Marketing Lessons, by way of The Graduate

The Graduate

The Graduate

Just last night, I watched the classic film The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. Truly one of the coolest films ever made, it is one of my top 10 favs. And not just because Simon and Garfunkel did the music.

You recall the film. It tells the tale of Ben Braddock, fresh out of school, but clueless as to what to do with his life. In his confusion and quest to find answers, he falls for an older woman, the wife of his father’s business partner.

Being the marketing guy with a permanent thirst to learn as much as I can about marketing, I look for lessons and answers every where I can. So, watching the film last night, I looked for marketing lessons while watching the film. And damn, if I don’t think I found some profound lessons we all can benefit from. Thanks Ben, Mrs. Robinson, and Elaine. Enjoy.

  1. Don’t conform. Don’t fall prey to the expectations of others. Ben’s father had much different aspirations for Ben’s future. Go your own way. The way your instincts guide you.
  2. Don’t always say yes. Remember the family friend who suggests that Ben should get into “plastics?” You don’t always have to say yes. Make smart decisions. [see below]
  3. Don’t be timid. Remember when Ben was checking in to the hotel for his first rendezvous with Mrs. Robinson, and he was very timid with the desk clerk? Funniest scene in the film. Don’t worry what people think about simple, mundane stuff. Live life to the full. It will make you a better marketer.
  4. Celebrate conversation. Deep into the affair, Ben got more comfortable with Mrs. Robinson, and he tried to engage her in more conversation in an attempt to get to know her. She obviously had no desire. It probably drove Ben off, off on to a path she wasn’t happy about. Don’t avoid conversation.
  5. Don’t be who you are not. Remember when he took Elaine out on their first date, and he tried to scare her off by being someone he is not? It didn’t work for Ben. He was better off when he went back to being himself. Be real. Be sincere.
  6. Know what your goals are. Remember when Ben declared to his parents that he was marrying Elaine, but then shared that he actually hadn’t asked her yet? Classic moment. Turned the tide of the film. Take a lesson from this – don’t be afraid to declare what you want.
  7. Don’t let a “NO” dissuade you. Remember when Elaine was still mad at Ben for having an affair with her mother? Most would walk away. You will hear “no” a lot in life. It doesn’t mean the quest is over.
  8. Don’t fear obstacles. Remember when Ben was on the way to stop the wedding and his car ran out of gas? He kept going. Kept going until he got what he wanted.
  9. Be persistent. Remember how Ben kept after Elaine even when she went back to school at Berkeley? He kept after her.
  10. Try new things. Hell, if Mrs. Robinson tried to seduce me, I’d have done the same thing too… Celebrate opportunities. You will learn a lot…