By Austin Miller, owner of Pop Ramen
What Willy Wonka Got Right About Promotion
Aside from catchy songs, little orange men with green hair, and a spectacular performance from the beloved Gene Wilder—Willy Wonka has a lot to offer in the way of marketing knowledge.
For those who have forgotten (or the poor soul who has never had the pleasure of seeing such silver screen magic), let’s do a quick recap. The story goes that a world famous “chocolate factory” owned by a mercurial Mr. Wonka offers the once in a lifetime opportunity for 5 lucky members of the public to enter his factory and witness the magic of candy making first hand. The public goes wild and chocolate bar sales reach an all time high. What follows is an absurd amount of buzz about a little piece of paper called a "Golden Ticket."
There's no question that his fictional ad campaign was a huge success—but is there any science behind this infamously powerful marketing campaign? Let's break it down.
Powerful Marketing Hack #1: Creating Demand
In a classic case of supply and demand, Mr. Wonka limits the supply of Golden Tickets to just 5. Exacerbating the demand, is the fact that that the general public has ever entered the factory.
What follows the announcement of his giveaway is a mad rush for Golden Tickets and a surge in Wonka Bar sales—a veritable success.
Powerful Marketing Hack #2: Packaging
Similar to what marketers call a "Chained Product", the Golden Tickets are included inside of Wonka Bars at no additional cost to the consumer. Not only does this create an image of good will on the part of Willy Wonka, it also creates a sense of accessibility.
Anyone familiar with the concept of the "funnel" knows that with each additional hoop a consumer has to jump through, the greater the chance there is of losing them. Providing a simple entry method breeds more participation. Therefore one of the keys to creating a powerful marketing campaign is reducing the amount of hoops one has to jump through.
Furthermore, the idea of including a giveaway within a product furthers the rationalization process of the consumer.
"If I don't get a ticket, at least I still get a chocolate bar."
Powerful Marketing Hack #3: Branding
Forward rolls, a red carpet, and a cane—Willy Wonka is a master of performance. Like Steve Jobs he has a signature style, an important fact when considering he is the brand. He reveals just enough about his company without giving away his hand. This game of cat and mouse creates an air of mystery and desire around the Wonka name.
According to researchers, there are 5 brand types that include: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. Mr. Wonka's flair for theatrics, hype, and quirkiness all produce a sense of "awe" that land him in the "excitement" category.
As Pepsi showed in their 1975 study, branding is a powerful thing. Despite the fact that they consistently beat out Coke in blind taste tests—Coke would win out when consumers knew what they were drinking. Brain scans even showed that certain areas lit up when the test subjects knew they were drinking Coke—signaling positive memories.
Thus branding is more than an intangible factor—it's a powerful process that has the ability to tangibly effect us. Any company looking to increase sales must consider branding as an essential part of creating a powerful marketing campaign.
Powerful Marketing Hack # 4: Timing
The eccentric candyman waits until enough mythos has been built around his factory before producing a giveaway. And the spread of tickets is smartly placed so that there's enough time for media outlets to report on the events and allow the hype train to build. At the same time, Mr. Wonka does not allow the contest to drag on and lose momentum. The giveaway ends on a high note, leaving a memory of excitement forever stained in the minds of its participants.
If the Chocolate Factory was an actual enterprise, future giveaways would benefit from the positive memories associated with the infamous "Golden Ticket Campaign."
This is known as a long play.
Although fictional in nature, Willy Wonka taps into something far from imaginary—the power of proper promotion. When the stars of story-building, demand, and timing align—any brand can capitalize on the magic of proper advertising and create a powerful marketing campaign for their business.