Our annual group costume was born from a mutual love of Mario Kart, the game that’s been evolving since 1992. With over 100 million copies sold, Mario Kart is beloved around the world — even by people who now get destroyed by their own children at it.

Some of the best digital marketing lessons come from unexpected sources. Whether you love Mario Kart or not, you can’t deny that it’s served as a teaching tool over the years. There was more to soak in than simply learning not to throw your controller at your brother’s head when he beat you on Rainbow Road.

Push the start button. Here are the lessons we’ve learned!

Get familiar with the map

Ever tried to play a new version of Mario Kart with people who already know their way around? It’s the worst. You’ll be in last place while everyone else is taking shortcuts and soaring over obstacles. There’s nothing as frustrating as feeling your way around, slamming into palm trees, and eventually getting lapped by the person in first place.

Digital marketing needs a roadmap. You don’t have to do exactly what everyone else is doing, but you need to know your way around. You need to have an understanding of the challenges you might face, and the shortcuts that can work to your advantage — like a landing page with a killer conversion rate that you can drive more traffic to with a targeted display ad campaign.

Understand your arsenal

A bunch of cool items get you nowhere if you don’t know when to use them. Even that Lightning Bolt needs to be dropped with strategy, so that you’re prepared to destroy all of your shrunken rivals and rocket to the front of the pack.

There are no magical advantages in digital marketing. Every marketer has access to the same tools. Blogging, SEO, lead generation tactics, email automation, paid search and social… These are the items you race with. If you don’t know how and when to use them, you’ll waste your shot.

Develop a strong understanding of your “secret weapons” so you can deploy them at the right time, to the right people, for the right reasons. After all, there’s nothing as satisfying as nailing the racer in first place with a red shell.

Watch out for pitfalls

It’s easy to get overconfident in Mario Kart. But when you move too quickly or you’re not sure where you’re going, you’ll find yourself hurtling over a cliff and respawning in last place. It really sucks watching everyone else zip by while you’re waiting for your chance to restart.

Overconfidence can shut digital marketers down. Common marketing pitfalls include leveraging black hat SEO tactics (guaranteed to land you in last place), paying attention to the wrong metrics (no, your Facebook likes aren’t important), and marketing to anyone and everyone without researching and segmenting your audiences (that’s just annoying).

Like the banana in the road just waiting for you to spin out, these pitfalls can slow your progress.

Tell a good story

In the grand scheme of games, Mario Kart isn’t exactly bursting with a compelling narrative. But fans have their favorite characters and most of the time a solid understanding of those characters’ strengths and weaknesses. In a big group, people will always fight over playing as their favs. What does that teach us about marketing?

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Story and visuals matter. Consumers want to connect with more than a value proposition. They want to see themselves in the narrative that surrounds your brand. They want to know how your offering makes them a hero. They connect to personality and emotions. So know who you are before you try to sell who you are.

Looking for creative solutions to your marketing challenges? Say hi. We’re always happy to schedule a rousing round of Mario Kart at the end of a meeting. But we can’t promise not to drop a Lightning Bolt on the last lap.

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