Marketing Lessons From Godzilla
In Wall Street, Gordon Gekko liked to reference The Art of War by Sun Tzu in doling out his business lessons. Maybe that works in finance but out here in the trenches of marketing, if you want to grab some takeaways from literature, we need to think bigger. Physically bigger. And what’s bigger than Godzilla? Growing to a towering 984 feet, few creatures that have walked the earth - fact or fiction - can compare in sheer scale. For all his military genius, Sun Tzu has got nothing on the King of the Monsters so let’s explore that metaphor!
Revolution Trumps Evolution - When Godzilla lumbered out of Tokyo Bay, there was nothing the Japanese Self-Defense Forces could do to stop him. Their tanks, jets, and electrified fences were iterative improvements on existing technology and were no match for Godzilla, a revolution in destruction.
How many times have we set our expectations on big business changes while essentially telling the same story with minor changes? Big results require a big Brand Narrative. Could a slightly bigger tank have overwhelmed the Japanese Self-Defense Forces protecting Tokyo? Nope! It took a literal atomic breathing sky-scraping lizard. If you’re looking for a similar metaphoric result, capture new audiences and topple the competition, you need to think on the same level. Big, bold, never been done before, no case study to reference. Leave your market overwhelmed by your storytelling awesomeness.
The Competition Will Catch Up - Those disruptive stories you're telling won’t stay uniquely amazing forever. Within 6 months of the release of Godzilla, Godzilla returns in Godzilla Raids Again to fight his first kaiju battle against Anguirius. Thus starts a long, 70 year series of 30+ movies where Godzilla fights other, epically sized monsters, robots, clones, and aliens.
Your well constructed Brand Narrative is still relevant, but it has to dynamically shift to meet new challenges. New campaigns and stories the brand tells, whether via advertising, PR, internal comms, sales, etc., can offer unique stories to achieve specific goals and overcome specific challenges but still all ladder up to the Brand Narrative. Godzilla defeated Titanus Ghidorah by unleashing a nuclear post. Who knew he could do that? Can Godzilla talk? He did so in Godzilla vs Gigan. Keep the fundamental principles the same in your storytelling by adhering to a strong Brand Narrative and the details can shift as needed.
Authenticity is Key to Longevity - There is a limit to how crazy you can get in your brand storytelling, of course. That limit is authenticity. In 1998 when Godzilla was reimagined as a giant iguana without his signature roar, the world cringed. Godzilla used his atomic breath to fly in Godzilla vs. Hedorah. Was anybody impressed? Not in the slightest and he never flew again. Luckily, Toho, the Japanese production company that created Godzilla, has quickly learned from these mistakes and has adjusted. The result is the longest running movie franchise in history, spanning 36 films since 1954.
The key truths that make your Brand Narrative work need to be consistently reflected in your storytelling. One can expand but one can’t run contrary to expectation. Godzilla walks, doesn’t fly. He has a relatively consistent look. Brands have similar rules in voice, products it can support, social positions it can take, etc. Running counter creates backlash or at best cognitive dissonance, resulting in consumers completely ignoring or forgetting the message. Not the best use of marketing dollars. Conversely, a consistent, authentic Brand Narrative builds itself over time, growing stronger year by year.