Willy Wonka imbued his chocolates with fun, innovative, and magical peculiarities, delighting both children and adults around the world. His chocolate world evoked the world of imagination and wonder: little orange men called Oompa-Loompas, geese that lay chocolate eggs, and chocolate bars that could be delivered via television.
But Wonka was not only a master innovator. He was a brilliant marketer. Here are four marketing lessons we can learn from the peculiar yet indubitably memorable Willy Wonka.
1. Emotional resonance creates lasting bonds
Throughout the tour of his chocolate factory, Willy Wonka sings songs to entertain his audience and to bring them closer to the essence of Wonka. Not only are his songs upbeat and enjoyable, they also contain lyrics that emotionally connect people to his products rather than detail concrete measures of the products' excellence. These ditties imply that Wonka chocolate is more than something to satisfy your sweet tooth; it awakens your imagination and makes you feel like a child again. Wonka understands what makes his chocolate uniquely special.
Like Wonka, many brands have effectively used videos, jingles, sponsored games, and the like as emotional touchpoints. The Dos Equis’ ad campaign of the Most Interesting Man in the World follows a charismatic Renaissance man that takes daring risks with breezy confidence, such as running a marathon "because it was on [his] way”. Dos Equis has used this campaign figure to elevate their product above other beer companies, by communicating that the brand understands what its customers enjoy. By tapping into its viewers’ more sophisticated sense of humor, Dos Equis beer claims that it is not for the average man, but for a man who is a cut above. Having had a chuckle at the sublime humor of this absurd character and his Bondlike exploits, it's impossible to look at the beer options in the supermarket refrigerator aisle in the same way.
Whether it's an earworm of a jingle, a highly memorable "spokesperson," or a video so funny that it begs to be shared, effective marketers should take a page out of Willy Wonka's playbook and strike emotional common ground with customers.
2. Anticipation and exclusivity heighten buzz
What would Willy Wonka say about the multihour lines outside Apple stores when a new iPhone is released?
Some of the most desirable products are those you are not handed in complete form, but rather those that you have to wait for. After having closed his factory for several years, public nostalgia made Wonka’s product more desirable when he signaled that he would reopen his factory to the public. An an air of mystery and exclusivity around his secret factory heightened public attention and anticipation, fomenting a widespread obsession to find the golden tickets for the opening.
When anticipating the revealing of a new product or the next season’s clothing lines, brands lure audiences into closely following the brand ahead of its product's launch. For example, when a new film is closing in on its release date, studios produce teasers, trailers, articles, and interviews to generate buzz around their product. Each item reveals just a bit more, simultaneously sating a hunger for details and fueling even more.
Member-only sites have paved a path to popularity by effectively cultivating exclusivity and drumming up anticipation around events. Only after becoming a member do sites like Gilt.com and Secretsales.com send users up-to-date news about upcoming and current sales on designer apparel. When offering "members-only" one-day discount offers through email, these sites create a sense of urgency among those not wanting to miss out.
3. Large promotions can carry undesirable short-term effects
Wonka’s golden ticket sweepstakes started a world obsession to visit his factory and win a lifetime of chocolate. His sweepstakes was featured in numerous news reports, was extensively discussed in groups of people, and helped establish Wonka chocolate bars as the public’s main candy choice. The golden ticket promotion made everyone think Wonka.
Although promotions like Wonka’s golden tickets bring a massive growth to their brand’s publicity, broad promotions also bring in undesirable, short-term fans. Let's not forget how disagreeable Charlie Bucket's other, more opportunistic fellow winners were.
A 2011 study published in arXiv observed the effect Groupon had on businesses that used the service. The team found that the daily deal website cut deals for both the customer and for the merchant. When observing Yelp reviews of businesses offering Groupon deals, the team found that merchants received a higher percentage of negative reviews from new customers - Groupon users - than with their regular customers. One recurring reason for these negative responses has been the crowding of businesses as deadlines approach, often creating resource crunches and unpleasant experiences for customers.
Many of those jumping on high-buzz promotions are attracted by the prospect of a bargain or the cachet of obtaining something highly exclusive. They don't necessarily have the preferences, usage patterns, and temperaments you'd want in long-term customers.
4. Some fans bring bad publicity to your brand name
Unfortunately, unwanted customers make their way into a brand’s fanbase. Wonka carefully weeds out the bad contest winners during the tour of his factory. While his methods may be unconventional, he recognizes that a negative vibe can spoil the magic of a moment.
Have you ever seen a promoted Facebook post in which an uncomfortable number of comments were negative?
Marketers should be careful, when planning provocative campaigns, to anticipate what kinds of consumers they could attract. Are they your target market? Or a bunch of troublemakers looking for attention? Plan your promotional activities to focus on the quality of your new customers, instead of just quantity.
A single negative post in social media has inordinate power to change brand perception; a bunch together can do damage. As seen in the example above, a recipe promoting a food product could be seen as a tasty or disgusting, unhealthy, and inauthentic idea. Social media allows people to speak immediately about a brand or product and to share their thoughts with others very quickly. Be wary of how what you share could be perceived by your audience because negative publicity can be worse than none at all.
And since you won’t have the same opportunities as Wonka to rid yourself of troublesome customers, tread carefully!