Yesterday morning’s edition of Mashable! mentioned a new company called Chocomize. It allows customers to create customized candy and markets itself as being “like an online candy factory and you’re Willy Wonka!” The mention of Willy Wonka reeled me in. Besides being one of my favorite childhood movies, I have great appreciation for the classic film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” as an adult and marketing professional. More than just an entertaining story, many forget that the plot centers on a successful marketing campaign. And, although it’s fictional, seeing this marketing ploy got me thinking of the movie, and how we can apply Mr. Wonka’s principles to our industry today.

For those not familiar with the story, allow me to explain in a “CliffsNotes” sort of way. Man (Willy Wonka) runs successful factory and produces a popular product (candy). The competition (rival candy company) sends in spy (Mr. Slugworth) who infiltrates, steals the secret, and hands it over to the rival company. The secret is leaked and eventually multiple companies are selling their own versions of the popular product (famous, delicious Wonka candy). Man (Mr. Wonka) realizes he no longer has a unique product and is forced out of business. He closes the famous factory.

Now think of this as it applies to the equipment industry because it’s a very real scenario. As touched on in an earlier blog entry, patents do exist to protect companies from this type of theft. But there will always be someone out there who will still try to steal a good, proven design.

Back to the story. Eventually, the factory begins production again, but no one is ever seen going in or out. This creates intrigue among the local townspeople who gossip, speculate and pass on the story. No one really knows the truth but everyone knows of the delicious candy and the mysterious Mr. Wonka; as a result, the brand alive through the story.

Lesson One: Positive word-of-mouth can be the most powerful advertisement. This is true in any industry, whether it be candy or equipment.

Back to the story. Mr. Wonka realizes the demand for his candy is still there, but now he’s up against competitors and trying to find a way to set himself apart. He discovers he has something that can’t be stolen or copied: People are intrigued by him and the story behind his famous factory. He uses this to create excitement and come up with an offer no one can refuse – the Golden Ticket campaign. Those who find one of five tickets are invited to come to the famous Wonka factory, take a tour, sample all the latest and greatest creations and leave with a lifetime supply of chocolate. People jump at the chance to find a golden ticket, and purchase obscene amounts of chocolate bars. Stores can’t keep up with the demand and the bars become among the most sought-after commodities in the world.

Lesson Two: Create a buzz with a clever marketing strategy and watch the product fly off shelves. Even if you don’t have an eccentric businessman or captivating mystery behind your company, a unique positioning strategy is there somewhere – so find it and use it to your advantage.

The primary lesson we can all learn from Willy Wonka: It’s possible to be in a down-and-out situation, make a comeback and reinvigorate a brand. And never underestimate the power of a great marketing campaign. I write this now, as many companies have been struggling these past several months, maybe even years, in our economic situation. But the right marketing campaign will make people want, need and buy your product – even in a less-than strong economy.

How could the lessons of Willy Wonka be applied to your company? Have you seen great results due to a wildly successful marketing campaign? What was your inspiration or Golden Ticket idea?

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