Relax and Snap! What Marketers Can Learn From Martial Arts

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Relax and Snap!

In martial arts, you quickly learn that a lot of the power in a punch comes from being relaxed. At the very end of the punch, you tense up and deliver the snap that sends your opponent into orbit. The same goes for the defensive side of martial arts. By being relaxed, you can be much quicker in your response and can also conserve energy so that you can deliver at maximum power when it really counts.

The same is true in life in general.

The Planner and The Doer

When we humans make decisions, we consult two very different parts of our brain. The first one is the more emotional side; the part of our brain that grabs that pizza when we’re hungover (and gets us hungover in the first place for that matter) or grabs that chocolate bar in the afternoon or pushes that snooze button on our alarm clocks. The second one is our rational side, the one that has us drinking mineral water in the bar because we have a meeting in the morning, trades the chocolate bar for an apple when beach season is enroute and sets the alarm clock in the first place.

The Rider and The Elephant

One of my favorite authors Jonathan Haidt describes these two parts as an elephant (emotional side) and it’s rider (rational side). The rider can control the elephant under certain circumstances, but if the elephant really wants to defy it’s master, it’s power is far superior. If you’ve ever felt the warm and fuzzy mega pleasurable sensation of gently pressing the snooze button on your alarm clock on a cold winter morning you know exactly what I mean.

Rationality is a Limited Resource

What few people realize though is that the will power (rational side) is an exhaustible source, much like holding your breath or doing push ups. When you exercise your will power you get tired and your power to control the elephant drops.

Kung Fu and Elephants

Back to martial arts. What if you would take the principals of martial arts with you in your everyday life, and apply them to the process of controlling the elephant. You would then want to follow along with the will of the elephant up until the point when you REALLY want to control the direction of the elephant, and then exercise your will at maximum power. Snap. Crunch.

What Kung Fu Has To Do With Marketing

This is of course relevant for marketers for two reasons.

First, we can use these principals in how we communicate, following along with the flow of the world until the point when we REALLY want to change the direction of events and then – snap! Crunch.

Second, we can bring this knowledge into the realm of being persuasive. As you can imagine, this kind of knowledge is incredibly important when setting up conversion pipelines both online and off. Speaking to the rider is more relevant when the rider has a lot of energy and less relevant when the rider is exhausted.

Read Switch

I was reminded of these lines of thinking when flipping through Dan & Chip Heath’s relatively new book “Switch” this weekend. Dan & Chip, who are also the authors of another of my favorite books “Made To Stick” are perhaps not shaking up the world with any ground breaking news in this book, but I find it well worth a read, full of nice examples and… well… entertaining. I guess they’re speaking to my inner elephant.

Read Switch. It’s well worth it’s £10.99 and a few hours of reading time.

About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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