At a time when we—and our audiences—are trying to keep up with hundreds of emails, dozens of news publications and blogs, and countless social media posts, we marketers don't have the luxury of simply blending in with the crowd.

Each email we send, blog post we draft, and tweet we send takes effort, and we want it to be heard, read, or at least seen by others, right?

So how do you set yourself apart and break through the noise? By adding an element of surprise. And each time you do, you'll be surprised how you can be not only seen but also remembered—for the better (but, if you're not careful, sometimes for the worse, too).

Who could forget that Super Bowl when Janet Jackson surprised us with a controversial halftime show? In a more recent example, Miley Cyrus was a trending topic because of her shocking performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards that made us cringe and cover our eyes in dismay. Though not setting the best example, it did go to show that a little unexpected twist can go a long way toward giving you the social media spotlight and your audience's attention.

So how do we add the element of surprise to our marketing efforts without tarnishing our brand or image? Here are a seven tactics you should consider, along with some real-world examples.

1. Step out of your comfort zone

Push the boundaries with your message, and go beyond what might be expected of you. Don't let the naysayer in the room tell you "no," or obsess about what the legal team would say. Start with something small to test the waters, and then when you're ready to make the jump, go for it!

Spirit Airlines does an interesting job of using humor, although sometimes not always in the classiest of ways; but, hey, pushing boundaries with tongue-in-cheek marketing campaigns can certainly grab attention.

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image of Sadie Cornelius

Sadie Cornelius is the director of marketing at Cover Story Media and a digital marketing writer for We Rock Your Web and Safe Smart Living, two of Cover Story Media's many Web brands.

Twitter: @SadieKCornelius

LinkedIn: Sadie Cornelius