7 Lessons that Startups can Learn from Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.
If you’re like me, a child of the 80’s, then you probably remember the first time you were psychologically man-handled by a cooperation. The Super Mario Bros. video game was nothing less than a Trojan horse of emotion, driven by Nintendo, that entered our tiny hearts, rewired massive portions of our brain, and completely enchanted us. And let’s be honest, we loved every second of it.

What if your product could have that same effect on customers? I think it can, and here are 7 things that we can learn from Mario about marketing, product, and being a startup in the 21st century.

1) Be Quirky

A plumber that shoots fireballs, travels the world through cups, and eats mushrooms to grow, all in order to save a princess. Would you please stop acting like your company is IBM? Be unusual if you want to be like Mario.

2) Be Linear

Mario started on the left of the screen and moved to the right of the screen, and he only stopped when he reached a flag. Think of your product like a side-scrolling video game, and always make the next step painfully obvious. If you want them to click there next, then tell them to click there next.

3) Be Likable

In every industry there are good guys and there are bad guys. Most people subconsciously root for the good guys. It’s hardwired into humans. Make decisions as a startup that place you squarely within the good-guy-camp. If you become the Bowser of your industry everyone will cheer when you die.

4) Be Connected

Mario could warp past large chunks of the game, but this was pre-internet era, so you wouldn’t learn about these hacks unless you had meatspace friends to inform you. Likewise, your startup will slog through entire levels of startupdom which could be bypassed if you just had connections to show you the shortcuts. Be connected to beat the game.

5) Be Single-Player

Mario was awesome because you didn’t need friends to make the experience work. If your startup relies on multiple players in order for the initial offering to work, then you will probably fail. Master the single player mode, allow it to provide enough value, then branch out. Obviously, two-sided markets that rely on multiple user connections have created billion dollar businesses (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), but this is the harder route.

6) Be Simple

A directional pad and 2 buttons. That’s it. The entire Mario game could be traversed with mastery of a couple inputs. Can your product be utilized after a quick primer on a few basic inputs, or does it require a Ph.D. in Internet to figure out? No one wants to feel helpless. Put your users in control of the product, not vice-versa.

7) Be Time-Consuming

The more time we spent playing Mario, the more thought about Mario, and the more we talked about Mario. If users are not spending serious amounts of time in your product it will probably not become a sensation. How can you increase the amount of time that others spend in your product?


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