Guillaume Rigal

life of a digital agency director

Category: Tuesday Marketing Book Club

Tuesday Marketing Book Club #6 – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

WonkaPureMarketingExtract

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

willy-wonka-cane-entrance

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

charlie-chocolate-factory-roald-dahl-3

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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Tuesday Marketing Book Club #5 – A Technique for Producing Ideas by Webb Young

My choice for this Tuesday’s marketing book is “A Technique for Producing Ideas”, a thin paperback by James Webb Young. Written in the 1965 it has become a cult and I’ve seen it referenced in other advertising books (like It’s not how good you are… which I featured last month). The foreword is by the man who changed the industry and got the creative juices flowing on Madison Avenue, Mr Bill Bernbach of DDB.

James Webb Young is no stranger to the world of creativity: he was the First Chairman of The Advertising Council and among other distinctions, received the Advertising Man of the Year Award in 1946 and was inducted in the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.

I enjoyed reading this book for its simplicity and common sense. In our age of constant interruption and internet-induced procrastination, it is a good reminder of how to get focus and get the job done. It also reinforces how we, marketers, should always research our markets and products and give time for ideas to emerge – “the Mental Digestive Process”.

You can’t rush art. But you can put a repeatable process behind your idea generation.

What do you think? Please join our Tuesday Marketing Book Club linkedin group to discuss.

Get it from Amazon here:
A Technique for Producing Ideas

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Tuesday Marketing Book Club #4 – Animal Farm by George Orwell

The book this week may seem like an oddball choice. What does Orwell’s classic Animal Farm have to do in a book review for Marketing professionals?

When I decided to launch this series, I set for myself to choose classic books, not limited to Marketing, not the latest fads. Strong writing that could teach us valuable lessons and inspire us.

In Animal Farm, I see a powerful and inspirational book.

1) It reminds us that marketing can be a powerful force for good as well as for evil.

Propaganda is a very potent form of Marketing, often very efficient, but aimed at conveying and pollinizing evil ideas. In Animal Farm, there is no doubt about the kind of totalitarian regime that Orwell is depicting through a fable. Orwell had been a first-hand witness of the war in Spain and wanted to alert its contemporaries about the real nature of the (then alluring) communist model.

Orwell shows the mechanic of how a totalitarian regime emerges in a grotesque way. That being said, Orwell is very close to the truth. I remember a discussion a couple of years ago with a friend in Germany who was a child when Hitler and his party rose to elected government. His dad was smoking and cigarette packs were coming with animal cards kids could collect. He showed me how that evolved under the influence of the Nazis into propaganda items – animals in that case, were slowly replaced by soldiers and other icons of nationalism.

So yep. Propaganda, fact fabrication, rhetoric and oratories, youth indoctrination, fearmongering, anthems… it’s all in Animal Farm.

Seth Godin (in the book from last Tuesday) makes a strong argument that marketer have to be a force for good. I can only support that:

 “Marketing is powerful. Use it wisely” –Seth Godin

One of many examples in Animal Farm:

Starvation seemed to stare them in the face. It was vitally necessary to conceal this fact from the outside world. (…) Napoleon was well aware of the bad results that might follow if the real facts of the food situation were known, and he decided to make use of Mr. Whymper (note : the animal’s intermediary) to spread a contrary impression. (…) A few selected animals, mostly sheep, were instructed to remark casually in his hearing that rations had been increased. In addition, Napoleon ordered the almost empty bins in the store-shed to be filled nearly to the brim with sand, which was then covered up with what remained of the grain and meal. (…) Whymper was led through the store-shed and allowed to catch a glimpse of the bins. He was deceived, and continued to report to the outside world that there was no food shortage on Animal Farm.

 

2) It goes a long way to show storytelling is maybe the strongest device in our arsenal.

Storytelling is such a strong tool to make ideas progress that I’m still puzzled it’s not used better and more often by marketers. This was the main point in Seth Godin’s book from last Tuesday. It’s very well exemplified with Orwell’s world renowned best seller. I am sure there are many essays and thesis written on the topic of totalitarianism and how it arises. Yet, in 140 pages, Orwell does a better job to spread the idea than any other author. The fact it is a tale makes the concept easier to grasp, more approachable. And this makes the point even more poignant as there is a perfidious irony in using animals in a farm to make that point. Orwell blatantly called Russian communists pigs. It’s crazy he didn’t got assassinated for this.

For instance, Orwell created typical profiles examplpified by animal species – don’t they fit people you have had on your projects? The work horse, the smart ass, the useless but adorable cat.

Boxer was the admiration of everybody. He had been a hard worker even in Jones’s time, but now he seemed more like three horses than one; there were days when the entire work of the farm seemed to rest on his mighty shoulders. From morning to night he was pushing and pulling, always at the spot where the work was hardest. He had made an arrangement with one of the cockerels to call him in the mornings half an hour earlier than anyone else, and would put in some volunteer labour at whatever seemed to be most needed, before the regular day’s work began. His answer to every problem, every setback, was ‘I will work harder!’ — which he had adopted as his personal motto.

