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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Looking for Inspiration? Do This

May 13, 2009

nicegraphIf you are an entrepreneur, or working in a company that needs to rethink or redesign processes or products in order to move forward, there are many places to look for inspiration.  In this post, I will name just a few things to look at/read/think about to get all the ideas you need.

  1. Visit a Pret-a-Manger Store. If possible, look up a local Pret and take a trip there during lunch time.  Take in the customer friendly servers, notice how fast the lines are always moving, read the displays underneath every item of food, and check out the unique seating area.  Pret has developed a fun, healthy, and unique brand of fast food.  They have a story to tell, and they tell it in a way the keeps customers coming back time and again.  They make it easy to be healthy, and they make the food buying/eating process fun.
  2. Take a look at JetBlue’s Twitter Page. Go to www.twitter.com/jetblue and read through a couple of the responses and conversations there.  They have fast become one of the better companies to use Twitter, and they do it through updates and customer service.  It is designed for anyone to ask their reps a question and receive a quick answer on flight times, delays, security information, and other miscellaneous facts you may need before a flight.  They are one of the few companies getting this right.
  3. Read an article on Zappos Corporate Culture. Zappos is fast becoming a prime example of how to run a company.  From the way employees are treated, to the initial hiring and training process, to the customer service, Zappos has built a company that people know is fun and generous.  Their employees are taught up front that customers come first, and everyone is in the customer service business, from top to bottom.  Their shoes are not the cheapest, but they have built such strong brand loyalty among existing customers, that the model works.
  4. Go into any TD Bank. TD Bank, after their purchase of Commerce, became “America’s Most Convenient Bank”, borrowing the motto from the bank they acquired.  And if you have ever dealt with one of the branches in any way, you know this is true.  If you belong to the bank, visit with a customer service complaint or question.  If not, visit because you are “thinking about opening a new account”.  And even if you don’t have time to visit, call up.  Recognize how quickly you are greeted and served, and take in the truly personal interactions that you experience.  Things are made easy, and everything you need to get done is done fast, and with a smile.  They make a name for themselves through service, and live up to it every time.
  5. Attend a MacWorld Conference. Apple has done an incredible job creating a following of cult-like loyal customers.  People hang on every word of every announcement they make, and people will buy into products long before they are even made available.  Visit one of these conferences, and even though Apple is no longer officially the focus, you will experience this first hand, and get a chance to hear about and try some of the newest innovations in technology.  It can be a very eye opening experience.

Those are a just a few highlights of what some companies have to offer.  Notice how each one is about a couple of main things: customer service, brand awareness, and loyalty.  These companies have developed their brand through attention to detail and interactions with customers that are above and beyond our expectations.  There is a lot to be learned by experiencing the things that superior companies offer.  What can you do to match this type of success?

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General Electric Sees Innovation as the Cure

May 8, 2009

healthymagination-ge-new-planSome companies live on innovation and creativity.  General Electric (GE) is one of those companies.  A few years ago, when they decided that it was time to invest in energy efficiency, they rolled out a new initiative called “Ecomagination”.  The result was a new found interest in alternative energy sources, efficiency, and environmental consciousness.

Recently, a new issue has risen to the head of the line at General Electric, healthcare.  Already one of the leaders in innovative health care equipment, GE has decided to invest in creating a sustainable healthcare industry that makes it more affordable and more accessible to everyone.  Appropriately, the new project is called “Healthymagination“.

As outlined by GE in their announcement yesterday, the primary goals of the Healthymagination project are simple.  Reduce costs of many procedures and process through technology and efficiency of systems.  Increase access to state of the art health care through technology and education in areas of the world where health care has fallen behind.  Improve the quality of health care for patients through innovations that simplify procedures and accelerate the standards of care.

Achieving these goals, however, will be difficult.  It will take a lot of time and energy on the part of GE and their partners to take on a project of this magnitude.  But after the success of the Ecomagination project, anything is possible.

It takes a company like this to help kick start a movement.  With this type of investment from General Electric, other companies and organizations will be drawn into the mix, and we can see health care innovations that move entire societies forward.

By taking advantage of new technologies to streamline processes, digitalize medical records, and improve the quality of machines and treatments, GE and others should be able to conquer many of the pre-existing troubles that the health care industry has dealt with for years.

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When Artists Take the Wheel And Embrace Innovation…. Singer Lily Allen on “Twitter Hunt”

May 6, 2009

The following is a guest post by Christie LaBarca.  Christie is an avid music fan.  She attends Hunter College in NYC and hopes to one day work as a lawyer in the music and entertainment industry.

It’s no secret that the music industry has been highly resistant towards technology.   We all know that if record companies spent as much time embracing the internet as they did fighting it, they would be in a lot better shape than they are right now.  It’s not just about the piracy and the p2p networks, but also about communication methods.  Music artists and fans can now connect in a way that was not possible before.  Social media networks are the key.  Facebook, MySpace, Twitter….they allow a reciprocal relationship between the artist and the fan.

1760769-1British singer Lily Allen is a prime example. Through MySpace, the singer successfully established herself to an audience that might not have heard her music otherwise.   In fact, when she was first signed to her record label, they had other priorities.  They were catering to Coldplay and other big named artists.  Meanwhile Allen was busy setting up her MySpace account and posting the demos she created with the little money the label gave to her.  MySpace users quickly caught onto her music and before a few months she developed a fan base.  By keeping in contact with fans and responding to them regularly, this fan base grew even larger.   This, obviously, caught the attention of her label.   Her fan base was already established.

