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Think back on a Halloween from your childhood or your children’s childhoods. Was there an event or a person who stood out to you that was really different? Halloween is one of those events that colors our lives as children (and again as adults with children) because it’s about giving and receiving.

How does Halloween relate to marketing?  Well, they’re both about perception, so here are a couple of stories that will illustrate my point.

A friend of mine told me that her most memorable Halloween happened when she was four or five years old, and it was because something unusual happened—not your run-of-the-mill, say “Trick or Treat” and get handed some candy—something really magical:

“When I was very small, I remember walking through the neighborhood with my parents, and I was drawn to a display in someone’s yard. They had rigged up a huge black cauldron over a set of logs, and a really nifty witch in costume slowly stirred what was in the pot with a long paddle. The cauldron had a layer of mist on the top of it, which cascaded down the sides of the pot as she stirred. She was calling to us in a witch’s voice ‘Come taste my brew… if you dare!’ I was a little scared, but as we approached, the witch’s voice changed to a friendly, warm one, and the lady invited us to come closer to see what she was stirring.

“My head barely reached over the top of the pot, but I could see there was a red liquid beneath the mist, and the witch dipped us each a cup of it. Fruit Punch! Then we were guided over to someone else in costume who popped candy into our bags. But it was the witch and the cauldron I will remember forever. We were expecting to walk to a doorstep and have adults inside open the door and hand out the traditional candy. Instead, we got a magical experience that was totally unexpected. I wish I could go back to that woman’s home and thank her for giving something of herself that colored my young world. It was a selfless act that took energy and imagination, and I’ll never forget it.”

The marketing lesson we can learn from this is to think about your audience and make every effort to give something exceptional; something magical and unexpected. Whether it’s super-helpful content, or a personal, hand-written note to thank someone for something they did for you, be different! Put on your thinking cap and brainstorm ways to delight your readers, your customers, your employees—everyone you do business with, by giving them an experience that’s much more than what they expect.

My second Halloween story is one from when my daughters were small. I took my daughters trick or treating when my youngest, Niki, was only two years old. When she saw one kid wearing a “scream” mask, she was terrified and would not leave my arms for the rest of the night! On the one hand it was sad that she wouldn’t approach doors anymore with her four-year-old old sister, but on the other hand, I had her clutching me in my arms for the rest of the night. I was her hero for the evening, which increased the bond between us. Well worth the trade-off!

Both of these stories illustrate how something unexpected changes our perceptions of everyday things, and how relationships can be affected in the process. So think about that when you’re handing out candy this Halloween—and think about it when you’re developing content or communicating or giving customer service. What can you deliver that will be different enough to have special meaning (or comfort) for the recipient and make your customer experience memorable and sharable? You never know whose life you’re going to impact. Happy Halloween!

Originally posted on Inside CXM, October 31st, 2014

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