I've been reading quite a few marketing and advertising articles recently which use boxing as a metaphor for our work. One such exhorts us to take the advice of (the mythical!) Rocky Balboa's (also mythical!) trainer – played by the delightfully loopy Burgess Meredith, whom I loved as the Penguin on the Batman television program, but I digress – when the told Rocky to learn to “eat lightning and crap thunder,” if you'll pardon the imagery.
Another posited the wisdom of Angelo Dundee, who adapted his training to the style of his charge, Muhammed Ali (perhaps you remember him as Cassius Clay?), saying “when you get a short guy, make him shorter. When you get a tall guy, make him taller.” Words to live by, I believe, unless your name is Procrustes, and you're a bed salesman – but again I digress.
Although a life-long athlete myself, I've only once been even tangentially involved in boxing, or the “sweet science” as it is sometimes named (that's pugilism to us here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC!).
I hope you'll all indulge me as I fade once more back to my prep school days. My bi-athlon team held practices out in the woods behind the athletic building, where stray shots and scattered casings were less likely to cause any trouble for our athletic brethren (and our sistern, as St. George's had gone "co-ed" some time before). Our return path to “the showers” took us past the gymnasium where the boxers plied their trade, and just short of the meeting room of the chess team.
Oddly (at least it seemed so to us at the time), both of these groups looked down on the various prowesses of those of us on the bi-athlon team. The boxers looked at us as wimps and “poseurs” (although I don't think a single one of them could have pronounced that word properly, let alone spelled it!), while the chess team thought of us as “jocks” or worse (whatever that might have been).
One of my team-mates, Al Bester (you may have heard of his Canadian cousin, Myriam Bédard who actually won Olympic bi-athlon medals!), came up with a spectacular thought – viz. we would challenge the combined chess and boxing teams to a chess-boxing match. Naturally, chess-boxing is a relatively unknown sport, as it has only been mounted the one time (to our knowledge!), and the expected winners are none too eager to repeat the drubbing they took at our hands (and minds!). But I'm getting ahead of myself.
As I was recounting, Al Bester conceived of the chess-boxing match, and even created the rules. This was much like the Wizard ChessTM many of you are likely to have seen in the fairly popular line of films about a wizard named Harry Potter®. The main differences were that rather than using magic to move large pieces around, students stood on the “board” and punched one another silly to gain access to the desired square, and that we split the boxing team between the chess team and ourselves (we being the bi-athlon team, just trying to keep things clear!) to be the pieces for the two sides.
The chess-ters and their coach, Mr. Rybak, thought themselves possessed of a great advantage, conceiving themselves to be masters of the tessellated square, while Mr. Giordano, the boxing coach, looked on the match as a spectacular opportunity to find out which of his pugilists were “sand-baggin” as he called it. We looked at it as our chance to put all of them in their respective places.
Being skilled marksmen and skiers, we bi-athletes were naturally also interested in matters military, so the study of strategy and tactics (especially Greek!) was a bit of a hobby for many of us. We expected that these studies would translate themselves quite well into the world of chess-boxing – nor were we to be disappointed!
The day of the match arrived, cool and clear, with a hint of juniper and lilac on the breeze. As we set our “pieces” in place, a bit of a tussle broke out among the chess-ters' boxers, as they argued about who would be king and who the queen. We had no such troubles with our “men,” having chosen wisely with just this potentiality in mind. Our own bi-athlon coach, Mr. Gunderson, wished us well, and repaired to the stands to watch the expected carnage. It was only the briefest of intervals, a few moves on each side, before the fists were flying, and we had quickly relieved the chess-ters of the majority of their pawns.
In short order, our king's bishop and queen's knight were threatening the opposing king – who escaped by means of a queen-side castling manoeuvre (precisely the move for which we had hoped!). In a trice, our king's knight had crashed over the last pawns and cold-cocked the opposing king. Victory was ours, and none had ever tasted sweeter.
Simply this – while our marketing opponents (c.f. our competitors and their products) may have mastery of particular fields or skills which seem to give them the advantage over us with the customer, there will always be a combination of skills which we can bring to bear which said competitors not only cannot match, but perforce cannot withstand.
The sight of the opposing “king” lying on his back, bloody-nosed and glassy-eyed should be an inspiration to all and sundry. I know that it is to those of us here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC, and we stand ready and able to help each of our friends and clients discover and develop those "combinations" which will lead to your very own marketing triumphs!
Last time, Jay wrote about "offensive" marketing:
Marian Kirby responded:
"Jay, I think you hit the nail right on the head with your column about bad taste. I can't tell you how often I'm embarrassed to watch TV with my son - all because of commercials for various hygiene and health products. "Mom, what's feminine itching?" or "Mom, what's erectile dysfunction?" I don't know what they're teaching nowadays, but he sure isn't learning this stuff at the junior college...."
Thanks for the kind words. Perhaps it's time for your "tyke" to be out on his own? I believe I learned most of these things on the street corner, and look where it's gotten me!