The Marketing Wisdom of Kung Fu Panda

My wife just took me on a study break field trip to watch Kung Fu Panda. It is a cute movie that is definitely worth seeing. Aside from enjoying a night out with my wife, I came away with three pieces of wisdom that most definitely apply to marketing in the age of social media. If you haven’t seen the movie and are really concerned about not having the plot spoiled, stop reading now. Everyone else, read on.

1. Let go of the illusion of control.

In the movie, Po’s master, Shifu, is taught by his master, Oogway, that he must give up the “illusion of control” when it comes to the Dragon Warrior. Master Oogway might as well have been talking to the marketing departments of corporations and non-profits alike who think that they can still control the message. Just as Shifu could not control who the Dragon Warrior would be, organizations can not control the message that people hear about their organizations. Sure, they can try, but with the rise of consumer generated content and the death of mass media looming on the horizon, what’s being said about the organization will carry far more weight than what the organization is saying. The much more sustainable approach in this social media environment will be for organizations to stop trying to control the message, and instead, join the conversation in a real, honest manner.

2. Be yourself. Following what seems to work for everyone else won’t work for you.

Po, the pudgy, seemingly inept Panda, couldn’t do the most remedial of the traditional training exercises the kung fu masters could. As a result, his master thought Po could never be the Dragon Warrior…that is until he discovered what motivated Po. As it turns out, Po was motivated by food. When Shifu realized that he would have to train Po differently than the others, Po’s training took off. Like in the movie, realizing what your organization’s “motivation” is will go a long way to making your marketing more effective–not to mention more fun. Too many organizations are adept at throwing around the latest buzz words when they are discussing their marketing plans. What they seem to be unpracticed at is being honest about who they are as an organization and what they really have to say. What I would suggest to those organizations is forget who you think you should be and be yourself!

3. Their is no secret ingredient.

Po finally became the Dragon Warrior when he realized that the dragon scroll held no secret and that being himself was enough. What, you ask, is the secret ingredient organizations seek after? Well, I’m glad you asked. I know I’ll get into some trouble for attacking this sacred cow, but, in my opinion, organizations spend way to much energy and effort thinking and talking about “brand.” “Brand” is a metaphysical construct that is increasingly loosing its relevance. I say good riddance to “brand.” The idea of forgetting about “brand” is almost directly related to letting go of the illusion of control. However, forgetting about “brand” goes a step further. Forgetting about “brand” means that an organization realizes that who they are perceived as varies from person to person and can change with each interaction they have with someone. Forgetting about “brand” can only happen when organizations start to realize that they themselves are citizens of the world that are on a level playing field with their customers/constituents. Forgetting about “brand” means organizations must come down from their ivory towers. To do this, they have to stop “communicating” and start “conversing” with their markets and constituencies. They must do so in a human voice, and, more importantly, they must listen.

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5 comments so far

  1. Kristel on

    I think that consumers love brands though as much as corporations, or “love marks” rather. http://www.lovemarks.com/
    I think Goddard was buying a book on the topic per my request actually. I think. Ordered about 30 books.

    Thanks for ruining Kung Fu Panda for me. Did you know that David Cross is one of the voices? I don’t remember which one.

  2. Kristel on

    http://www.lovemarks.com/index.php?pageID=20020

    I should have sent you this link rather.

  3. Will Boyd on

    If you are talking about “brand” as the images and logos of a product of company (which I realize is what “brand” really is), then you are right. I should have been more clear. What I am railing against is the way people equate “brand” with identity. Maybe I’m misunderstanding them, but the line seems to be getting blurred.

  4. socio gaga on

    Bummer… I really wanted to read your post, but I stopped after the first paragraph since I haven’t seen the movie. With a name like Kung Fu Panda it must be good. I’ll come back and read this after I see the movie. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Will Boyd on

    Sorry socio gaga…definitely see the movie and let me know if I’m off base here.


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