Swim with the Sharks or Sleep with the Fishes: The Marketing Wisdom of The Godfather

Perhaps greater than some other film in the final thirty years, none has been assimilated into the lexicon of mainstream well-liked tradition as a lot like The Godfather (1972) and its epic sequel – The Godfather: Part II (1974).

The revered place that the Godfather occupies in the American psyche is a testimony not solely to the box-office revenues (1) it has earned or the quite a few awards (2) it has gained; slightly, what distinguishes the Godfather from different well-liked motion pictures is the extent to which its dialogue is quoted chapter and verse. Its wit and knowledge have change into, for lack of a greater time period, a guidepost in our every day lives: “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” turned the de facto mantra for advertisers, late-night comedians, and wiseguy wannabes; “Leave the gun … take the cannoli” epitomized the ethical ambiguities and requirements of on a regular basis life, and Luca Brasi (Don Vito Corleone’s chief enforcer) is usually invoked on MSNBC’s Hardball when host Chris Matthews takes the challenge with some heavy-handed techniques in the political environment.

Background and Theme of The Godfather.

The screenplays for every of the Godfather movies had been co-written by Francis Coppola, the movie’s director, and Mario Puzo, the creator of the best-selling novel. In their distinctive collaboration, they refashioned a narrative about gangsters and elevated it to the degree of delusion – a cinematic tour de pressure which has lengthy been praised for its poignant and tragic portrait of the Corleone “crime” household and its perception right into a brutally corrupt financial system that sows the seeds of the household’s inevitable downfall.

As Coppola himself has remarked, the parallel lives of Vito and Michael are a thinly disguised metaphor for America and American capitalism. Underlying this metaphor, nonetheless, is a contradiction, particularly, that the beliefs of alternative and social mobility are undermined by the harmful realities of the capitalist system, ie, the unbridled want for revenue and energy. The household empire that Vito builds is one that Michael can not protect. It is fragile and impermanent – its loyalties based mostly on the vagaries of enterprise, not on the close-knit bonds of household and group. Michael’s craving for acceptance and legitimacy, though sympathetically portrayed, stays largely unattainable.

Applying the Marketing Wisdom of The Godfather.

Although many articles have already made the apparent hyperlink between the knowledge of the Godfather and its purposes to the wider enterprise world, nobody, to my knowledge, has particularly utilized the Godfather’s system of beliefs and code of conduct to the world of advertising and marketing, branding, and aggressive positioning.

There are many classes to be discovered: The market during which corporations go face to face is not any much less contentious, fierce, or profit-driven. The Barzinis, Tattaglias, and Sollozzos of the so-called reputable enterprise world try to develop their territory (learn market share and mindshare); and the Hyman Roths and Johnny Olas, as soon as your small business allies, are actually formidable rivals threatening to weaken your tenuous market place. They’re all enjoying to win, and need nothing greater than to knock you off the shelf because it had been.

Instead of a battle of bullets, it’s a warfare of phrases and a jockeying of positions. It’s a world during which notion is energy. Since sitting on the sidelines shouldn’t be a viable possibility, you’ll both prevail (eg, get pleasure from champagne cocktails in the mountains) or fail (eg, discover Khartoum’s head in your mattress). There’s a previous Sicil-icon Valley expression: you possibly can both swim with the sharks or sleep with the fishes, however, you possibly can’t do each.

The distilled knowledge of The Godfather is a web page taken proper out of the marketer’s playbook. Successful advertising and marketing campaigns depend on persuasive make an attempt to realize market dominance, domesticate buyer loyalty, and persuade prospects and clients to take quick motion. To achieve success, you have to articulate a transparent imaginative and prescient, embrace a set of core values, and redefine the competitors to your finest benefit (without the accompanying homicide and mayhem, of course). To stay profitable, you have to leverage your credibility, affect, and market intelligence in ways in which make your rivals shudder of their shiny black footwear. Well, not less than that’s a common thought.

First off, let’s make some key distinctions between the world of The Godfather and the industrial market as we all know it at this time. First, enemies will henceforth be known as rivals. Competition in your small business world is with different corporations and their merchandise, not with people (“It’s business, not personal”). Secondly, no unlawful or immoral techniques are glorified or condoned on this paper (“Blood is a big expense”). Finally, I apologize for upfront for any pearls of advertising and marketing knowledge from the Godfather that will have escaped my consideration (“Don’t overestimate the power of forgiveness”).

The Top 10 Rules of The Godfather.

