When we hear an old and forgotten song on the radio (or at the coffee shop), we experience a warm and pleasant surprise. We didn’t expect to hear that favourite song of ours and here it is, already playing and making our day better.
Once we download that same song on Apple Music or Spotify, it is lying there on our playlist, and we can play it anytime. But playing it by choice does not provide the same thrill we got when listening to it by chance. This phenomenon of being happy by a lucky surprise is called serendipity.
Sudden, small and pleasant surprises, like listening to our favourite song on the radio, or getting a free sample at the supermarket are moments of serendipity that make us appreciate them more, simply because they are unplanned.
Painstaking curation does not offer the same thrill as a lucky surprise, and this phenomenon of serendipity is too big to be ignored by content companies, who are trying to incorporate random surprises in their offerings like Netflix is doing with ‘Play Something’.
Having a long list of products, menu items or choices can actually cause stress and unhappiness.
Example: Receiving a small surprise gift in the mailbox is more enjoyable than ordering a small item by selecting it.
Luck by chance only applies if the stumbled upon content is liked by the consumer. If people are provided with garbage content in the name of serendipity, they won’t start to like it.
Apart from the quality of the content, if the person is having a high level of expertise on the product being offered, they would want to pick their own instead of allowing marketers to shove something down their throat.
Businesses, consumer companies and marketing executives should try to incorporate serendipity into their marketing strategy, provided it fits their product. People might like free candy surprises, but they may not be ready for free insurance.
Big tech companies like Facebook and Google have algorithms that create random-looking serendipity for online content. If they are not ethical, they may create an opaque and hostile system and cause damage to society.
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