Willy Wonka Marketing

June 2, 2008   

Quick, what are two words which describe Gary Vaynerchuk's style of marketing?

If you guessed "Willy Wonka," you get a prize.

Last week, I was in Chicago for the TechCocktail Conference. After the conference, and before the after-party, Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk and I headed to a nearby Borders to pick up a few board-games for post TechCocktail activities.

While in the Borders, AJ and I hunted down Gary's freshly minted book and then called Gary over. As soon as he came over, he grabbed my pen and started writing in one of the books.

I quickly grabbed my video camera and started recording.

As you can see in the video, Gary left a surprise message for the lucky buyer of his book: his personal email address and a secret code to redeem a prize.

A prize? Who leaves random notes in his product, offering a prize? Who, that is, other than Willy Wonka?

As I've gotten to know Gary, I've come to learn that his style of marketing is that of Golden Tickets. He gets more joy and ROI out of treating his friends and fans with unexpected wonders -- whether it be a guest appearance on his show, a shout-out on Twitter, or, heck, the entire SantaGaryVee program (you know, where you get sent things for free, on a totally random basis) -- and in return, Gary shows the world that by giving and surprising, people's wonder these miracles will ultimately drive the understanding of "who he is."

Anyway, this is all a lead into a larger post regarding the phenomenon of Charisma and how it relates to Gary's style and the model for personal brand-building and marketing. I think there's a lot to study here, and Gary's clearly a great person to watch.

For now, I'll leave you with a quote from Max Weber's "The Sociology of Charismatic Authority" (found in this book), which was a corner-stone of my thesis on leadership:

The charismatic leader gains and maintains authority solely by proving his strength in life. If he wants to be a prophet, he must perform miracles; if he wants to be a war lord, he must perform heroic deeds. Above all, however, his divine mission must ‘prove’ itself in that those who faithfully surrender to him must fare well. If they do not fare well, he is obviously not the master sent by the gods. (1946: 249)

Know anyone about whom Weber's observations apply? I can name not just one, but a few... and more will be written on this subject.

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