 

And the behaviour of the cat was somewhat peculiar. It was soon noticed that when there was work to be done the cat could never be found. She would vanish for hours on end, and then reappear at meal-times, or in the evening after work was over, as though nothing had happened. But she always made such excellent excuses, and purred so affectionately, that it was impossible not to believe in her good intentions.

Old Benjamin, the donkey, seemed quite unchanged since the Rebellion. He did his work in the same slow obstinate way as he had done it in Jones’s time, never shirking and never volunteering for extra work either. About the Rebellion and its results he would express no opinion. When asked whether he was not happier now that Jones was gone, he would say only ‘Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey,’ and the others had to be content with this cryptic answer.

Dreams and personal anecdotes are always sure crowd pleasers:

« And now, comrades, I will tell you about my dream of last night. I cannot describe that dream to you. It was a dream of the earth as it will be when Man has vanished. But it reminded me of something that I had long forgotten. Many years ago, when I was a little pig, my mother and the other sows used to sing an old song of which they knew only the tune and the first three words. »

3) It keeps us on our toes, alert and agile in our often bureaucratic environments

Work hard but step back and be careful of the tyranny of bureaucracy. Use your judgment before your launch into a project with all your might. Reevaluate goals. There is a time to be Boxer, the strong horse whose indefectible support to the cause is laudable. And there is a time to be the whistleblower – like Benjamin the Donkey, who incidentally warns the animals that Boxer is not being taken to the hospital but by the knacker.

The story of the building of the windmill is a very good warning for businesses, and especially for us marketers. The animals are promised “heaters and hot and cold waters” as a benefit of building a windmill. They never openly question the project. After many sacrifices, they build and rebuild the windmill. And even when it’s ready, they learn they have to build another one to generate electricity as the first one is put to another use. If that doesn’t make you raise an eyebrow and think about a lousy project that you’ve had to work on (CRM integration? Corporate website with a CMS? Marketing automation platform?), then what will?

The windmill had been successfully completed at last, and the farm possessed a threshing machine and a hay elevator of its own (…). The windmill, however, had not after all been used for generating electrical power. It was used for milling corn, and brought in a handsome money profit. The animals were hard at work building yet another windmill; when that one was finished, so it was said, the dynamos would be installed. But the luxuries of which Snowball had once taught the animals to dream, the stalls with electric light and hot and cold water, and the three-day week, were no longer talked about.

We, human beings, seem to be very strong in creating work for works sake or to just justify a headcount. A regular evaluation of routine tasks, projects, relationships, newsletter… and their legitimacy should be part of every manager’s job description.

There were so many pigs and so many dogs. It was not that these creatures did not work, after their fashion. There was, as Squealer was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and organisation of the farm. Much of this work was of a kind that the other animals were too ignorant to understand. For example, Squealer told them that the pigs had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious things called ‘files,’ ‘reports,’ ‘minutes,’ and ‘memoranda.’ These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. This was of the highest importance for the welfare of the farm, Squealer said. But still, neither pigs nor dogs produced any food by their own labour; and there were very many of them, and their appetites were always good.

 

4) Ain’t we lucky to live in a free world?

Finally, in a week of thanksgiving for our American readers, let this book be a reminder to all of us lucky enough to live in a true democracy of our good fortunes. We are free to do business in a mostly fair “playground”, to speak our mind and advertise our services.

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

Animal Farm is a short but rich book, notably for the Marketer.

What do you think? Please join our Tuesday Marketing Book Club linkedin group to discuss.

PS- You can buy a copy on Amazon here: Animal Farm

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Tuesday Marketing Book Club #3, All Marketers tell stories by Seth Godin


 

This Tuesday, I’m picking a more recent book than in the past weeks: Seth Godin’s new edition of All Marketers Are Liars, retitled All Marketers tell stories.

I think the whole premise is in the title and the title change of the revised edition: it’s about marketing. How marketers now need to be storytellers. And there is some ambiguity about what Godin calls a “lie”.

In a few words: Marketers make up stories which are not completely truthful, yet not disingenuous, and then, if it befits her “worldview”, the customer will adopt it, make the stories hers, telling herself and others a “lie”.

Overall, Godin is right and really gives a hard time to marketers who clench on to the “golden age” (1960’s type of TV ads). The brand doesn’t belong to the marketer anymore but to the customer.

Either you’re going to tell stories that spread, or you will become irrelevant

There are a couple of strong theories developed in the book which is sound advice to businesses and marketers. The first being that stories are key to marketers:

Truly great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences.

Throughout the book, Godin hammers what a story is, how to tell a compelling one. The dos and don’ts. All this in a very down-to-earth way, using many examples.

The second important point to me is that marketers don’t have much control anymore and need to be ok relishing it. The point has not yet sunk in with a lot of marketers.

