“Everything we Need to Know about Marketing, we could have Learned from… Caddyshack?”


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Upon further examination, it would appear that Caddyshack is a movie that was perhaps wise beyond its years. It seems that when viewed through a new “marketing” lens, many of the most referenced quotes from the film, can actually serve as valuable lessons for marketers in today’s economy. Embedded between these lines are lessons of customer centricity, marketing measurement, the importance of social media and more – IF you look close enough.

Why Caddyshack? Why not? Many of us reading this article have at one time or another used a well-placed movie quote to help break the ice during a conversation. This verbal tool has the proven ability to create instant rapport with new colleagues and customers alike. And though many movies over the years have yielded strong assets in this respect, arguably one of the most quoted movies in the business setting to this day remains Caddyshack. Yes, much like the “Dalai Lama himself,” the film has stood the test of time and is still avidly by generation X, Y and Z alike.

Here are just a few of these pearls of wisdom we can borrow:

“Be the ball”

The most important of all marketing rules: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. This is in effect, today’s “outside-in” movement, where brands are finally recognizing that we need to re-engineer our processes working from our customers’ perspective, not ours. What is the real customer journey? How would you like to be treated as a customer? What would your interactions feel like? Would they be connected and engaging, or instead just more marketing offers? Yes our customers are a “force” to be reckoned with.

The full quote, by the way: “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”

“People don’t say that about you – as far as you know.”

It turns out this might be among the most profound, timely and important lessons from the film. For marketers, this means that we must stop speaking TO the customer, as we’ve done for so many years — and actually start listening. The fact is, your customers ARE talking about your brand, even as you’re reading this piece. They’re sharing their opinions on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, product reviews and more.

In fact, according to a new Kitewheel research report “The State of the Customer Journey 2014”, 68% of consumers expect brands to respond to tweets directed at a brand. Now ask yourself if your organization is truly listening. Do you have systems and processes in place to automatically detect moments of customer truth? These are comments about negative experiences, service issues and more. Your customers are asking for your help and are sharing their comments with the rest of the world. Sticking your head in the sand is no longer an option in today’s socially connected world.

“You’ll get nothing, and like it”

Marketing budgets are under increased pressure and the trend does not appear to be letting up. Our CEO’s are pressuring us for greater results, from less dollars, and more accountability. And guess what? As marketers, we need to get on with it.

We need to somehow take a fresh approach to our marketing and derive better results from less budget and less headcount than we’ve ever had before. But while this is viewed as an “obstacle” my some, it is actually welcomed as a new “opportunity” by others. Want to guess which ones will win?

Today, marketers finally CAN do something about it using advanced techniques and processes such as real-time journey simulation, machine learning, Monte Carlo simulation, and predictive techniques such as uplift modeling, across their customer processes to understand where impacts may be best made (and importantly, where they will not). Brands must use more than “guess-work” but instead data-driven methods to craft the customer journey. The Kitewheel “State of the Customer Journey 2014” report also revealed that 64% of marketing executives believe data-driven marketing will be a game changer.

“How do you measure yourself with other golfers?” Answer: “By height.”

To succeed today, success means more than just measurement, as there is a drastic difference between “countability,” and accountability. It is not measurement for the sake of measurement — but rather ensuring that you’re measuring the right things.

When translated to our marketing practices, this means not just watching click-throughs, bounce rates and open rates, but rather the truly customer-focused KPIs that matter to your business. These include KPIs such as engagement & advocacy levels (e.g. Net Promoter, CEI scores), customer lifetime value (e.g. CLV/CLTV) and incremental impact (net lift to revenue). Did your strategy actually positively change the experience and outcome?

The bottom line? As marketers, we have to stop measuring the wrong things for the sake of measurement, and get serious about measuring the right things.

“There won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness…. So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

Hind sight too late. Will your brand wake up one day with “total consciousness” only to realize that your competition has stolen your customer base? In short, don’t get complacent. Your competition is feverously looking for new ways to innovate experience. Consider how digital photography effectively shut down mainstay brands such as Poloroid and Kodak with a better product experience. Consider how Apple took down the giant of Blackberry with the very same strategy.

Brands need to be proactive about experience – instead of just letting it happen. This is what today’s concept of journey orchestration is all about. Use emerging customer journey mapping techniques and customer engagement hubs to put your change into motion.

Clearly, Caddyshack was ahead of its time. OK, does it really contain everything we need to know about marketing? Probably not. But there are certainly significant words of wisdom here that make for fun thought (and perhaps, maybe even a chuckle to yourself next time you’re in a marathon marketing meeting).

Can you think of any other movies that would make for more great inspiration? Perhaps other quotes from Caddyshack that I’ve overlooked? Please provide your own comment below.

Jeff Nicholson
JEFFREY NICHOLSON (Boston, MA) Jeff is a CRM and AI industry veteran, possessing more than 20 years of expertise, in helping shape SaaS technologies, consumer trends and markets. Recognized as an industry thought leader and visionary, Jeff’s viewpoints and perspectives have been featured in magazines and outlets including AdAge, ChiefMarketer, CRM Magazine, CMO.com, The Economist and Forbes. Jeff is a frequent presenter at industry events across the globe on topics including consumer engagement, customer journey, artificial intelligence, digital transformation and customer data trends.


  1. Personally I would choose the Godfather as that movie has a multitude of Business qualified quotes.

    Everything from:

    Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately. – Don’t just look for the good news, look for the bad as well so you can fix whatever is going wrong.

    Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking again. – Keep your plans close, if everyone knows what your doing, then they may start doing it as well.

    I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse. – Know your customer

    Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family. – Your customers can become your allies if you let them.

    Great men are not born great, they grow great . . . – The same for companies.

    Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment. – Do what you need to do, don’t let your competitors actions force you to a decision.

    A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man. – Your customers are your family, know what they want and need and you will succeed.

    Time erodes gratitude more quickly than it does beauty! – Making your customer base happy once isn’t enough, you need to remind them on a regular basis.

    That’s all I have for now, I am sure this movie could be mined for quotes for whatever industry you wanted to showcase.


  2. Nice additional movie references Daniel! I particularly like “Make him an offer he can’t refuse” and “Time erodes gratitude more quickly than it does beauty”… both absolutely great analogies. You need to know your customer and what will reality motivate them individually. And gratitude (i.e. customer satisfaction) has a shelf-life. It is not a once-and-done event. As brands, we must make this an ongoing and continuing effort to deliver and demonstrate value.

    Great additions Daniel.


  3. Bill Murray and “What About Bob” is a great metaphor for the new age of marketing. Bob Wiley (Murray) is a psychiatric client and his psychiatrist is Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss). Wiley insists on getting the kind of care that he wants, drives his psychiatrist to distraction, and ends up prescribing meds to treat the unable-to-cope psychiatrist. Wiley is today’s consumers in the digital economy, Dr. Marvin the marketers — seemingly knowing all but failing to adjust to the demands of the ever more sophisticated clients and customers.


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