be genuine and align with the brand values. They should stay away from gimmicks, as they could backfire. Personalization can target the right audience and make the brand more relevant. There should be a mechanism to measure the strategy’s effectiveness and adapt accordingly.