What Mario Kart Taught Me About Business


I’m not much of a gamer anymore. I used to be. Then again, weren’t we all in the 90s? Nintendo was pretty much our generation’s iPhone. Mostly everyone had one. And those who didn’t have one, wanted one. It was fresh, cool and continually being modified with newer versions and games that were better than the last. I fell in love with Super NES in 1994 when my brother and I got it as a Christmas gift. And on it, we loved playing one of the greatest party games of all time: Mario Kart.

 

 

Parents used to always rag on video games back then. Remember? They advised us that we should go outside and throw the ball around instead of sitting on the couch playing video games. “It will rot your brains,” they preached. “Those games don’t teach you anything.”

But now as an adult, I find myself constantly feeling nostalgic, thinking about those great games and if what our parents said was actually true. And then I started to realize something.

Mario Kart was a great parallel to the business world.

It didn’t rot my brain. No sir, Mario Kart taught me everything I know about life! Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but there’s certainly something to be said about the game and the lessons it lends to today’s business world, especially those looking to excel in marketing. Here’s three key reasons why I find Mario Kart to be the perfect metaphor to succeeding in today’s workplace.

Every Employee Has Different Skills

You turn on the game, and before you can even start thinking about all the fun you are about you have, you have to make a decision. In the worry-free 1990s, this was probably the most important decision you were going to make all month. Which character are you going to be?

I love how Nintendo made each character distinct. Not only in who they are, but in the strengths they possessed. Mario was well-balanced, for example. He didn’t have any stats that were off-the-chart, but was a great well-rounded driver. You could count on him to do a good job on all courses. Toad was light and had excellent handling abilities but his size and stature didn’t fair well when getting bumped by the big boys. Speaking of which, Bowser’s size and weight made him have slow acceleration speed but top off at the highest speed once he got going.

In the workplace, we all have unique strengths. At my company, upon hire, our president makes us each take the StrengthsFinder test as well as a personality test. By doing so, the group can quickly get a feel for a new member’s work style and what he/she might be great at. There’s a total of 33 strengths in this particular study. Some include:

  • Achiever
  • Belief
  • Competition
  • Developer
  • Discipline
  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Futuristic
  • Positivity
  • Strategic

What I love about the book (that supports the test) is that it instructs readers to not focus on trying to compensate for weaknesses, but rather take time to understand and accentuate strengths. Just like Mario Kart, different employees, based on their strengths, might be better suited for certain projects, tasks, clients, etc. Maximizers are wonderful at working through the details, woo (winning others over) are great in client facing roles or in sales, etc.

It’s also helpful to take a look at personality types. Using the Jung and Briggs Myers model, learn which of the 16 personality types you fall in. By carefully understanding your personality, you can do a better job at adjusting your work style to find greater productivity and efficiency and settle into roles where you will succeed.

In Mario Kart, you have to know what you are good at to compete at the highest level. Understanding each team member’s strengths in your company can help you do a better job at aligning the proper resources to each project, while seeing far greater quality in work. Manage by strength, not by name or title.

All Markets Are Different

I bet running a small business was easy in the 1880s. You opened your business, maybe put an ad in the local newspaper, and dealt with all those great, loyal customers walking through the door. Life was good.

Today, it’s much more complicated. The web and mobile make geographical reach virtually non-existent. Remote staff and sales teams allow us to hire anyone, anywhere. The ability to reach all sorts of customers let even the most niche product or service have the potential for success beyond any sort of borders.

And at that same time, competition is fiercer than ever because anyone can start a business, raise funds, operate a staff, and sell a product. You see how much some of these GoFundMe pages have raised? It’s more important now, more than ever, to fully understand your market and target audience.

One of the coolest things about Mario Kart is the different courses that you encountered. Each was unique with different themes, roads, and enemies. It took weeks or even months of playing before you could master them all and know the special nuances of each. But let’s not mention Rainbow Road.

Tying back to real life, your market is the course. Each with a different landscape and makeup.

You may not have a bird’s eye view of your market like Mario, but you can research and pull from past experiences. As long as you have the time, talent and resources, you have access to data and information that can help you understand your market and audience and better lay out your business plans.

Explore blog posts, case studies and online statistics, and lean on research to build out buyer personas to see what your target audience is like – from both a demographic and psychographic perspective. Read into the cultural makeup of the areas that you are selling in to see if there are any correlations with buying habits.

Some activities to gather this information could include:

  • Google Consumer Surveys
  • Email Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Google Analytics and Social Media Demographic Data
  • User-Testing
  • Customer and Company Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Secondary Research
  • Negative Persona Development

The information gathered should be complete and help establish a comprehensive understanding of the audience. Some things you’ll definitely want to gather include:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Education
  • Income
  • Company
  • Title
  • Family
  • Language
  • Favorite Website
  • Favorite Apps
  • Preferred Device
  • Buying Motivations
  • Buying Concerns

There are resources out there, you just need to find them. Do so before you create any action plans so you can tailor the product, service, brand, and messaging for the audience within that market. And make sure to keep a close eye on your competitors too. You wouldn’t want Donkey Kong sneaking up on you and blasting you with a triple red shell now, would you?

Different Tactics Work At Different Times

When the race began, you had one goal. Get a weapon as soon as possible.

The genius behind Nintendo is their creativity with things like this. Each weapon offered a different advantage, and some even could come back to haunt you. The green shells were sent flying to try and knock off a leading racer. Red shells were similar but tracked the competitor for increased accuracy. And the blue shell chased the race leader! Banana peals were dropped behind you and hopefully forced your nearest enemy to slip and wipe out. And of course you also had mushroom boosts and the beloved star power.

In the business world, and most especially in marketing, we have an incredibly wide breadth of tactics at our disposal to try and reach our goals and/or improve our bottom line.

I came up with a list of 99 marketing tactics one day just to try and see how many were available to me while I was working on a new marketing plan. The fact is: we have a ton of options. Here’s just a few:

  • Affinity programs
  • Blogger outreach
  • Contests
  • Employee videos
  • Lead nurturing
  • Loyalty programs
  • Mobile apps
  • Podcasting
  • Social Media
  • Remarketing
  • Webinars
  • Websites

But what works best?

Of course that all depends on the company, the competitive landscape, the industry, budget, the audience and more. Before your new calendar year begins, put together a marketing plan that will map out everything you are looking to accomplish this year and why.

And before you start making the decisions on what to include, begin with research. Not all tactics are created equal and some companies see greater success than others, depending on how well they’ve crafted their plan.

In Mario Kart, some items work better than others. That depends on the course, the player, your current positioning, and the enemies in front or behind you.

In the game, it was a toss up what weapon you’d receive each time. And you were left dealing with the hand you were deal. Fortunately, in the business/marketing world, it’s not random. You have the power to choose whatever tactics you want.

Do the research, understand the market, lay out a strategy, and select the tactics that work best for you to help your company reach your goals. Choose wisely and work towards earning the most profound ROI around your work.

So, there ya go. See, Mario Kart really did teach us kids something. Happy personality test-taking, buyer persona-creating, marketing plan-building, and of course, Mario Kart playing. Have fun! And good luck!

This article originally appeared on Steamfeed.com. To view the full article, please visit: http://www.steamfeed.com/what-mario-kart-taught-me-about-business/


About Thomas J. Armitage

Digital marketing dude. Content creator. Movie buff wannabe. Catholic, family man. Likes sports. Loves dessert. Obsessed with punk rock and 90s rap.