This paper focuses on the high ten guidelines that embody the knowledge of the Godfather – guidelines that every one aggressive entrepreneur and branding strategists ought to heed and observe. Each rule gives perception and path designed that can assist you to align your message, strengthen your place, and develop your model. The guidelines are gleaned from precise quotes present in every Godfather film, together with The Godfather: Part III (1990) which, though not as critically acclaimed as the first two, deftly performs out the saga of Michael’s dashed goals, operatic self-destruction, and ignominious defeat. In some circumstances, the similar or related quote seems in a couple of movies – giving it added thematic significance.

“Our ships must all sail in the same direction.” – Don Lucchesi to Michael (III)

Rule # 1: Inspire Loyalty

Whoever first stated “lead, follow, or get out of the way” will need to have been Sicilian. Maybe it originated with Cristóbal Colón who realized he didn’t have an opportunity of making it to the new world with no imaginative and prescient (discovering a brand new commerce path to India) backed by ample financing and a loyal crew. One can not underestimate the significance of having a daring imaginative and prescient that strikes and evokes others: it defines the very function of your group, is a mirrored image of your tradition and perception system, and serves as a barometer of the values ​​shared by your key authorities. More importantly, a robust imaginative and prescient stands alone – impartial of exterior components equivalent to market share, revenue, or aggressive local weather. Since every of your house owners (eg, clients, staff, prospects, administration, traders, and so forth.) has a barely completely different perspective, align your message appropriately with a purpose to unite them underneath a single banner and a standard mission. Engage their sensibility. Stretch their creativeness. Invite them alongside for the journey of a lifetime. Finally, encourage their loyalty by focusing their hopes and aspirations on the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) that guides them to a similar distant horizon.

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” – Clemenza to Rocco, after killing Paulie (I)

Rule # 2: Make It Personal

The previous adage nonetheless applies: Nobody cares how a lot you understand till they know the way a lot you care. Your buyer in the middle of the universe, not your product. Don’t pay lip service … present customer support. Sweeten the deal. Use a carrot slightly than a stick. Go excessive contact, not excessive-tech. Put a human face in your group. Make your messages intimate and conversational, and use the magic phrase “YOU” with reckless abandon. Keep your guarantees and commitments in order that it’s a bonus to change into and stay your buyer. One wonders whether or not IndividualsSoft staff and clients will get sufficient cannoli to maintain them glad of their prolonged Oracle household. Making it private means conveying your ardor and contagious enthusiasm, and letting your humanity shine by means of. After all, your aim is to construct relationships, not promote widgets.

“Let us draw water from the well.” – Barzini to the different Dons, referring to Don Vito (I) and “Let me wet my beak a little” – Don Fanucci to younger Vito (II)

Rule # 3: Emphasize Solutions

Let’s face it, for those who’re in enterprise, you’re right here to unravel your clients’ issues. Become an indispensable useful resource and share the bounty. Communicate the advantages of doing enterprise with your organization, and discover methods of contributing to their success. Tell your clients why they want your service now, and the way you’re finest outfitted to provide measurable and constructive outcomes. Do all the things in your energy to make their job simpler and provides them peace of thoughts. Craft an overarching model promise that your staff, clients, companions, and distributors can take to the financial institution. Fulfilling that promise means reaching consistency and delivering satisfaction. Make an actual distinction in the lives of your house owners and also you’ll seize not solely their enterprise, however, their loyalty.

“I want you to see what he’s got under his fingernails.” – Don Vito to Luca Brasi, referring to Sollozzo (I)

Rule # 4: Play To Win

Who are your primary rivals and what are their core strengths and weaknesses? What place do they personal and occupy? How do you stack up? Is your primary message slicing by means of the muddle? If you’re undecided, maybe a bit of digging for market intelligence is so as. Since you’re competing for mindshare, it means uncovering your rivals’ vulnerabilities and exploiting them. It additionally means maintaining a rating of your messages and making every one depend. Beat your rivals at their very own sport or make them play by your guidelines. Competitive positioning is extra than simply placing a stake on the floor and claiming it in the title of Spain. What claims are your rivals making? Perhaps they’re on the shakier floor than you suppose. Although you don’t want a Luca Brasi to do your bidding, it helps to have a workforce of dependable sharpshooters, or an automatic strategic market intelligence answer, to watch the effect and attain of your messages and the extent to which your rivals are making inroads the place you aren’t. Get a grip in your primary message, hold your eye on the ball, and swing for the fences. This is one of the few alternatives you need to give attention to why you’re in enterprise and what makes you a participant in the enterprise you’re in.

