Marketing Lessons from the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The NHL playoffs are over and the Stanley Cup has been awarded to the best team.  As a Canucks fan this is a hard pill for me to swallow but it’s not the first time I’ve experienced disappointment.  In situations like these I like to take a lesson or two away to offset the damage to my pride.  Since I don’t have much control over the Canucks future I’ll ignore the hockey lessons and try to extract some useful business lessons from this hard-fought seven game series.

Lesson 1: 2nd Place Isn’t That Bad

If you’re reading this you’re either a lost Canucks fan (please click here) or a marketer.  If you’re the latter you’ve read the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  Law #8, the Law of Duality, states that “in the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.”  Being 3rd is a bad idea but being 1st or 2nd is a nice place to be.  While this law may not hold true as often as it used to, it certainly does in the NHL.

Shooting for 2nd may seem like a lazy goal but let’s look at the Canucks and Bruins from a business perspective.  Despite who won or lost, both teams made a boat-load of money in the last two weeks.  By being the top two teams they’ve granted themselves an extension to keep collecting cash while all of their other competitors are golfing.  Granted Boston will probably continue to collect more revenue following their win, I would say the lions share was collected during the finals – by both the 1st and 2nd place teams.

At the end of the day the key take away here is that you may not want to shoot for 1st place just for the sake of being 1st.  Perhaps 2nd is a more realistic goal for your organization and it may offer you the same benefits as being 1st without the added effort.  Please keep in mind this is a business lesson.  This lesson certainly does not stand true if you’re an athlete.

Lesson 2: Run Your Business like Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas certainly stole the show this year and was likely the single biggest factor in the Bruins championship.  A couple things stood out about Thomas that I think translate well into the business world – especially for start-ups.

First off, his style is not pretty.  Actually it’s downright ugly.  But it works.  In the B2B world winning usually comes down to one thing: your offering needs to work.  What it looks like doesn’t matter.  An ugly product that works will always win over the pretty one that doesn’t.

Second, Thomas doesn’t really have a set style.  He might choose to flail around like a bird with clipped wings, charge out of his net at an opponent, or rely on his defense to make a save for him.  He’ll do whatever it takes to keep the puck out of the net and is willing to adjust to do so.  Successful businesses are agile enough to do the same.  Figure out what works and do it but don’t assume it will be the best option the next time around.

Thomas is also very aggressive.  Like I said above he’ll charge out of his net or he might throw a punch or even lay out a hit if it makes sense.  Business is no different.  If you want to get noticed you need to be aggressive but be smart about it.  Pick your spots and go after them.

Finally, Thomas will never give up on a puck.  Until the puck crosses the goal line it’s still in play and he’s committed to it.  Even when it looks like there’s no hope he keeps going and usually makes a stunning save.  In business you need the same determination.  Only those that push through the hard times will survive to see success on the other side.  Even the most successful businesses come up against adversity.  But they keep going and never give up.

Next Year

The Canucks may not have won it all this year but they certainly won a lot.  I’ll take my business lessons from their cup quest and hopefully they can take some hockey lessons and better themselves as a team.  The great thing about hockey is there’s always next year.  Go Canucks, go!