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Balloon Monsters or WIlly Wonka?

by | Mar 8, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

Did you hear about the Willy Wonka experience in Glasgow?

It was all over the global news!

You can’t have missed it – but in case you did…

Imagine that you were a parent or grandparent who saw an advert for a ‘Wonka experience’ – just like in Roald Dahl’s legendary Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books – or the numerous films made since the 70s.

The adverts promised that you’d enter a world of PURE IMAGINATION, with Oompa Loompas, zany inventors, giant sweets, chocolate rivers and psychedelic rooms full of magical treats.

Who wouldn’t want to offer a child that kind of experience?

Except…

When you turn up, there are a few oversized replica lollipops strewn about a mostly empty grey room…. and a couple of tiny backdrops pinned to a grey wall.

Instead of indulging in wonderful sweets, your kids get offered two jelly babies and a quarter of a can of Barr’s limeade.

Actors begin to read out a script that generated by AI, with no edits, that doesn’t make sense.

Worse, your kids are terrified by a non-Roald Dahl storyline, completely invented by the organisers, about an evil entity called ‘the Unknown’ that lives in the walls.

Yikes!

Well, as you probably know, this is precisely what happened in Glasgow at the end of last month.

Furious parents with distraught children demanded refunds and the whole event was closed down, with the organisers forced to apologise.

Quickly, the story went viral worldwide.

Images of the pathetic installations… and a depressed Oompa Loompa in a cheap costume… were shared all over social media to huge ‘LOLs’.

It was a WORD-OF-MOUTH disaster!

Which is funny, because we mostly assume word-of-mouth with positive marketing.

But it really does work both ways.

However, in stark contrast, here is an example of a business idea that did everything right…

The Hidden Joys of the Balloon Museum

At Old Billingsgate Market on Sunday I went to ‘The Balloon Museum’ with my wife and daughter.

It was not really a museum in the traditional sense… more like an art installation that appeals to kids and adults.

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I found it really well curated, and it was full of impressive inflatable, interactive art works…surrounded by cool set designs and illustrations.

The whole experience was seamlessly put together, and it felt like you were immersed in another world.

Here are some pictures to show you what I mean…

The thing is…

I’d never even heard of this installation until Heloise heard about it from a friend.

But then again, it shows how valuable word-of-mouth can be.

I’ve told other London friends about it, recommending that they go and check it out – and I’m sharing it with you now in this newsletter.

I’ve no doubt that there will be great reviews online, too.

Which means that the organisers did their job well – because they don’t have to spend as much on advertising and their success means they’ll get to do more of these events in the future.

So in the WONKA vs BALLOON fight, there is a clear winner.

And there are a few good lessons here for anyone wanting to create a product or start a business.

How to Get Lots of Love For
Your Products and Services

Okay, so lesson one – EXPECTATIONS.

The Wonka Experience used an AI-generated image of what the event would look like, which instantly set expectations sky-high.

It would have been very hard for them to re-create what they promised, because the AI had produced a totally idealistic dream version of Wonka’s factory.

Even a decently organised and well-curated experience would have disappointed many attendees.

In contrast, the Balloon Museum website showed video footage of the actual installations – so while it was shot to look as cool and exciting as possible, what you saw was pretty much what you were going to get.

In business, you should always sell your product or service in the strongest way possible, emphasising the USP and the benefits.

But NEVER offer something you can’t deliver.

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And here’s a tip…

Find a way to OVER-DELIVER on what you promise – which could mean offering an extra bonus, benefit or feature that will surprise the customer in a good way.

Okay, onto lesson two

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CUSTOMER!

You have to understand who your target customer is – including their age, worldview, likes and dislikes.

The Wonka Experience was clearly aimed at kids – yet the storyline they came up with was sinister and terrifying for its audience.

Yes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has its darker moments (kids falling into rivers or being turned into giant blueberries).

In fact, you could argue that traumatised children and angry parents are actually part of the plot of the book.

But the idea of evil entities living in the walls is more like something from Stranger Things.

(Talking of which, I went to a Stranger Things experience a few years back which was hugely immersive, with accurate replicas of the sets and lots of scares, for roughly the same ticket price as the Wonka event, which shows it can be done!)

The whole thing was far too weird and unsettling for little kids – and I think this was because they simply didn’t take the time to properly think about it.

Yet in the Balloon Museum, they knew that their prime target audience was an art-loving adult crowd BUT most of them would bring children or grandchildren.

So every room was clearly thought out – perfectly balancing childlike elements with more grown up, artier elements, all in a way that wouldn’t freak out the kids.

Which brings me to lesson three –

RESPECT!

You need to respect your customer.

By that I mean carry out the work needed to deliver something that will make their lives better.

The Wonka Experience organisers didn’t do this.

They lazily resorted to AI for their scripts and story.

Which would have been fine if they’d used it as a tool in the way I’ve shown What Really Makes Money readers in the past year.

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But they must have just fired off a few prompts and printed out whatever Chat GPT threw at them (which is NOT how to use AI).

They should have inputted their own story ingredients and then tweaked and adjusted the inputs until they got something that worked for the target audience.

Then they should have worked on editing it so that it flowed naturally and made sense.

Same goes for the props…

They MUST have known that they hadn’t got enough props and artwork to create a fantastical, immersive Chocolate Factory experience.

Surely someone looked around the room in the days leading up to opening day and thought, “We haven’t done enough to fulfil our promise’”.

At that point they could have pulled the event… or postponed the event until they were ready,

But instead they just went ahead, hoping they’d get away with it.

As a result, the whole thing looked like a scam.

This is the worst part of it, in my view.

Because they not only disappointed the customer….

they ripped them off!

The Balloon Museum did the opposite..

They created something magical that they KNEW they could fulfil, and which was value for money (tickets were a few pounds cheaper than the Wonka experience).

So its visitors (including me) walked away happy.

What’s more, they were much more likely to tell friends about it in a positive way, creating free word of mouth advertising.

Those are two sharply contrasting business stories there, right?

But it’s good to learn from these things.

The upshot is, if you’re going to create a product or service, it doesn’t have to be perfect – but it has to deliver what it promises the target customer.

If you would like to know more about this, please post  your questions in the comment section below and I’ll do my best to put some advice into a future post.

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