Digital Marketing Lessons From Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book Of Five Rings

January 06, 2017

“You can only fight the way you practice” – Miyamoto Musashi

The Samurai have always been very intriguing people. Their code – Bushido, their way of life and their weapons have inspired books, poems, movies and much more in the modern world. Although it is an unwritten code of the Samurai, many Japanese and Samurai scholars have penned their versions of Bushido.

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The Book Of Five Rings written around 1645 A.D. is one such work by master Samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, and is considered among the finest works describing the way of the Samurai. The book is a collection of writings that serve as a base of learning for Samurai warriors in training and like Chinese scholar Sun Tzu’s Art of War, offers a great deal of learning in warfare and every other aspect of Samurai life. While we have delved into the Art of War and it’s teachings for the modern day digital marketing warriors, let’s see what the Samurai can teach us on the subject.

Keep your eye on the prize

“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain” ― Miyamoto Musashi

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The way of the Samurai is to aim for perfection, and stay focused on that goal every step of the way. This steadfast focus on the goal requires patience and practice, and when attained, opens up many doors for the warrior to achieve his goal.

Similarly, for the digital warriors, reaching the marketing goal and campaign objectives is the ultimate mark of success, while the path to achieve that goal is immaterial. The digital ecosystem provides multiple channels, social media platforms, advertising platforms with their own set of audiences. All it takes is to understand what they need, and align your strategy to enable your brand to deliver that. Whether you reach out to them through blogs, social media platforms, or unconventional channels – it doesn’t matter, as long as you connect with them and are able to showcase your capabilities to them successfully. This is where an innate growth mindset among marketers helps get the target audience’s attention through offbeat and unconventional channels.

Research your competitors thoroughly

“Know your enemy, know his sword.” ― Miyamoto Musashi

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Master Musashi emphasizes on the importance of thorough knowledge of your competitor. Whether in the battlefield or in digital marketing, without knowing your surroundings, or who you are competing against is as good as accepting defeat even before picking up your weapon of choice.

Direct competitors essentially have the same target audience. Delving deeper into how they communicate with that target audience, their SEO strategy, social media and content marketing strategy can offer great insights into audience behavior and acceptance of different campaigns and campaign collateral. A thorough understanding of your competition allows you to emulate their successful moves and anticipate with greater accuracy of what lies ahead. You can’t always anticipate or plan the future perfectly, but when you know your competitor, you can be prepared for any eventuality whenever it comes.

Keep one ear to the ground

“It is difficult to realize the true way just through sword-fencing. Know the smallest things and the biggest things, the shallowest things and the deepest things.” ― Miyamoto Musashi

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Battles are not won by deft strokes of the weapon alone. The warrior must become a part of his surroundings to successfully overcome the adversary.

As such, the digital warrior must understand every nuance of the digital ecosystem. Every new update, every new feature, and every new platform must be thoroughly understood to enable perfect implementation of the strategy at every step. Keeping one ear to the ground and staying abreast with the industry is crucial for success.

Master every weapon at your disposal

“You should not have a favourite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.” ― Miyamoto Musashi

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Master Musashi believed that having a singular weapon of choice is a sure way to be overcome by the enemy as one eventually exposes a fatal weakness through overuse of a single weapon. Much like being overdependent on a single channel can be harmful for your strategy. New platforms and channels are being launched with greater frequency and are successfully attracting users. Neglecting them is like neglecting your target audience, because to stay in touch with them, you need to be where they are.

In the digital marketing context, this translates to “Generalists Over Specialists”. Not only that, as a digital marketer, you need to know everything that goes on around you in your industry. Digital marketing is a vast domain and generalists who know the workings of every channel available to them fare better than specialists.

To succeed, start acting

“Step by step walk the thousand-mile road.” ― Miyamoto Musashi

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Take the first step and you’re already one step closer to your goal, is what the master swordsman implies in his words. Much like the Samurai, these words can be used by the digital warriors to their advantage as well.

While setting the marketing goal is the first step, walking towards it is the next. Calendars that define the channels and platforms, individual posts for each of those platforms, daily, weekly and monthly schedules for posts, ads, and blogs, each with audience interaction in mind are a must for every digital warrior to achieve the ultimate long-term marketing goals for the business. These steps must be in line with the business goal, and not focused on a single path to achieve those goals at any time.

In conclusion

Business is the battlefield of modern day warfare and marketers are the warriors tasked with adding strategic and tactical advantage for their side on the battlefield. Warriors and scholars like Sun Tzu, Napoleon, Miyamoto Musashi, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton and many others like them have already studied warfare up close over the centuries. There’s a lot to learn for the digital marketing professionals from the masters of warfare and apply it to their tactical and strategic advantage in business.

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