3 Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From Your Favorite Games

3 Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From Your Favorite Games

3 Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From Your Favorite Games

Marketers work in a challenging industry. Best practices, regulations, and platforms are changing nearly as fast as you can test your newest idea. Keeping up with these new trends is important. However, it’s equally critical to regularly practice the foundational principles that govern the art of marketing.

That’s where some of your favorite games, like Apples to Apples or poker, come into play. These games teach you some of the most important marketing lessons. You may not even realize you’re learning and practicing them as you laugh with your friends. Next time you dive into a rousing game of Taboo with your friends, put your marketer hat on as well. You may be surprised how your efforts apply as much to game night and as they do to your professional development. 

Apples to Apples

Lesson: Know your audience.

You’ll never win at the hilariously popular game, Apples to Apples, if you don’t know your audience. In this case, that’s the person choosing a winner for that round. What they may find funny will differ greatly from the person before or after them. Tailoring your response to their humor and personality is your best way to win.

The same can be said for marketing: knowing your audience, including where they are, and what they like, is critical to your success. Especially in content creation, paid advertising and email marketing. For example, your Facebook audience is likely different from your Twitter community. And sharing content tailored to each of those audiences will drive success:

“You need a clear understanding of your audience so you can clearly identify where their needs overlap with what you’re offering. Without this knowledge, you could end up trying to sell kindergarten services to seniors, or rogaine to adolescent females (I pray there’s no market there),” suggests Peter Boyle, Crazy Egg contributor.

While Boyle’s example above is extreme, it’s true. Next time you’re playing Apples to Apples, ask yourself: What do I know about my “audience” to choose the card that will win this round? Each point is a round you’ve successfully identified your audience.


Lesson: Taking risks is dangerous (and necessary).

If you play in a weekly poker game, you’re actively working on one skill that you need as a marketer: the art of taking risks. Instead of betting on gut instincts and the cards in your hand, however, you’re betting on a controversial blog post or response to a naysayer on social media.

The potential downfalls are the same between poker and marketing as well. It’s all in the risk. If you risk too much, you could carelessly lose all of your chip. Conversely, without taking enough risk, you’ll never win enough to stay in the game. So many business decisions revolve around this exact same theory: balancing the risks to make a choice that’s both innovative and profitable.

This is especially true for high-level marketers and CMOs. And they’re the ones making decisions about what tools to invest in or how to spend ad budget. If you make the wrong decision, you could potentially lose a lot of money. If you make the right decision, you take the pot.

Bring this poker thinking into play as you make big decisions. What is every data point telling you, from your gut to the analytics? If it doesn’t work, get ready to put on your poker face as you push forward with plan B.


Lesson: Concise communication is everything.

Marketing teams must rely on the help of other teams to do much of their work: “The marketing team has to work with the creative team to bring their ideas for advertising, image, and brand awareness to fruition. They also have to collaborate with the sales team to cultivate leads, learn more about their target audience, and keep the brand growing; they have to stay in touch with the customer support team to learn more about buyer personas, provide a more effective social media experience, and improve customer satisfaction ratings,” suggests Mattias Le Cren, Product Marketer.

Yet, everyone is already busy managing the other work on their plates. To get what you need, you have to be concise and clear—just as you do in Taboo. If you’ve never played, the player whose turn it is picks a card. This card displays the target word and 5 words they can’t say when describing it. They must then get creative to effectively communicate until one of their team members guesses correctly.

As you can tell, if you’re not communicating well with the few words you can say, your team members will struggle to guess the term correctly. If they don’t, you simply don’t get the point. On a marketing team, the stakes are a little higher. A miscommunication, or lack thereof, could lead to ad dollars spent incorrectly, link attribution done improperly, or messaging misaligned with new company branding. The ramifications of this can then spread far beyond you, even to the C-Suite.

Don’t let this happen to you or your team. Test your communication skills with Taboo. How can you be most effective with the words you have to choose from? Now bring that mentality to the office. When you write an email, re-read it before sending, eliminating all unnecessary commentary. This practice will bode well for social media marketers as well, who are challenged by the same need to portray important information in a concise format.

Play Games, Become a Better Marketer

Hone your foundational marketing skills to become better at what you do. While passing trends are important, and impact your efforts, it’s critical that you have the basic skills mastered, from team communication to knowing your audience. Use these games to be the best marketer you can—and have a good time while you’re at it.

Jessica Thiefels
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Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last seven years in marketing. She’s now a consultant and offers organic content marketing packages and services to businesses of all sizes. You can find her work on more than 500 websites worldwide, including Virgin, Forbes, Business2Community, Score.org and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.