As it turns out, it’s the very unpredictability of pleasant surprises that “turns on” the pleasure centers in the human brain.

This useful insight emerged when researchers at Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine conducted MRI brain scans to measure responses to pleasurable stimuli: They found that unexpected pleasure is more rewarding than expected or anticipated pleasure.

To leverage this fact, look for ways to pleasantly surprise customers. Examples:

• Track birthdays or anniversaries and send something they might not expect.

• Have a bottle of champagne with strawberries waiting in their hotel room when they go on vacation.

• Show up at a community or charity event they care about.

There are lots of creative ways to give customers a surprise they’ll tell their friends about – building word of mouth for you.

Source: Bill Cates at Also see the Journal of Neuroscience, April 2013.

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