Willy Wonka is a Marketing Genius

June 3, 2009

willy-wonka-wilderTake into account these two facts, kids like candy, people like to win stuff.  Now take into account the fact that Willy Wonka has been mysteriously locked in his factory pumping out world famous chocolate.  The word has spread of how this entrepreneur is secluded from the world, seemingly by himself, and continues to mass produce this candy that he sells across the globe.

Already this company has amazing distribution, a viral marketing story that people are obsessed with, and a strong brand name.  That sounds like a success story to me.

This is the point when any business owner must make a decision. Am I comfortable where I am at, or is it time to innovate, to create, and to grow? Willy Wonka decided to push a huge marketing effort on the world, and he did it without spending any money.

He launched a contest.  5 golden tickets, placed in 5 Wonka Bars, would allow 5 lucky people into a factory that has been closed to the public for decades.  Since the word of mouth story of Wonka’s mysterious seclusion is so wide spread, this contest touches on the nerves of evryone who hears about it.

Immediately, sales take off in countries all over the world. There are shortages in places that have never had shortages before.  People devote their entire lives to finding a golden ticket. And since the only way to do that is to buy more Wonka Bars, Willy Wonka not only increases the entire market for candy in the first place, but he increases his own market share to almost 100% during the contest.

Now I know that at the end of the movie Willy Wonka says the contest was all about finding a predecessor to take over the company, but you have to think that the main goal was to boost sales and create an even stronger brand image through PR and word of mouth.  Stock prices probably went through the roof.

I wanted to have some fun with this post after watching the movie on TV the other night, but there are also some real life lessons to be learned. A lot of companies run promotions here and there, but most are not as successful as they could be.  Tying a promotion into an existing word of mouth story rather than trying to create word of mouth based on the promotion alone will work much better.  Take one aspect of your existing marketing and build on it to create a contest for new and current customers.

Also, base your promotions around core products.  If you have something that sells well, use contest to promote its usage, and maybe tie it to something new or one of your less popular products.  This will make it more attractive for more people to participate.

Don’t be afraid to make the prize of your contests too big.  The more you offer, the more you will get from it in return.  Wonka offered the greatest gift of all for his particular situation.  A chance to see the factory and meet the man behind the legend.  Doing this was a risk, but it paid of big time.

I salute you Willy, one of the first true marketing gurus.

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