Bruce Lee Marketing: Which Level Are You?

This weekend I re-watched the epic martial arts film, “Enter the Dragon”. Within the first act, Bruce Lee teaches us the philosophy to succeed in marketing. For those of you on a slow connection, the scene goes something like this:

Bruce calls over a student and commands: “Kick me”.

After some hesitation, the student passively attempts a side kick, which Bruce effortlessly avoids.

“What was that? An exhibition?” Bruce taunts. “We need emotional content. Try again.”

This time, the student hurls an uncontrolled, flying kick. Again, Bruce effortlessly steps back.

“I said, emotional content—not anger! Now try again—with me.”

The student now delivers a swift kick. They briefly exchange blows.

“That’s it,” encourages Bruce. “How did it feel to you?”

The boy scratches his chin. “Let me think.”

Bruce slaps him on the head. “Don’t think! Feeeeeeeeel.” Bruce points towards the sky. “It is like a finger pointing away to the moon.”

The boy stares at Bruce’s finger.

Bruce slaps him in the head. “Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory; now do you understand?”

The boy nods and bows with eyes cast downward.

Bruce slaps him on the back of the head. “Never take your eyes off your opponent, even when you bow”.

The boy cautiously bows—eyes on Bruce.

“That’s it,” says Bruce.

Considering CopyPressed’s recent posts and infographics about writing sharable content, you might expect me to link Bruce Lee’s “emotional content” to writing “emotional content”. But to Bruce fighting with “emotional content” meant directing all emotional focus on the results of each action. It did not allow distraction to block the attainment of the objective: submission of the opponent.

The Bruce Lee Way teaches marketers to maintain a clear understanding of why we are executing each marketing action, and how it supports the main objective (e.g. conversion, branding, etc.). In the “Enter the Dragon” scene, the student wavers between three levels of awareness.

Level 1: The Exhibitionist

The student’s first attack was foiled by his preoccupation with the action of the kick. His focus was not on submission of his opponent. Bruce called it “an exhibition”. Later, the student continued to struggle—focusing on the indicator (the finger) rather than the goal (the moon).

You might be an Exhibitionist if you argue over the superiority of one type of marketing tactic over another (e.g. SEO vs SMM; inbound marketing vs content marketing, etc.). Bruce Lee’s “style of no style” teaches that each form of marketing serves a specific purpose. None is better or worse than another.

You might be an Exhibitionist if you obsess over things like Klout score or number of Facebook fans. Bruce Lee would slap you in the head and chastise you for losing site of the moon for the finger.

You might be an Exhibitionist if you call yourself a Guru of any type. Bruce Lee would reprimand you by insisting that learning never ends. As he once said:  “I’m not a master. I’m a student-master, meaning that I have the knowledge of a master and the expertise of a master but I’m still learning”.

Level 2: The Reactionist

The student’s second attack was foiled by his unchecked anger. Rather than channeling his emotion, he lost his focus within a reaction of anger. This is why Bruce implied the boy must stay present with the goal: “Try again—with me”.

You might be a Reactionist if you are hasty to lash out at criticism from peers or discontent clients. The abundance of social platforms necessitates a clear strategy and approach to dealing with criticism. Bruce Lee would incite you to remain focused on the main objective and if necessary, channel energy through constructive reputation management.

You might be a Reactionist if you’re caught up in a Google ranking pissing match. Bruce Lee would slap you on the back of the head and tell you to “never take your eyes off of your [objective]”. Your objective is more than likely increasing leads and conversions—not scrambling for temporary possession of a ranking.

Level 3: The Master-Student

The student’s third attack was successful in engaging Bruce because the student finally understood and fought with “emotional content”.

The Master-Student Marketer is always learning the art of marketing to attain his goal.

The Master-Student never loses site of the marketing objective for the marketing actions.

The Master-Student always executes marketing actions with a clear eye on an intended result.

And above all, the Master-Student never takes his eyes off the objective, even when he is winning.

What do you guys think? Can you find any other ways in which we can learn from the Bruce Lee Way?

About the author

Dave Snyder

Dave began his career online as a well respected Internet Marketing Consultant. He has spoken around the world on the topics of search marketing and social media, and has consulted for some of the worlds largest companies on the topics. He has also been an educator and writer in past careers.

Dave’s passion shifted from a purely marketing focus as he worked with more and more entrepreneurs to build profitable companies, to the creation, construction, and management of startups. This passion was the inspiration behind SteelCast.