Giving as a Marketing Strategy- What Willy Wonka and Chris Anderson Have in Common

By: Shama Hyder

What do Willy Wonka and Chris Anderson (editor and chief of Wired magazine) have in common? They both believe in giving as a marketing strategy. Willy Wonka gave a free tour of his chocolate factory, garnered lots of free publicity, and in the process got people to buy tons of his famous Willy Wonka chocolate bars. Chris Anderson shook things up by writing a recent article in Wired magazine called "Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business."

The brazen idea? Giving away products and services can actually help your business. It’s actually not that wild of an idea. Here are 5 principles behind giving as a marketing strategy

1) Altruism is not out the door- Just because you leverage giving as a business strategy doesn’t make it less wholesome or any less whole hearted. There is nothing wrong with altruism serving dual purposes. Now, you can argue that some people give only as a means to get. In which case, people will see through it pretty quickly. True givers will always stand out.

2) Free creates demand- Sounds odd, but it’s true. When Gillette first introduced the art of shaving at home-no one was buying the idea. Until, they started giving away free razors. The razors were useless by themselves, but in turn, created a high demand for disposable blades. This principle also applies to the service industry. For example, I write lots of free articles which are then distributed through my blog, eZine, and other directories. And these free articles constantly bring me new clients. In fact, the more I give to the community, the more I seem to get back.

3) Don’t keep score- Measurement is a big part of marketing. This is true. However, not all gains have to be quantified. By giving, you can increase your name recognition, strengthen your expert status in the community, and genuinely be of service to someone else. In the long-term, these things matter as much as the bottom-line.

4) Sampling is a selling tool-  Studies done in grocery stores consistently show that consumers who sample an item for free are more likely to buy it. People like to experience things before they part with their cash. This is why lots of coaches and consultants offer complimentary consultations and sessions. It allows you to get a feel for their style and method.

5) Sometimes the market is used to free- While it’s easy to make a paid product free, it’s hard to do visa-versa. Sometimes the market it too used to getting it for free. When Amazon’s Kindle, an eBook reader, was released many people didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t upload your own eBooks or PDFs. You had to buy them directly from Amazon. Another example is eZines and newsletters. Most of these are free. Those who charge for such products often have to work very hard to get people to accept them.

The question now is- How will you utilize this strategy to benefit your business?

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  • Hanif Rehman

    Great article Sharma,

    What would you say to giving away something free when your product range is in the millions? For instance I have a client who I work with and they sell yachts, and for them to give something away for free would be quite challenging. I think the value of the good(s) has to be at a certain nominal value, where by giving it away to several hundred clients you are not haemorrhage your business, or maybe run a competition once a month/qtr for a weekend cruise on a yacht, but even then the costs are high.

    Nice blog I must say.

    Kind regards,

  • Shama

    Hi Hanif,

    There is always something you can provide that would be of value. For example, your client can put together a white paper on what to look for when buying a yacht. They don’t have to give a yacht away. = )

    A weekend cruise for your top clients and a guest is also a great way to give back.

    Thanks for the great questions!