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You Get A Golden Ticket! You Get A Golden Ticket!

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Branding, Famous Marks

Now that the Fourth of July has come and gone, the bigger holiday is approaching – at least for Chicagoland expatriates in the Twin Cities. That’s right, next week marks the grand opening of Portillo’s Hot Dogs in Woodbury, Minn. For those not aware, Portillo’s is a chain of Chicago-style hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and healthy chocolate cake shakes to wash it all down. Sorry, Aquatennial – you have been upstaged this year.

As a particularly avid fan of their artery-clogging Italian beef sandwiches, I signed up for a “Sneak Peek Training Meal” a couple of days beforehand – and received confirmation that Portillo’s is just as excited for the occasion – a Golden [Hot Dog] Ticket:

Be still my heart, and my cholesterol.

It got me thinking, how ubiquitious have golden tickets become as a brand? They’re essentially synonymous with contest winners in the modern day. First coined in the 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when little Charlie found a golden ticket in a Wonka bar, the golden tickets are everywhere – from messenger bag companies to hockey teams to electronic dance music festivals. And business executives now have the added fringe benefit of the “golden parachute.” According to Grammarist, “the term golden ticket is often used figuratively to describe a qualification, circumstance or decision that gives someone a chance to achieve something lucrative.”

And a search of the USPTO finds no less than 13 live registrations and applications for GOLDEN TICKET, covering all manner of goods and services from “live plants” to “providing medical information.”

It’s such a common idiom these days, it completely belies how arbitrary a golden ticket actually is – after all, it’s only 53 years old as a term, and contest winners could simply receive a piece of paper that says “YOU WIN!” and get the same information. What is it about the “golden ticket” that is so attractive for brands to include in their contests?

Is it time for something new and innovative? Perhaps if this year has been any indication, a Unicorn Ticket isn’t far behind?