During this holiday season, I quickly reread the brilliant Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Oh, boy, that’s a marketing lesson sprinkled with a good dose of inspiration and wrapped in brilliantness.

Here are the 6 gems for the marketer that I fished in the great chocolate river.

1. Dahl is a master story teller. Learn how to tell a story

If you don’t know how to tell a story to kids, you’re not good enough.
First, because kids are the easiest crowd to engage with a story: they want to hear it, they want to believe.
Then, because kids are also the hardest crowd to please: they are not going to be polite if your story sucks. No social filter there. Likewise, if your story’s good you’ll know it (“again!”).

So, learn the tricks from a master story teller. As you read, don’t skim. Try to understand the mechanics. So you can use that to tell your story (or your company’s or your client’s…). A great way to engage your audience – in an elevator, at a networking event, on stage, in your next ad…

2. There is no better book about Sweepstakes!

That golden ticket quest. It can’t get better than that. OK, it’s fictitious and it doesn’t tell you how to write T&C’s. Apart from that, a visit of a secret factory, meeting the founder and getting a lifelong supply of chocolate. All prizes that work for me. [Spoiler alert, but seriously, who doesn’t know the story: the “winner” actually gets the whole factory. Not too shabby a prize]

3. The pillars of brand building


I do wonder whether Steve Jobs got his tricks from Willy Wonka:

  1. Scarcity of product and information
  2. Cult of the founder
  3. Grandiose staging of each apparition
  4. Getting products just right and leaving competition in the dust
  5. Extreme attention to detail
  6. Pride in the product

“I can’t abide ugliness in factories!” –Willy Wonka
“Every drop of that river is hot melted chocolate of the finest quality. The very finest quality” – Willy Wonka
“No other factory in the world mixes its chocolate by waterfall! But it’s the only way to do it properly. The only way” –Willy Wonka

(In the Inventing room) Mr Wonka himself had suddenly become even more excited than usual, and anyone could see that this was the room he loved best of all.

On that note, there is sadly a parallel with factory workers exploitation. Wonka has the famous Oompa Loompas and even squirrels working for him for peanuts, or to be precise for cocoa beans and nuts respectively. Not sure what to make of that in light of working conditions at major electronic contractors like Foxconn.

4. Product naming

Wonka’s Whipple-scrumptious fudgemallow delight.
Wonka’s nutty crunch surprise.

Need I say more?

Just in case you are thicker than Augustus Gloop:

  1. Both are descriptive (feature) and state a promise (benefit)
  2. The name are a mouthful and are mouthwatering which is great for chocolate treats (Cadbury fruits and nuts, M&Ms or Snickers really pale in comparison)
  3. The name is just like the product: crazy, imaginative, delicious.

Two more just for fun:
Everlasting Gobstoppers anyone?
Square candies that look round? (hilarious pun)

5. Using personal experiences to feed your creativity

If you’ve read Boy, which is the first part of Dahl’s autobiography relating his childhood, you’ll remember this anecdote: his school was close to an actual chocolate factory and students were getting samples from the factory which they “had” to taste and rate.

This led a few decades later to that wonderful book.

Funnily, in Tim Burton’s version, Wonka has his creativity and love of treats fueled by his frustrations as a kid – his father, a dentist, didn’t allow him to enjoy treats.

6. The power of illustrations


Well, kids like their books with pictures. And to be fair, so do we grownups. : )
Many books by Dahl contain illustrations. Photographs or letters in Going Solo. The brilliant illustrations of Quentin Blake in the case of Charlie. They go so well with Dahl’s stories and writing style. Blake’s first collaboration with Dahl is The Enormous Crocodile which is just off the wall (more on their relationship here)

PS- Finally, it’s Christmas and winter in the northern hemisphere. What a time to be reading a wonderful story about chocolate and not watching too much “TV” (i.e. screens). Especially, if like me, you have kids to share the story with.

I welcome your comments and suggestions through Twitter or Linkedin.

Get it now from Amazon: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

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