4 Lessons in Marketing from ‘Gladiator’

  • Chester

140407_4LessonsinMarketingfrom'Gladiator'ai-02Some time ago, we dug into history to connect some of Aristotle’s sayings to the practice of marketing. It’s about persuasion, and few things help more there than knowing a thing or two about human nature.

But the Greeks weren’t the only great thinkers. What about, say, the Romans? Inspired by Dennis McCafferty’s creative and useful writeup on Content Marketing Institute, here come four lessons we, as marketers, can pick up from… no, not Romans, but a film about Romans. Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.

Here are a few lines from that brilliant script, and the lessons behind them:

1. “Fear and wonder, a powerful combination.”

Lesson: Know who you’re targeting, and what their concerns are. Addressing the right pain points and wish-list items aids purchase decisions considerably.

It seems like a stretch to tie a senator’s cynical observation to marketing content. But it isn’t.

Your products and solutions fill a need – and there is a fear behind many needs. Of obsolescence, of losing out to the competition, or of wasting money on the wrong things, to name a few. Find out which ones are your prospects’, and align your offering’s value propositions towards reassuring these fears.

Likewise, wonder. Drill down into your offerings – what can they accomplish that others in the field can’t? And how can you bring out this unique value in a way that stands out in prospects’ minds? It doesn’t have to be something that’s never been done before – just something they’ve never experienced before.

Don’t just spin what you’ve got to offer – put it across in ways that help lessen their worries and broaden their horizons. You’ll bring them relevance, and they will love you for it.

2. “There is always someone left to fight.”

Lesson: Don’t take for granted that you’ve covered all your bases. There may be buyer personas you overlooked, or influencers left unaddressed. Be thorough.

Managing leads and building demand isn’t really the same as conquering a barbarian tribe, but the old Emperor couldn’t have been more right. Building personas sometimes isn’t all there is: it pays to know who’s talking to who and where the pressure to sign off really comes from.

Recall the five roles in the buying process: users, influencers, gatekeepers, deciders, and buyers. If you’ve got, say, a technology solution, and you take it to the executives (influencers), the IT guys (gatekeepers), and the financial controller (decider), is that all? What about the user base? Would their voices, or even their performance without the benefit of your solution, help sway the decision?

This really swings into play when you reach out to large organizations, with their typically long and multi-layered procurement processes. If you’re dead serious about getting everyone on board with your idea, you won’t want to say there’s no one left to fight till the deal is won.

3. “A soldier has the advantage of being able to look his enemy in the eye.”

Lesson: Your organization’s sales team are the ones facing clients and prospects on a daily basis. Work with them more closely.

No, we are most definitely not suggesting your sales folks should treat their clients as enemies to be beaten. But this plain, yet hard-hitting line, from a general evading a sensitive question, does sum up why a lot of them do what they do.

We’ve talked about this before – nobody’s better positioned to help you understand the client than those who’ve seen the persons behind the personas. Mine their experiences and ideas to give your content and messaging a practical touch – this will speak to the client far more than theorycrafting and plain propositions.

Lose the old “us and them” mindset. You two need each other. When those in the trenches work with those in the tents, the result is a better, more realistic brand of marketing that only helps everyone.

4. “I don’t pretend to be a man of the people. But I do try to be a man for the people.”

Lesson: Honesty and transparency. Taking a customer-oriented view is crucial to success in marketing – especially content marketing.

You don’t have to know your prospects inside and out – that’s ideal, naturally, but not all of us can claim that. What you can do, especially in top-of-funnel engagements, is to basically show your hand.

Focus on what a potential buyer wants to see, not how well you can articulate your offering’s value. That may mean cutting back on certain bits you’ve always deemed important, or giving out your knowledge without demanding returns. This is ethical persuasion. Showing your commitment and sincerity by putting the customer first.

Never forget: content marketing operates on the principle of sharing and educating to gain loyalty. Maybe you know the pleasures of the crowd, but until you give it to them the right way, that knowledge isn’t worth much.

Are you not marketained? Share any other takeaways you may have found watching the film with us!

Have a look at GetIT Comms’s brand of marketing consultancy.


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May 13, 2014

Amber King

No. 4 is the one that speaks to me the most. I agree that as a marketer we need to focus on how we might be able to deliver what our customers want rather than what we want them to see.