Marketing’s Toughest “Boss” Battles

The toughest challenge gamers face in video games is the boss fights. These climactic encounters are often designed to test players’ knowledge of the game’s systems and mechanics by having them face off against monstrous, unique foes. As tests, these battles can instruct, reward, or punish players; sometimes all at once. Successful marketers in the digital age may find this concept quite familiar, or at least they should.

While marketers put their experience and education to use every day, certain events—such as the crunch of budgeting season, reacting to the spontaneity of social media, Black Friday—can push marketers to their limits in much the same way that video games benchmark and test players through boss battles. Here, we explore five situations or circumstances in marketing that parallel the boss fight experience of games.


Boss sequences in video games often follow a formula—pre-rendered cinematic cut scene followed by the boss fight, followed by another cut scene. The marketing process is rarely this binary or predictable, especially not now. But, if there’s one aspect of the job that marketers can consistently count on for challenge and tension, it’s budgeting. In fact, marketers’ ability to meet the challenges discussed in this list will frequently depend on the fluidity of their budget.

With the ever-increasing pace of technological iteration, planning a marketing budget for six months, or even a quarter, has become a regular and predictable source of marketing crucible.

Adopting a new tech solution

The toughest boss battles in gaming don’t simply test players’ skills with the game’s systems, but often challenge players by removing functionality. Marketers face similar challenges when the business switches to a new technology solution.

Whether CRM, marketing automation, or even corporate email providers, transitioning to a new technology can tax employees and customers alike, regardless of how seamless the transition. The adjustment period following new tech adoption can be grueling, especially in older companies. However, like a boss fight, businesses can rarely avoid these growing pains, and when the payoff is a potentially streamlined area of operations, businesses can’t really afford to either.

Tentpole events

The same hallmarks of traditional narrative arcs are present in many games, and often end up telegraphing a boss battle hours before the encounter. Players have plenty of time to grind out character levels to earn new weapons and skills, or practice mastering mechanics that the game introduced in the wake of the last boss fight. Even with all of this preparation, the boss can still prove immensely challenging. The marketing parallel here is yearly tentpole events.

Black Friday, the various holidays, the Super Bowl; marketers have incredible lead time over these events. Even still, these annual occurrences present some of the toughest challenges of the year for many businesses, despite years of experience.

Social Media

Social media is unpredictable and highly volatile by its very nature. Even with robust data sets and social media marketing strategies, no one can account for the wild swings in social trends, or the intensity of viral criticism on the channel. Like gamers adapting to random or unavoidable encounters with elite enemies in games, marketers must be prepared for virtually anything when they feature their brand prominently in social channels, which they absolutely should do. After all, just like in games, the challenges that demand the most with the least amount of preparation often prove the most rewarding once they are overcome.

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