Four Things Magic: The Gathering Can Teach You About Marketing

BY Kat Shanahan
I recently finished graduate school and found myself with a bit of free time on my hands. So, when one of our fearless Filament leaders invited me to play Magic: The Gathering, I excitedly said yes. (Excitedly may be an overstatement. I was very excited, but having never played Magic, Pokemon, or any other trading card game before, I was terrified in equal measure.)

As I played I realized that there are quite a few parallels that can be drawn between Magic and marketing.

  • There are many ways to win. You can win by investing the resources into making the perfect deck or by seeing what comes together in a draft. Either way, winning is possible. There is a lot of marketing success that can be gained from planning. In fact, a strategic plan is really the key to marketing success. However, brands like Oreo have demonstrated that acting quickly and working with what you have can result in a huge win. The key is to be able to plan to the best of your ability, but make sure you’re continually improving in ways that make sense for your organization. It’s not good enough to create a master plan and hit autopilot.
  • If you continue to use the same thing all of the time your opponent will catch on. There’s a substantial difference between planning and being predictable. Planning is good - it keeps everyone on the same page, it allows for greater integration, and it can save serious time, money, and confusion. Being predictable means that you’re stuck in a creative rut and continually rely on the same creatures (or marketing tactics) to get the job done. Just because a blog post worked for you in the past doesn’t mean a whitepaper or podcast wouldn’t be more effective.
  • You need resources before you can get anywhere. In Magic, the most essential resource is mana (also called land). You must have mana before you can make any other moves. In marketing, just like in Magic, you need to establish resources (social platforms, website, blog) in order to create relationships with customers. You need to build your credibility before customers will trust you. Invest resources in platforms that deliver messaging in a way that meets your audience’s needs. It’s not realistic to think that you’ll have a following over night. (It’s also not realistic to think you’ll be a Magic master over night).
  • It’s all about relationships. I am proud to say that as of the date this blog went live, I am undefeated in Magic. That is due 100% to the fact that I had a wonderful coach that helped me through the one game that I played. Relationships are a key component to marketing. You cannot accommodate customers if you do not have an understanding of what they want. Additionally, the relationships you have with your current customers makes them return customers and (hopefully) evangelists.