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Liz Eden
Liz Eden 1 September 2016

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The best example of customer segmentation ever.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a statement on greed, prosperity and how the honest underdog must be championed and will, eventually, be life’s winner. It is magnificently political – just like society – but it is also the best execution of segmentation.

“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.” – Willy Wonka. James Althucher wrote a great piece on the most important thing that Willy Wonka ever said and it got me thinking about the various characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  One of the beautiful discoveries about Roald Dahl and most of your favourite childhood books are the wickedly adult undertones.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a statement on greed, prosperity and how the honest underdog must be championed and will, eventually, be life’s winner.  It is magnificently political – just like society – but it is also the best execution of segmentation.

The beautiful thing about people is that we can be thin-sliced and we continue to do this to one another on a daily basis.  Our world is made up of Grandpa Joe’s and Charlie Bucket’s, we all know an Augustus Gloop and, with the arrival of Netflix, we are all Mike Teevee.  Sadly, most segmentation work uses mundane names like ‘Family Focused’ or ‘Loyalists’.  Surely it would be much more interesting to have a segment of hard-working and loyal customers called ‘Oompa Loompas’?

So how did Willy Wonka achieve such great segmentation?  Like most brands, he had an idea of who would be perfect to take over his empire but he still tested the market to be absolutely sure.  Willy Wonka starts by enticing the world to interact with him using Golden Tickets as a marketing ploy.  Using limited ticket numbers, he incites mayhem and creates anticipation.  Once the chosen five are on-site, Willy Wonka sets about understanding whether they are the perfect fit and chooses to expel them when they display greed or arrogance or mistakenly shrink themselves in size (probably less likely to worry about this one).  All this happens until the perfect heir to the empire is left standing.

People who did not buy tickets were not deemed to be customers and were not part of the plot but brands are still trying to reach and reward these people.  Obviously brands shouldn’t exclude anyone from walking in the store, buying from them or reading their marketing emails.  Instead the emphasis should be on understanding who their actual customers are.  How many marketers would count someone who reads an email as a customer?  People who are indifferent and not engaged with your brand are not true customers either - they are Veruca Salt.

Willy Wonka understood he needed to profile the whole market to recognise who was interested and then profiled the 5 winners continuously as they walked around his factory.  Many brands undertake the first exercise but forget the profiling once the names are in the database.  This is not a wasted exercise nor is it wasted cost but it is often perceived to be.  Wasted cost is relentlessly pursuing everyone despite knowing they don’t all buy from you or giving every customer the same offer regardless of how loyal they are.

Willy Wonka first rewarded incentivised interaction and then, when he was shown more and more loyalty, offered better and better rewards.  Brands could learn a lot from Willy Wonka and he didn’t even have social media to scale his brand and promotions sky-high.  Imagine what he could have done?

Remember “Little surprises around every corner, but nothing dangerous!”

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