Words frequently have more than one meaning. No big surprise: you knew that. But did you know that a two-word pairing can have a whole different meaning, depending on the order in which those same two words are presented? That is perhaps much more interesting–and valuable–when you know how this two-word test can be a powerful indicator for your personal brand.
The two words are “pleased” and “surprised.”
Customers love to be pleasantly surprised. When we are pleasantly surprised, we have received something extra … more than we expected. When staying at a hotel recently, upon returning to my room after a long day to find the bed turned down and a fancy chocolate medallion placed atop the pillow, I was pleasantly surprised. At work, when a colleague submitted his report two days early–and went the extra mile by embedding several nicely-crafted graphics into the document–I was pleasantly surprised. “Pleasantly surprised” is a powerful outcome. It builds brand equity and enhances customer loyalty.
Now, turn that phrase around. Switch the order of those two words, and you find a whole different effect. “Surprisingly pleased” is quite different; in fact, it’s a warning sign.
Let’s explore a few cases. When I got my favorite business suit back from the dry cleaner this week, surprisingly I was pleased to find that they had not broken any of its buttons this time. [Translation: they generally suck and usually damage something … and I’m about to switch.] Last Friday, when Joe circulated his latest ad around our work group for internal review, surprisingly I was pleased to discover that it was not riddled with typos and grammatical errors. [Translation: Joe is a crappy writer of advertising copy. His reputation is poor.] “Surprisingly pleased” is almost a kiss of death.
Apply this simple test to Brand You. Do those who matter (bosses, team leaders and customers) feel or say that your work leaves them pleasantly surprised? Or conversely, are they surprised when they are pleased with your work?
“Pleasantly surprised” means your brand is on the rise. Keep it up consistently, and you’re on your way to becoming a rockstar at work! “Surprisingly pleased” says your brand stinks. Get it together, or you’ll soon be looking for a new gig.
Skip Lineberg is a founding partner of the marketing firm Maple Creative. He recently co-authored a book for young professionals. Effective Immediately by Ten Speed Press, division of Crown Publishing, is a book about how to become a “rock star” at work. Despite such knowledge and experience, he occasionally has to call upon the ABC principles of damage control for his own misdeeds. (Just ask his editor Alex Haederle!)