Many times we find ourselves ‘having to get the word out’ about something. Whether it’s a transformation program, a system update or a new service offering.

If we just need people to have heard about it (who often promptly then forget about it) – we can send a few emails and be done with it.

However if we want people to talk about it, then we must do something different.

We must disrupt the norm.

The Master Disruptor: Willy Wonka

The master archetype here is the colourful and conflicted character Willy Wonka (from Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Wonka is a masterful marketer, disruptor and showman.

His brand is one of mystique and larger than life achievements. Every product he makes is worth talking about. “Ice cream than never melts”. “Bubblegum that never loses its flavour”. It’s all so magical.

But his greastest piece of disruption is his release of the golden tickets.

After firing the entierty of his factory staff ‘for fear of spies’, and closing his factroy gates for months he suddenly starts the machines back up again.

But never opens the gates.

Intrigue and rumours fly – how is he running the factory? How is this possible?

Then after months of this Wonka (now a recluse) makes a sudden annoucement – he would provide a factory tour for the winners of the golden tickets (which were only to be found within his chocolate bars, of course…) This promptly causes the whole country goes insane, and to go on a chocolate buying frenzy that would put Black Friday to shame.

While it’s of course a work on fiction, it’s still a fantastic case study for us because it’s just so clear and tangible. Wonka’s masterful disruption here is built on two things:

  1. His brand of doing larger than life things
  2. His sudden departure from the norm (the creation of wonder about the factory that mysteriously runs)

He then masterfully cashes in on both with a limited access solution to the impossibility that he created in people’s minds – creating massive scarcicity and opportunity through FOMO and prestige.

People just had to know!

But if we sit back and look at this, Wonka first created a problem that people then wanted to solve, and then leveraged scarcity to create urgency and excitement around that problem.

It was entirely manufactured.

But We’re Not Wonka?

No, we’re not.

But we can certainly ask ourselves similar questions:

  1. What is our current brand? (How do people see us?)
  2. So what do people expect of us? – Should we do something different?
  3. What is the problem that we’re solving? – How is it normally solved, what do people expect here?
  4. And how can we solve it differently? – How we can operate in that area ‘above expectations’?
  5. How can we generate mystique, scarcity and excitement about this difference?

You don’t need to create 3-course meal bubblegum to get people talking. Simply looking at how things are done and doing things drastically different and better, and then telling people about it often works a treat. Even better if you can show it too.

If you’re in a culture where 80% of corporate operations is located in a central location, but 80% of the field work happens elsewhere – then you create disruption by running tours, barbecues, visits and drop-ins, even more so if they’re a 3hr trip away.

If you’re in a culture where decisions take 3 weeks to make, then find a way to have them made within a day or two. Then publicise it.

If you’re in a culture where everyone has 30 different priorirites all at once, then shirk the norm and create immense and direct clarity. “These three things are top priority above all else”.

The Takeaway:

Word of mouth is the most powerful (and efficient) marketing tool. This is even more so inside of an organisation.

Want people to mildly acknowledge about what you’re doing? – send an email.

Want people to talk about it? – do something worth talking about.

See you all next week.