An odd and equally fascinating story from the recently released Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, a book by former Chiat/Day advertising director Ken Segall. Segall worked closely with Steve Jobs for many years, and while his new book aims to impart many of the business lessons he picked up while working on a myriad of iconic Apple advertising campaigns, the book, as one might expect, is liberally sprinkled with interesting anecdotes such as this one about how Steve Jobs once wanted to celebrate the 1 million iMac sale by putting on a full scale Willy Wonka style contest.
Steve’s idea was to do a Willy Wonka with it. Just as Wonka did in the movie, Steve wanted to put a golden certificate representing the millionth iMac inside the box of one iMac, and publicize that fact. Whoever opened the lucky iMac box would be refunded the purchase price and be flown to Cupertino, where he or she (and, presumably, the accompanying family) would be taken on a tour of the Apple campus.
Steve had already instructed his internal creative group to design a prototype golden certificate, which he shared with us. But the killer was that Steve wanted to go all out on this. He wanted to meet the lucky winner in full Willy Wonka garb. Yes, complete with top hat and tails.
As I said, odd and fascinating!
Now in case you’re scratching your brain trying to remember such a production, don’t worry, your memory is just fine. It turns out that California law precluded Apple from putting the plan into action.
Those in the room with Jobs were amused by his excitement over the idea, but less than enthusiastic about seeing it come to fruition. Fortunately for those looking for a way out of it, California law required that all such sweepstake contests allow entry without requiring a purchase. Given that people would then be able to enter the contest without purchasing an iMac and there in fact being a very good chance that the winner wouldn’t be an iMac owner or even an Apple fan, Jobs’ pet idea for a Willy Wonka-themed prize was cast aside.
Interesting stuff, and which explains why Apple is able to run similar contests for iTunes downloads where users who download free apps and the like qualify for Apple’s x-millionth download contests.