Allen has continued to use social networks to connect with fans and generate buzz.   During her U.S. tour, that ended two weeks ago, she organized scavenger hunts via Twitter.  Before each show she hid three pairs of tickets in the vicinity of the venue she was playing.  She sent clues out on Twitter, which allowed fans to access the clues from the mobile phone and quickly attempt to figure out where the tickets were hidden.   The clues were written mostly in clever riddles that would be familiar to locals.  Clearly, the singer did her research for each city….for Washington DC, one of the clues was, “A gate made of water, but where will we fix em? A bed made of flowers where they f***ed it for nixon .”

In Los Angeles, Allen hung two on a tree tickets outside of Victoria’s Secret at the Grove.  As soon as she posted the tweet, a guy walking by on his iPhone stopped in his tracks and looked up at her.  He asked when she wrote it, and she responded “thirty-seconds ago.” This type of endeavor is really something unique that artists were unable to do before.  Fan interaction has been taken to an entire new level due to social media and this is essential for artists.  Music isn’t selling as well as it used to, now music fans are looking for more than the music itself, they are looking for an experience, and this is how the music industry will make money in the future.

How did the Twitter Hunt help Lily Allen? It’s responsive.  It got people talking, it got her fans talking…word of mouth is the strongest promotion anyone can ask for.  Every audience member at her shows knew about her ongoing Twitter Hunt.  Everyone wanted to be a part of it. They all sat glued to their phones waiting to see what the next clue was, even if they already got tickets, waiting to see if they would get a Twitter response.  She kept people interested.  She kept her fans interested, all by being responsive and engaging in technology.

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Steve Wozniak is an Innovator – Are You?

February 6, 2009

wozniak_steveThere are a lot of innovators out there.  If you listen to what people and companies say, everyone is an innovator.  People like to toss around the term innovation because it gets people’s attention.  It makes you think of something new and amazing.

Steve Wozniak just took a job with Fusion-io, a startup focused on Flash memory devices to speed up servers.  Steve, co-founder of Apple, is a true technology innovator.  If you need proof, read his book.  He is an idea man, and he gets things done.  His mind just works in ways that other people’s don’t.

Really, at its base, innovation is change.  It is taking something, usually something that most people take for granted, and improving on it (or creating something completely different in its place).  And, truthfully, we can all innovate.  Every company, from the smallest of small businesses to the biggest of corporations, can make innovative strategic decisions on a daily basis.  So why don’t we?

Well, innovation can be hard.  It must be built into your culture.  It feeds off of creativity and ideas.  You need the people with those ideas to spawn innovative discussions, and you need leaders who listen and see the value in new ideas.

But the point of this blog is to show you that you don’t need a mind like Steve Wozniak’s to innovate.  Read his book, its inspiring.  In fact, read as many business books as you can.  Read the top business blogs.  Take in information, news, suggestions, etc. on innovation and business practice.

Let your mind wander.  Think of possibilities that are far out of reach.  It doesn’t matter what you do on a daily basis, after a while, things get stale.  And for a company that relies on putting out consistently good products or delivering consistently good service, staleness will kill you.

Suggestions: Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, an employee, a small business owner, and inventor, or a CEO you can…

  1. Always be learning – read everything around you and find out what other people are thinking, doing, and saying.  Surrounding yourself with information leads to inspiration.
  2. Always be doing – don’t let yourself hesitate or put down certain ideas because you are afraid.  Don’t let a day go by where you are not experimenting with something physically or mentally.
  3. Always be talking – social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter have allowed for limitless conversation.  Seek out others in your field and communicate with them, this will bring new ideas to light.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Take advantage of the comment area below and add your own suggestions.  How can you foster innovation and creativity?

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2008 Innovation in Review

December 29, 2008

2008 was a strange year.  It was a year that saw a rough economic downturn, a struggle by our government to save some big companies, and an effort by banks across the globe to stabilize themselves.  The term recession was thrown around plenty, and a lot of well established corporations underperformed because of it.

But even so, there were people and companies that were moving in the right direction.  To finish off the year here on Be Innovation, I wanted to touch on some of the most innovative people and creations of the year.

David Plouffe and the rest of Obama’s campaign management team should be recognized for their innovative use of viral marketing in the 2008 presidential campaign.  For the first time, a presidential candidate got in touch with the younger, internet generation.  This not only drove more young people to vote, it increased his “brand awareness”, and made him seem more “available” then most politicians.

Kevin Rose, as Inc Magazine puts it, is the first media maverick of the social web.  In 2008, he saw his company, Digg, gain popularity and value.  It spawned off an internet TV show “Diggnation” and the Kevin Rose web-celeb status.  He owns or operates several other internet ventures and is surely planning more for the future.

Apple, Google, and Research in Motion deserve credit for bringing the mobile web into the hands of consumers.  New 3G phones with one-touch applications and easy web use has made living life on the go easier than ever.  Advancements in touch screen technology, internet availability, and mobile technology have made these phones popular and practical.
There are many, many more people, companies and inventions to mention.  But there is only so much room here.  Take a look at some of these other lists that round out the top innovators/innovations of 2008.

The Economist discusses this year’s winners of the annual innovation awards.  B to B Media Business showcases their top innovators in five different categories.  The Scientist lists their top 10 innovations of the year.  Check out Time Magazine’s top inventions of 2008.  And finally, MediaWeek discusses the most impressive innovations of the year in media and marketing.

And we can all look forward to 2009, which at this moment in time, holds a limitless amount of possible innovations.  2009 will be the year of an “Innovate or Die” mindset for corporate America.  The times are changing (have changed) and it will put a lot of pressure on big companies to adapt and grow in a new direction.

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