Water Cooler
Back to All Articles

8 Amazing Marketers from Your Favorite Children’s Books

What were some of your favorite stories from childhood? We’re willing to bet there were some excellent life lessons hidden inside those tales. But … what about examples of how to be better at your marketing job?

Children’s literature is full of colorful characters, heroes and villains, mischief makers, and creative geniuses. It was pretty easy to think of fictional figures with some mad marketing skills.

Here’s our list …

1.  Willy Wonka


When Roald Dahl dreamed up this entrepreneurial candy-man for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he created perhaps the most-talented made-up marketer of all time.

Willy Wonka did it all. He built an iconic brand, understood how to produce a sense of scarcity and urgency around his product, and was a pro at public relations. Wonka sparked a worldwide media frenzy surrounding the golden tickets hidden inside his chocolate bars. A tour of his factory provided yet another unforgettable experience.

Wonka is the kind of innovative marketer who has the courage to challenge the status quo with products like the Everlasting Gobstopper or chewing gum containing the flavors of a three-course meal. His creative mind saw opportunities for candy everywhere he looked. Of course, he also understood the dark side of human motivations … just ask Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike TeaVee.

Lessons learned: Want to stand out from the competition? Make your marketing unforgettable. Figure out a way to make people fanatical about your brand. Don’t be scared to take risks and get a little weird.

“A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” ~ Willy Wonka

2.  Charlotte the Spider


Credit goes to best-selling author and expert marketer Ann Handley for this connection. Handley is a big fan of legendary writer E.B. White. She revealed in a presentation at Content Marketing World 2017 that she even tried to buy his former home.

Handley’s presentation was all based around the classic book Charlotte’s Web and the lessons marketing writers can learn from it. She explained the how Charlotte was an expert copywriter who found ways to use the perfect words. That smart little spider repeatedly saved Wilbur the pig’s life by weaving those words into her web and planting ideas in the heads of humans.

Lessons learned: Many times, in copywriting and marketing, less is more. The words we choose are powerful and can be used to help others.

“’Crunchy’ would be a good word to write in your web. Just the wrong idea … We must advertise Wilbur’s noble qualities, not his tastiness.” ~ Charlotte

3.  Sam-I-am


There is no one in the world of picture books and poetry who can compare to the great Dr. Seuss. Green Eggs and Ham is one of his most-loved works, and it features one heckuva of a sales and marketing go-getter.

Sam-I-am has a tough job … convincing his pal that he’ll actually enjoy eating green eggs and ham. Rejection doesn’t seem to faze Sam one bit. He keeps trying different scenarios in which he thinks the dish may be more appealing: on a boat with a goat, in a house with a mouse, in a box with a fox, on a train in the rain, and the rhymes go on and on.

Finally, Sam persuades his companion to take a bite. Of course, the picky eater finds he absolutely loves it. Despite being extremely annoyed by Sam, he actually thanks the little guy for opening his eyes to a new world of culinary possibilities.

Lessons learned: Understanding your audience takes time and you may need to experiment with ways of targeting them with the right marketing efforts. Persistence will pay off, as long as you’re trying to be helpful and have your audience’s best interests in mind.

“You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.” ~ Sam-I-am

4. Sylvester McMonkey McBean


While he isn’t nearly as famous as the Lorax or the Cat in the Hat, this savvy salesman from Dr. Seuss’s, The Sneetches and Other Stories, knows how to capitalize on emotions to boost his bottom line.

The story features Sneetches with bellies that have stars and those without them on “thars.” The two groups of Sneetches had nothing to do with each other. Then one day, Sylvester McMonkey McBean came to town with his Starbelly Machine and his Star-off Machine.

McBean makes out like a bandit because he played off the desires of Starbelly Sneetches to be unique and elite as well as the envy of Plain-belly Sneetches and their hopes of fitting in. Thankfully, this swindling does help the Sneetches find common ground in the end.

Lessons learned: As Seth Godin writes in his book, Tribes, we’re all connected to different groups. As marketers, we can use those emotional connections to divide people or show them what unites us. McBean was a good marketer, but he wasn’t a very good guy.

“They never will learn. No, you can’t teach a Sneetch.” ~ Sylvester McMonkey McBean

5. Tom Sawyer


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a semi-autobiographical story based on elements of the great Mark Twain’s childhood in Missouri. Tom Sawyer is a bit of a scamp, yet he somehow manages to be very likeable and admirable at the same time.

One of the most recognizable parts of the novel is the story of Tom whitewashing his aunt’s fence. Tom hates chores, but when a friend walks by and starts mocking him for working when he could be having fun, Tom flips the situation on its head.

