“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”

What marketers can learn from Muhammad Ali’s famous quote on his fighting style


Muhammad Ali, the great American heavyweight boxer succinctly summed up his fighting style through this all-time famous quote – “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Which, in effect meant an ability to weave through and avoid opponent jabs through ultra-nimble footwork coupled with an ability to strike/ punch at lightning speed.

So, how can marketers today draw lessons from this quote & Ali’s fighting style? Read on…

Marketers, especially digital marketers have several vehicles to run campaigns on today – SEM,  display, social media (Facebook, twitter, G+) , email, content (blogs), SMS, youtube and whatsapp to name a few from the digital spectrum, not to mention the large array of offline marketing options also available.

When the marketing mix is prepared it is important to have a well-balanced portfolio, which allows for 2 important things:

The flexibility to make any course corrections as necessary and yet subliminally seed brand awareness & recall in customer’s psyche across multiple touchpoints – Float like a Butterfly

An ability to ramp marketing muscle/ scale over a short period, which acts as a force multiplier to the overall mix – Sting like a Bee.

Point 1 above can be achieved by running a 360 digital marketing campaign on multiple platforms (SEM, display, social, youtube, email, SMS etc) with consistent offer and brand value proposition, communications which are dynamic and allow for the flexibility of throttling traffic, spends and targeting in near real-time.

Point 2 above, can be achieved by big-ticket investments in one or more brand channels of mass scale (online or offline), which multiply the effect felt from the efforts of other 360 campaigns and regular bread winning campaigns such as SEM, SEO and remarketing.

For example – Timed, synchronized investments in running a generic brand promotion campaign on Facebook or display or Television or Radio would see increased click through rates (CTRs)/ social actions/ user engagement/ conversions across other campaigns.

So, where is the catch? 

While most brands and marketers employ the “Float like a butterfly” analogy, they shy away from attempting to “Sting like a Bee”. Why?

The ROI on such medium/ long-term big investment plays are difficult to measure. Brands need to perform complicated causal analysis and correlation analysis keeping several moving parts constant to understand the effect of such initiatives. The problem gets even more compounded if the initiative is in an offline channel.

What makes the task onerous is that metrics need to be measured not just of the campaign in question, but also its spillover effect on all other running campaigns in the same duration.

The other key conundrum which gives marketers and management cold feet when it comes to saying, “I do” for such campaigns is that the significant cost outlay does not provide immediate/ near term returns. The results from such brand investments take time to reap. As a consequence, short-term business metrics such as cost of customer acquisition, profitability, etc. take a beating, which spoils the business outlook over the short term, which could be a tricky situation especially if investment discussions are happening in parallel.

So marketers – Float like a butterfly all you want but time your bee stinging to a nicety whilst making sure beforehand that you have analytics systems and processes in place to measure success.

Vedanarayanan Vedantham is the head of marketing at Stayzilla, the online portal for booking and reservation of hotels in India.

Communication Strategy Sales and marketing Startup Marketing Stayzilla

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