What Was Willy Wonka’s Secret? How genius brands harness passion and people

“Willy Wonka was a genius. Not only did he create amazing, mind-bendingly wonderful chocolates and confectionery, but his people – the Oompa-Loompas – shared his passion. In the sixth of this series of branding articles, Neil Osborne explains how great brands are fuelled by a passion … that’s reflected through the face of its people.

Chocolate has been tempting us for over three millennia. Serious – dare I say passionate – trade wars have been fought in its name. And while someone once said in jest, “Forget love. I’d rather fall in chocolate” those seven words sum up our love affair with the gooey brown stuff.

Willy Wonka was a master of chocolate. He made thousands of temptingly gorgeous treats that tapped into the passionate, almost childlike feelings and physical reactions that it created in his customers:


“Charlie felt it worst of all … He desperately wanted something more filling and satisfying then cabbage and cabbage soup. The one thing he longed for more than anything else was … CHOCOLATE.

Walking to school in the mornings, Charlie could see great slabs of chocolate piled up high in the shop windows, and he would stop and stare and press his nose against the glass, his mouth watering like mad.”

Similar to Mr Wonka, a successful brand knows all too well the thrill that it gives and the difference it wants to make. A product is created, values articulated and a business model built that’s capable of serving its market.

One of the last of the seven branding elements you need to harness is passion. It’s the fire behind any great brand, and it is often born when your heart gets carried away with a purpose greater than yourself. And, like all fires, passion sparks other flames that become contagious – in turn igniting the passion of owners, staff and customers.

The magic of Willy Wonka and his chocolate inspires such a passion. It’s also the perfect metaphor for how your brand should make your people feel…”

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