John Jimenéz Surprise Factor in Cosmetics
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Surprise Factor in Cosmetics

by John Jiménez

EURO COSMETICS Magazine • Surprise Factor in Cosmetics • John Jimenéz • John Jimenéz
John Jiménez
Senior Researcher at Belcorp Colombia
surprise factor

I recently had a surprising experience that inspired me to write this column. As some of you know, I am a fan of coffee because I have talked about it in previous columns and in Colombia, we find some of the best coffee in the world. I was recently with some colleagues from work in a coffee shop in Bogotá and when I ordered a café latte, I received this beautiful creation:

It really was a nice experience that made my coffee taste better. Latte art refers to designs created on the surface of espressos by a barista. Coffee shops have become experts in creating these wow factors that maximize product perception. Now that we are in the Christmas season and the end of the year, we are living family gatherings and also giving and receiving gifts … This led me to wonder: What is new in the surprise factor in the cosmetics industry?


Surprises are not only nice when they are among friends and family, they can also be used in marketing strategies! Different publications in neuroscience say that the pleasure of an experience always originates in the brain. The surprise factor and the pleasure it generates are essential elements in the marketing strategy. In October 2022, the america-retail.com portal published an interesting note on this topic. In this it explains how integrating the surprise factor into the marketing strategy helps to improve the consumer experience and brand perception.


The surprise factor is related to giving and receiving gratifications that translate into feeling the emotion before something unexpected. Neuromarketing studies carried out by different authors indicate that this factor influences the level of pleasure in the brain. In cosmetics we are seeing very interesting examples. There are shops where they offer you different varieties of tea, while you try textures and smell fragrances. It is very common in barbershops specialized in male grooming to offer drinks such as whiskey, beer, juices while the person performs their beauty routine. In products, we are seeing original designs in packages and containers, with different velvety and silky textures that increase the expectation towards the sensory profile of the formulation.


Art is the new protagonist in packaging. We recently saw the launch of a lipstick, in which the packaging has a unique violinshaped design. Surely, the sensory profile of the formulation will be better perceived. In claims, we also see the surprise factor that can be activated with guerrilla marketing. We all remember that ad where a fully tattooed male model was completely covered in makeup. The surprise factor in this case was the quick action of the make-up remover formulation to discover the original skin.


Due to the confinements and the new post-pandemic reality, the consumer is hungry for experiences and that is why we are entering the new era of experiential marketing, which aims to leave a different and lasting impression on the consumer. New brand activations are loaded with creativity. In general, the surprise factor has two objectives:
– Design a moment-to-moment experience through a physical, interactive and multisensory expression of the brand’s personality.
– Create a lasting impression that improves the understanding of the brand by the consumer.


Experiential product design is gaining more and more strength in cosmetics. The new proposals and concepts are being multisensory. An important point is to take advantage of the interaction of the product with the consumer so that memorable memories can be created and that can also go viral on social networks. Experiential memory is the new black.


Why is experiential memory important? Because if the experience doesn’t produce a strong emotional response, the brain assumes it’s not worth remembering. That is why it is important that the experience has that emotional touch that reaches the hearts of consumers.

The truth is that the brain likes surprises. Surprise is a basic emotion that refers to the alteration of the mood due to an unforeseen event or stimulus. When the unexpected is not pleasant, it triggers a negative emotion, such as fear, anger, or sadness. On the other hand, when the result is positive, the resulting emotion is pleasant, triggering intense activation of brain areas. These brain areas are involved in other emotions, including pleasure. The publications indicate that the nucleus accumbens, which is part of the basal ganglia, has an important role in the processing of surprise. Apparently, this is activated when we are faced with an unpredictable situation. This occurs because the brain unconsciously expects a reward. As in other emotions, the amygdala also has an important role in surprise, helping to decide if what we find is good for us or not.

These are the characteristics of the surprise:
– It is a neutral emotion, since it is neither positive nor negative.
It is accompanied by other emotions that determine its impact.
– Occurs immediately.
– It is usually generated by novel stimuli.
– Surprise tends to intensify when we are in the middle of a situation that is important to us.


The surprise factor can be evaluated by designing new methodologies through eye-tracking, facial coding, electroencephalography and electrophysiology because it produces different physiological effects:
– Activation of the autonomic nervous system: There is a change in heart rate, peripheral vasoconstriction and cephalic vasodilation, a sudden increase in skin conductance may be happen, and pupil dilation occurs.
– Activation of the somatic system: There is a momentary increase in neuronal activity that can be detected by desynchronization.
Although, if the response is non-specific or prolonged, the desynchronization involves the entire cerebral cortex, and it becomes tonic.
– In addition, there is a characteristic body expression. Our eyebrows and upper eyelids rise, our pupils dilate, our mouth opens, and our jaw drops.


What strategies can we use to create a successful wow factor?
– Storytelling: It is the art of telling a story to customers. It is a powerful tool that helps engage consumers with the product.
– Testimonials: People love success stories and satisfied customers. It’s like when we look for hotel recommendations on the internet. Testimonials build trust.
– Inclusive and diverse key messages: Consumers expect companies to take a stand on social, economic, and geopolitical issues. The key messages must be executed in an inclusive way.
– The experiences have to be useful to humanize the brand,
– Connection: Interest with the consumer must be created through sensations, emotions, experiences, thoughts and relationships.


The surprise factor is a great opportunity for innovation for the cosmetics industry and that is why we are seeing very interesting advances in sensory marketing, emotional marketing, experiential marketing, creative marketing and relationship marketing.

EURO COSMETICS Magazine • John Jimenéz • John Jimenéz • John Jimenéz
John Jimenéz
Senior Exploration Scientist at Belcorp Colombia

John Jiménez is currently Senior Researcher at Belcorp Colombia. He is a Pharmacist (National University of Colombia) with a Master degree in Sustainable Development (EOI Business School, Madrid) and specialization studies in Marketing, Cosmetic Science and Neuromarketing. John has 28 publications in scientific journals and a book chapter in cosmetic formulation.
Maison G de Navarre Prize (IFSCC 2004), Henry Maso Award (IFSCC 2016) and best scientific papers at Colamiqc Ecuador 2009, Colamiqc Brazil 2013 and Farmacosmética Colombia 2014. He has been a speaker at various international conferences in Europe and Latin America and was President of Accytec Bogotá from 2017–2019.

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