He reframes the idea of fence painting to make it seem more like play than work, because how often does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence? Tom is so persuasive, he even convinces his buddy to pay him for the privilege of painting. Tom must have understood the power of social marketing too, because before long, he has the entire neighborhood doing the job.

Lessons learned: Sometimes you’ll need to make a tough sell, but amazing marketers understand how to position the most boring commodities as opportunities with unique benefits.

“Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” ~ Mark Twain

6. Brer Rabbit


The tales of Brer Rabbit come from a long tradition of Southern American folklore involving characters known as “tricksters.” These stories were eventually published and some of them turned into the 1946 animated Disney film, Song of the South. The most well-known tale is Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

Other animals considered Brer Rabbit a tasty treat, so Brer Fox and Brer Bear devised a scheme to get him stuck in a tar baby so they could have him for lunch. Brer Rabbit typically used his wit to get himself out of sticky situations. In this case, it was a bit of reverse psychology.

He begged Brer Fox not to toss him in the briar patch full of thorns. However, that’s exactly with the clever bunny wanted to happen, because the briar patch was his home. Brer Rabbit’s smooth move was making Brer Fox feel like it was his idea.

Lesson learned: Content marketing isn’t always about making yourself look smart, it’s also about making your audience feel smart. Smart marketers guide prospects along a buyer’s journey by providing content that allows people to come to their own conclusions. Understanding the way psychology impacts purchasing decisions is every marketer’s secret weapon.

“Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please,” said Brer Rabbit. “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“The briar patch, eh?” said Brer Fox. “What a wonderful idea! You’ll be torn into little pieces!”

7. Puss in Boots


The DreamWorks film, which reimagines the European fairy tale Puss in Boots, tells a completely different story. The original story involved a young man who felt a bit ripped off with his inheritance. While his brothers got a mill and mules, he got his dad’s cat.

Luckily, it was a pretty incredible cat, and Puss had a plan to bring his new master success.

After requesting a pair of boots and some other wardrobe items, Puss sets out to make a good impression with the king on his owner’s behalf. He does this by presenting the king with gifts while simultaneously building up his master in the eyes of royalty. When the king finally meets the young man, he holds him in high regard. Plus, his daughter, the princess, falls in love with the cat’s owner.

Lessons learned: Puss in Boots was part content marketer and part PR genius. He knew how to make a good impression with the right crowd. That included dressing the part. Is your marketing dressed for success with eye-catching design? Puss in Boots also understood that generosity pays off, much in the same way providing free, valuable content gets you on your prospect’s good side.

“Sir, I have brought you a rabbit from my noble lord, the Master of Carabas” (for that was the title which the cat was pleased to give his master).

“Tell your master,” said the king, “that I thank him, and that I am very pleased with his gift.”

8. The Wizard of Oz


At Element, we’re big believers in developing personas and using a path-to-purchase or buyer’s journey to help guide marketing strategy. In Frank L. Baum’s, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her three traveling companions were on an actual journey following an actual path … the fabled yellow brick road.

The road they took led them straight to the Emerald City where they would find the Wizard of Oz, an all-knowing, all powerful subject matter expert. This guy is like the ultimate thought leader. The wizard, however, requires payment in the form of the wicked witch’s broom before granting the requests of Dorothy and company.

After the group returns with the broom, they suddenly discover that Oz is not what he seems. There’s a man behind the curtain who knows how to put on a great show … but he’s not magical.

Still, the real wizard is able to fulfill his promises. While it may not be what was originally expected, they’re all satisfied customers. The scarecrow feels smarter, the lion gains courage, the tinman gets a symbolic heart, and Dorothy finds out she had the power to get home all along. (Would have been nice if someone let her know before all the flying monkey business!)

Lessons learned: Today’s consumer knows how to see through the glitz and glamour of advertising and marketing. Being authentic is important, and no matter what, you need to deliver on the promises you make. Oz understood the personal, internal narrative of all four characters, which helped him empathize with his audience.

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”

Let’s Make Marketing Magic Together!

Does the marketing at your organization need a little extra excitement? Element helps our clients take things from textbook to storybook with big ideas and a unique approach to reaching audiences.

Maybe you need a “man behind the curtain” to help your marketing efforts look amazing. Perhaps you need someone who understands human psychology, can find the perfect words, or provide some Willy Wonka-esque ideas.

Well, we don’t have any Oompa-Loompas, but we do have plenty of ideas. Element can work alongside your marketing team to develop and implement those ideas. Then we measure and evaluate the results so you understand what works.

From design and web development, to demand generation and content marketing, discover the ways we can help your marketing story end with a “happily ever after.”

Contact Element to find out more about our advertising and marketing services.


Be the most enlightened person around the water cooler.