“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” – Michael to Pentangeli (II)

Rule # 5: Know Your Competitors

How nicely do you actually know your rivals? What makes them tick? Can you anticipate their subsequent transfer? To accomplish that, you want to perceive their motivations, wants, and intentions. Study your rivals. Learn and borrow from them. Redefine them to your finest benefit. To compensate for your personal weaknesses, construct alliances and pursue pleasant “co-operation” as half and parcel of a sensible advertising and marketing technique. You can discover widespread floor with anybody, even the Fanuccis in your market area. There’s an odd symbiotic relationship that exists between adversaries (eg, cops and criminals, political rivals, hosts and parasites, to call just a few). In the world of enterprise, positioning is relative and in a relentless state of flux: Predators devour weaker prey (SBC / AT & T); some fish band collectively (Chevron / Texaco); some eat their very own type (Enron); and others migrate to hotter, extra protecting waters (MCI). The ones that adapt to their setting survive – and which means having the ability to strengthen one’s aggressive place even in the face of overwhelming upheaval and opposition.

“He’s thinking of going to the mattresses.” – Clemenza to Paulie and Rocco, referring to Sonny’s plan for all-out warfare requiring his “button men” to sleep in makeshift warehouses and secure homes (I)

Rule # 6: Seize the Moment

Your competitor is successful in the battle of perceptions. You’re shedding mindshare. What do you do? Buy extra promoting time? Sponsor an enormous occasion? Hold an information convention? Hire a star spokesperson? What in case your funds are anemic … then what? Regardless of the scale of your advertising and marketing, the vital factor is to take a stand, after which take motion. Sonny Corleone was not recognized for his painstaking market analysis. This is to not recommend you have to be rash and impulsive; However, at a sure level, you need to depend on your intestine instincts as a marketer and go for it! After all, timing is all the things. That’s how campaigns are gained and misplaced. Raise the stakes by bringing urgency to your most vital messages. Give your clients a deadline. Force them to decide. Hit them from all angles. Sometimes it takes greater than numbers to reach at a tough determination – it takes nerve. So when the alternative arises, be ready to tug out the stops and launch an intense and focused blitz. Anyway, you don’t need to be too predictable. Use the component of shock to throw your rivals off guard. Carpe momentum!

“Michael, we’re bigger than US Steel.” – Hyman Roth (II)

Rule # 7: Think Big

If you’re going to compete with the “big boys,” you may as nicely put your self of their class and class. Perception guidelines the roost – so begin by altering the approach you understand your self. Branding has so much to do with confidence. If you act huge, daring, and good, chances are high the world will see you that approach, too. When it involves advertising and marketing, each marketing campaign you launch ought to embrace one huge thought. Focus on the huge image, not the trivialities. Failure to take action will lead to your message being diluted, drowned out, and shortly forgotten. Find a serious theme to anchor and amplify your message. Put an acceptable body around it to present its perspective and gravitas. Create affinity with your clients by capturing their hearts, touching a nerve, and changing into, nicely, unforgettable. Give the world a direct and definitive option to expertise your model on a grand scale. Where would we be without movers and shakers like Edison, Carnegie, Ford, Walton, and Gates who not solely had nice concepts that modified society, however, new methods to market them successfully?

“I believe in America. America has made my fortune.” – Bonasera to Don Vito (I)

Rule # 8: Be Creative and Innovative

This opening line of The Godfather says all of it: Pursue your goals, generate profits, and change into an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the phrase. This means shaking off previous habits, exploiting any and all advertising and marketing alternatives, and typically taking the highway much less traveled. Being a “me too” model or speaking a cookie-cutter message won’t improve your worth or contribute to your lasting success. If we all know something about the American dream, it’s limitless … and it smiles on the marketer with a greater, sooner, and cheaper mousetrap. Look at the phenomenal progress and success of the iPod. Within just a few quick years, Apple utilized its imaginative and prescient and assets, and nearly cornered the marketplace for digital audio gamers that use laborious drives. Innovation is both halves of your company tradition, or it’s not. Find a brand new answer to a previous downside. Reinvent your previous bag of tips. Challenge your self. A break from the conference, however, know the guidelines you’re breaking. Make your message enjoyable and recent. Surprise and delight an unsuspecting world. Of course, which means going the additional mile – however, as they are saying, it’s by no means crowded.