Successful marketers are just the providers of stories that consumers choose to believe.

This is important. People tell themselves stories. It’s much more powerful than marketers telling them stories. And Godin even argues that, then, people go to great lengths to make those stories true.

Besides, Godin warns:

As a marketer, you can no longer force people to pay attention.

This is not new of course. And, by the way, it echoes Della Femina’s 1970 book (our #2): “Nobody buys any magazine to read an ad.”

Another of my favorite ideas in the book is “the curve of making stuff up”. How the paradigm of value producing has changed from “production” to “invention” and “storytelling”. Concluding in the two keys to success:

1. Invent stuff worth talking about.

2. Tell stories about what you’ve invented.

And if I have to sum up the overall method in the book.

People have worldviews (your beliefs and biases of the moment) which influence their decisions. Marketers need to find groups who share such a worldview and address those by framing their stories accordingly. And if that niche can influence a larger group, then you’re on your way to grow!

There is really more to it:

  1. How to craft stories (in a large sense) and how only remarkable stories succeed.

    Because Successful stories never offer the things marketers are most likely to feature: very good quality. A slightly better price. (…) Convenience. Nice people. A quality brochure. (…) None of these attributes are story-worthy.

  2. The role of authenticity: being genuine and consistent in telling stories to get and keep customers – because most of the time, the first touchpoint the consumer notices is not the one intended by the marketer. And good stories drive enjoyment and satisfaction.
  3. The role of repetition (by the marketer and the consumer):

    The only stories that spread are the “I can’t believe that!” stories. These are the stories that aren’t just repeateable: these are the stories that demand to be repeated.

  4. How to compete with stories.

    You can buy cheaper somewhere else. Cheap is not Marketing.

    Godin also explain that it’s now impossible to compete with the same story as competitors, taping the same worldview – yep, you need to differentiate. « Be remarkable. »

Let’s face it. It’s no easy task. But what better inspiration for today’s marketer?

 

A word of warning: Of course, as with a lot of 21st-century marketing gurus, Godin’s prose is repetitive. And the man goes overboard, like here:

Marketing is about spreading ideas, and spreading ideas is the single most important output of our civilization.

Still, I say the book is worth reading once and good to keep around for marketers to stay grounded.

All details about the book on Amazon: All Marketers Are Liars

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Tuesday Marketing Book Club #2

Let’s get into the groove of my new Tuesday Marketing Book Club series with a reference from the end of the 1960′s. The earthy, meaty, and often hilarious From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War
 by Jerry Della Femina.

It is full of gems and anecdotes and streetwise advertising advice. I think it is typical of that era of Manhattan advertising (of all the books I have read so far, this one actually gives the best insight of that period). And yet most of will resonate for today’s marketer or agency man. And you’ll get your fair share of tips you can apply to your campaigns – research, creativity, media buy…

If just to give you a preview before your go and buy it, a few extracts from one of the best parts of the book: his description of the beer market in Chapter 7, The Jolly Green Giant and Other Stories. It actually goes on for a few pages taking examples of best and worst campaigns. I laugh everytime I read it.

Twenty percent of the people in this country who buy beer drink about 80 percent of all beer consumed. I have an image in my mind of your typical beer drinker: the man never has a shirt on. He’s always in his undershirt (…). I may be wrong there, but I could swear that your typical beer drinker is proud of his beer belly.

These guys start drinking at nine o’clock in the morning – and they have their more than one by 9:05 a.m. And they drink and they drink and drink and drink, and this is the beer market.

The only thing you have to worry about in selling beer is to give these guys enough time to waste. I mean, don’t give these guys anything to do in which they have to use their hands, other than bowling. Bowling is O.K. because all they have to do is get up every seven minutes or so and roll a ball and then sit down (…) and start drinking beer again.

Just find enough leisure time for the beer drinkers, that’s your only worry. Leisure time, in a beer drinker’s mind, means all they have to do is reach for a glass or for a bottle. Maybe they’ll have to get up from the television set and go to the refrigerator, but that’s it.

Hope it gave you a good primer as to what to expect if you haven’t read it before.
You can purchase this book from Amazon: From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War

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Tuesday Marketing Book Club

Each Tuesday for the next couple of weeks,  I’ll post a book about Marketing which I am fond of.

This Tuesday, a very short yet thoughful read: the excquisite It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden.

As a Marketer who has been on both sides of the fence -advertiser and agency, I have found his advice very sound on basic topics like layout, branding and advertiser-agency relations in general.  It’s also a good book on how to drive your career and conduct yourself in business.

Incredible how all this fits into roughly 120 pages of large font, aerated, illustrated and light-to-read text. Definitely inspiring.

I have displayed it on my desk for at least 7 years and I often take it a read a couple of pages when I need a pick-me-up or inspiration. I also recommend it often to people who join my team. Pages 80-81 « Rough layouts sell the idea better than polished ones » are getting worn out.

You’ll find all the details on Amazon.

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