A game of chance becomes a morality test – or – who will become Seattle’s “Charlie Bucket”?

You might have thought Canlis Restaurant in Seattle had already torpedoed themselves to the top of Marketing Mountain with their brilliant scavenger hunt/clue contest.  And if you have to ask what I’m talking about, catch up quick by jumping over to this post or this post to get caught up.

At roughly midway through their “dine at 1950’s prices” promotion in concert with their 60th anniversary, Canlis has gone all Willy Wonka on us with a Game Strategy 2.0 that will surely be remembered for a very long time…at least for those of us social media addicts using Twitter and Facebook to follow the daily clues!

As some of the lucky winners have begun redeeming their found menus in return for $4 lobster and 60 cent onion soup, a bonus has been revealed.  Yes, the contest that launched in disguise as a reward for a lucky, select few, has turned into a test of one’s goodwill (more on that later). Like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket Giveaway, Canlis is offering a few lucky people the chance to find a gold-etched card with amazing benefits. Yes, they’ve been presented with a letter detailing the search for the ultimate prize – DINNER FOR LIFE at Canlis!!!  At first read, it is unbelievable and almost absurd – just as I’m sure Charlie Bucket felt when he found one the five Golden Tickets hidden in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar.  It’s crazy, amazing and still true – and brings to mind many parallels between the Canlis brothers and the eccentric chocolate maker:

  • Intrigue Creates Frenzy – There was an air of mystery about Willy Wonka and his factory, as the townspeople had never seen anyone enter…or leave.  So the clever chocolatier created a contest to debunk the myths and satisfy their curiosity – five lucky winners would get a personal tour of the factory from the man himself. Certainly there’s a sense of intrigue about Seattle’s iconic fine-dining restaurant Canlis, as many younger residents have never eaten there and often think of it as “their grandfather’s restaurant”. Willy and the wily Canlis boys all created amazing intrigue about “what’s inside” that fueled the frenzied passion in a city to win the prize – and what a fun prize!
  • Competition is Fierce: Wonka hid only five golden tickets among thousands of chocolate bars, creating enormous odds against finding one. The creative third-generation Canlis owners – Brian and Mark – offered the chance for only 50 lucky winners to experience Canlis at unheard-of prices (ordering off the original 1950 menu).  The catch is that you have to be 1) smart – solve the tricky clue, 2)  lucky – physically within minutes of where the clue is hidden, and 3) willing to run around Seattle like a crazed treasure hunter with hundreds of competitors on your heels!
  • Hidden Rewards are Special: Wonka didn’t reveal that his contest actually had a much bigger prize awaiting one worthy person – becoming the heir to the chocolate factory. So those five children who entered the factory had no idea there might be another reward – they were there for a tour and free chocolate! The Canlis brothers have recently revealed that their contest also has a hidden reward – the chance to compete on New Year’s Eve for a lifetime prize, for one who is worthy of topping all the others in a promised “difficult journey”.
  • Legacy is the Real Gold: Eventually, Charlie Bucket was offered the keys to the chocolate kingdom, as the lone child not dispatched by Wonka before the end of the tour – and for being honest. After being allowed only one chocolate bar per year (on his birthday), he suddenly was presented with not only chocolate for life, but ownership. And as for that Canlis lifetime prize – there’s a catch.  You have to give it away! (what?? keep reading…)
  • No Glory for the Selfish: Four of the five children allowed inside Wonka’s factory were eventually jettisoned for bad behavior (gluttony, sloth, envy, greed – good deadly sin stuff!), leaving only the model child Charlie left in good standing. And that, along with his honesty at the end, is the good behavior that ultimately wins him the grand prize. As for the Canlis prize, you have to GIVE AWAY the free annual dinner for two to their restaurant! Holy about-face, Batman! In their letter, the brothers say “Our greatest joy at Canlis has been treasuring those opportunities to feed the city when it was needed the most. May you meet those who need it most and send them to our door. We’ll take care of the rest.”  Now that is philanthropy.

So, the gauntlet has been thrown: how many of the 50 Canlis menu-finders will be selfless enough to throw their hat into the circus on New Year’s Eve, and compete in a heated battle for the ultimate prize — only to give it away to others? How hard would you compete for a prize you can’t even keep?

Yes, the benevolent Canlis brothers are granting the golden opportunity for one selfless, worthy person to become not only Seattle’s Charlie Bucket, but its Willy Wonka too.  A city anxiously awaits…

NOTE: I’d love to hear whatever parallels you draw between Wonka and the Canlis brothers – the comments below await!