Surprise! Are you paying attention yet?

The conventional wisdom when it comes to branding is that consistency is key. The world is a chaotic place full of conflicting signals, and a brand is an oasis of calm where everything is aligned, all communications polished to fit in with the expectation that consumers have about a company, product, or service's personality. However, a recent study has posited that this consistent messaging can actually result in 'brand slumber'.

Fortunately, the same research group also identified the emotion that was most effective as rousing us from 'brand slumber' and, that, perhaps unsurprisingly, is surprise. That's right, surprise, more than joy, disgust, curiosity, fear, anger or sadness jolts us out of our slumber and promotes our brains to absorb marketing messaging.

It all comes down to how our brains work. Our brains are fundamentally lazy. Every new piece of information needs to be processed which requires energy, so, the brain tries to take shortcuts. One of those shortcuts is recognising something familiar and effectively skipping over it, even if there are some slight variations along the way. Great for the brain, not so great for our very consistent branding. With this context, it's not surprising then, that surprise - new, unexpected information - is what reengages our brains.

This information is encouraging brands to move away from the more traditional 'pyramid' - where a brand has fixed components that funnel into its core - and towards telling stories. A great example is Deutsche Telekom, traditionally known for releasing emotionally moving advertising, the company released a fun ad spot about a Spanish entrepreneur who trains dogs to sniff for free Wi-Fi. It was out of the ordinary and not what customers were expecting to see from the brand. As a result, it received a fantastic surge of engagement, amassing nearly two million views on YouTube.

Managing brands in a creative way will help companies reach more people, more powerfully. Freeing a brand from the constraints of 'consistent consistency' can enable marketers to develop something as seemingly uncontrollable as surprise. It's something that very few competitors can imitate, and something within an organisation that very few functions other than marketing can achieve.