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What Dark Souls can teach you about marketing

If you’re not familiar with the world of gaming, then the term ‘Dark Souls’ probably won’t mean very much to you. So, for the uninitiated, the Dark Souls trilogy stands apart in the world of gaming. It’s a game for those who seek an extreme challenge. Notorious for its difficulty, its ludicrous learning curve and cruel refusal to hold the player’s hand, in Dark Souls EVERYTHING is out to get you. One false step, one over-confident move, one small fumble – and it’s curtains…you get used to seeing this at regular intervals.

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Yet, despite the rages it triggers and the palpitations it induces, Dark Souls has acquired a massive cult following over the last few years.

To succeed in Dark Souls, as in Marketing, you need a healthy attitude toward failure. In your tortuous journey through Drangleic you’ll come across many cliff-edge moments that leave you wondering how to proceed. It might be a boss with a big hammer who effortlessly smashes you to the ground whatever you do, a mob ambush that gets you every time or just place where the path simply ends leaving you lost and wondering where to go.

The simple answer is to come back and try again, to fail better. You’ll need to retrace your steps, forensically examine the path that lead you there and hunt for clues, hoping for that crucial insight into your current predicament.

When marketing is done well, failure’s always an option. It’s easy to play it safe and do the thing you’ve always done for the umpteenth time but to really make gains and push forward, marketers need to take risks and try new things. With new things comes the risk of failure. What’s important is learning how and why you failed, analysing the steps you took to see where improvements can be made, so that, next time you fail you make a little more progress, then a little more, then a little more…

Boss battles in Dark Souls are things of legend. At the end of each area of the game there lurks a monster, a juggernaut large enough to stomp you into the ground or swat you down like a fly. Coming up against a Dark Souls boss for the first time can an be overwhelming, frustrating and disheartening experience. “How will I ever defeat this massive ice-breathing dog? Why does this guy have two heads?”, you wonder as you lie, crumpled in a virtual heap for the 40th time. But by patiently learning his repertoire of attacks and honing your evasions and counters, you will defeat the boss eventually.

In Marketing, as in Dark Souls, you will need to confront the boss. Sometimes as marketers, we have to stand up to our senior colleagues and defend our strategies, request some resources or simply deliver unwelcome news. It’s our job sometimes to be a little contrary and challenge the way things are done. We have to think a couple of steps ahead and be at the ‘leading edge’ of the companies we work for which means we will face conflict and that be accountable when things go wrong. Take heart. If you can beat Vordt of the Boreal Valley, you can do anything.

Dark Souls 1

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