“This I cannot do.” – Don Vito to Bonasera (I) and Michael to Don Altobello (III)

Rule # 9: Know Yourself

With all due respect to Socrates, who popularized the well-known inscription (3) at the Apollo Temple in Delphi (“gnothi se auton”) and Shakespeare, who paraphrased it in Hamlet, Act I, Scene III (“to thine own self be true “), the maxim lives on in The Godfather. The Corleone patriarchs relied on the knowledge that comes with self-knowledge. Their values, each for good and ailing, fashioned the unshakable basis of their imaginative and prescient. Determine which of them are revered and shared inside your group. Remember, they’re not core values ​​for those who drop them as a result of they find yourself costing you an excessive amount of or put you at an aggressive drawback. Values ​​are common and timeless. They stand the check of time and create a robust affinity with those that imagine in your group. Values, and the requirements they uphold, present perception into your group’s model character. The basic ideas you cherish are the bedrock of your model. The information your group’s conduct, and put the world on discovering that there’s some spine behind your message. When all else slips and stumbles (eg, the economic system, your market share, your earnings, and so forth.), you’ll at all times have your values ​​to fall again on.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Don Vito to Johnny Fontane, referring to Jack Woltz (I) and Michael to Fredo, referring to Moe Green (I)

Rule # 10: Make It Compelling

What makes a model memorable and a message compelling? Is it free to provide? The iron-clad assure? The gushing testimonials? The edgy inventive and intelligent copy? It’s all these issues … and extra. A compelling message has a narrative behind it, a narrative with dramatic attraction. It’s the present time! It’s time to make your clients go a-ha! It’s time to maneuver and encourage them. It’s time to ship the flawless elevator pitch, get the “yes,” and go for the shut. However, you have to first construct belief by establishing a constantly observe report. Second, talk with your house owners typically and hear for the gold (eg, perceive their wants, fears, frustrations, aspirations, and so forth.). Third, make them a suggestion they might be ill-advised to dismiss or ignore. This is the essence of advertising and marketing, the raison d’etre of your message, and the complete function of your marketing campaign. If you observe the first 9 guidelines, the closing rule needs to be a “piece of cannoli.” After the mud has settled, in case your clients nonetheless haven’t opened their hearts and wallets, revisit Rule # 6 and take into consideration going to the mattresses once more!


The philosophy of the Godfather tells you all the things you want to learn about speaking a compelling message, proudly owning and occupying a robust market place, and constructing and packaging a memorable model. Whether your sport is enterprise or politics, survival is all the things – defending your turf, avoiding pitfalls, and capitalizing on alternatives, or, in different phrases, staying on high whereas enhancing the backside line.

Your message is in a relentless wrestle to be heard and understood in an enormous sea of ​​competing messages. In the course of your advertising and marketing marketing campaign, take time to overview, check, and measure the attain and effect of your message, model consciousness, and aggressive place. In a world the place perceptions dominate, messages will be simply countered and co-opted, manufacturers can weaken and wane from benign neglect, and aggressive positions are topic to the previous switcheroo. But right here’s the excellent news: When you end up off-message, get again on observe; in case your model wants a carry, give it a makeover; and in case your place is assaulted, put your finest button males (learn guerrilla entrepreneurs) on the avenue. In sum, if “there’s a stone in your shoe, remove it.”

I believe that in one other thirty years, the classes of the Godfather will likely be no much less instructive. As lengthy as we proceed to thrive in a world market the places new concepts, companies, and applied sciences comprise the mental foreign money of the realm, there’ll at all times be a necessity for robust, intelligent, and solution-oriented advertising and marketing.

To these entrepreneurs, message experts, branding strategists, and aggressive intelligence professionals who’re impressed by the knowledge of the Godfather, Michael Corleone’s conventional Italian toast on the shore of Lake Tahoe is unquestionably so as: “Cent’Anni!”


(1) The Godfather was the top-grossing movie of 1972 and has generated about $ 135 million in whole-home (US and Canada) box-office revenues, or $ 502.Four million transformed into at this time’s {dollars}; The Godfather: Part II ($ 57.Three million or $ 195.2 million in 2005 {dollars}); and The Godfather: Part III ($ 66.7 million or $ 101.7 million in 2005 {dollars}).

(2) The Godfather acquired ten Academy Award nominations and gained three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Coppola and Puzo). The movie earned 5 Golden Globe Awards, and Coppola gained the coveted Directors Guild of America Award for the finest path. It additionally acquired 5 New York Film Critics Circle nominations, with the win going to Robert Duvall for Best Supporting Actor. The Godfather: Part II acquired eleven Academy Award nominations and gained six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction (Dean Tavoularis and Angelo Graham; plus George Nelson for Set Decoration), and Best Original Score (Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola). It was additionally nominated for six Golden Globe Awards and two New York Film Critics Circle Awards, however, it didn’t win any. Al Pacino, nonetheless, gained a British Academy Award for Best Actor, and Coppola picked up one other Directors Guild of America Award. The Godfather: Part III acquired seven Academy Award nominations however didn’t win any Oscars. It additionally acquired seven Golden Globe Award nominations, with the sole win going to Coppola for Best Director.

(3) Not surprisingly, the different maxim inscribed at the Apollo Temple in Delphi is “nothing in excess.”

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