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4 interesting things you can learn about marketing from Julius Caesar

Throughout the annals of history, there has perhaps been no human as influential as the Roman leader, Julius Caesar. Even thousands of years after his death, his legacy has left a significant impact on the world: the Russian “Czar”, for example, derives from Caesar’s name, as does the German “Kaiser”.

Whether you see him as an authoritarian tyrant who seized power and toppled a burgeoning republic, or a man who saved an empire doomed to collapse under its crippling political divides, there are many lessons to be learned from the actions of the great statesman.

Caesar was undoubtedly a fantastic general and leader, so what can he teach you about marketing? Here are four interesting lessons about marketing that you can learn from the great Julius Caesar.

1. Experience trumps all

All through Caesar’s life, you could likely count the battles and campaigns he lost on the fingers of one hand.

Even when things seemed hopeless, such as his expedition to the mysterious and savage island of Britain, the Roman general still managed to snatch a Pyrrhic victory from the jaws of defeat.

It must have seemed as though the man was invincible, but his constant victories weren’t thanks to the gods’ favour or some divine blessing, but rather his wealth of experience.

Caesar spent the better days of his youth serving as a soldier. He fought shoulder-to-shoulder with his fellow legionaries, learning the ways of war directly from the front lines.

In fact, the time he spent in combat led him to say: “experience is the teacher of all things”. This mentality can be applied in marketing, too.

While theoretical learning can go a long way in helping you improve your marketing strategy, sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and face things head-on if you’re to understand the best ways to market your business correctly.

You can study articles and information until you’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, you need to try things out if you’re to devise an infallible marketing strategy. You may find that trial and error is one of the best ways to build a strong marketing campaign.

2. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box

Sometimes, we face problems that seem impossible to tackle. It might be a marketing strategy that won’t land, a piece of writing you can’t seem to get right, or a social media campaign failing to garner enough attention.

These problems are common, and sometimes the best way to deal with them is to think outside the box and approach your issues from a different angle.

During Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, the Roman leader faced a problem the likes of which he hadn’t before. He had almost finished his subjugation of the region when the Gallic leader, Vercingetorix, united the tribes and led a dangerous revolt against their new Latin overlords.

After a brutal campaign of hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare, Caesar eventually cornered the Gallic general at Alesia, a formidable hilltop fort near modern-day Dijon. Worse yet, Vercingetorix had sent for reinforcements, so Caesar knew time was not on his side.

Vercingetorix must have felt confident at this moment – all he had to do to win the battle was sit tight and wait for his reinforcements.

Despite his smaller numbers and unfavourable terrain, Caesar had an idea that must have seemed out of the question at the time: he ordered the construction of a 16 km – or 11 Roman miles – wooden palisade to surround the fort.

Then, he built a second wall around the first to defend his forces against the oncoming horde of Gauls sent to reinforce the fort. Now, it was Vercingetorix whose time was running out.

The construction of the walls of Alesia was a feat of engineering at the time. Still, by thinking outside the box and drawing from his wealth of experience, Caesar formulated a plan that turned his impossible situation into a manageable one.

The same can be said about marketing. Sometimes, you need to approach your problems differently and come up with ideas that may have initially seemed impractical.

3. Always think strategically

Following his rapid conquest of Gaul, Caesar’s political opponents in Rome feared the general was becoming too powerful. This led his main adversary, Pompey Magnus, to urge the senate to strip Caesar of both his newly-acquired provinces and command of his loyal armies.

This would have left Caesar powerless, so he made a decision that forever changed western Europe and, thus, the entire world: he crossed the Rubicon with his forces and thrust the republic into civil war.

After a long and bloody conflict that turned brother against brother, Caesar eventually forced Pompey to retreat to Egypt. Though, when he followed him to the breadbasket of the Mediterranean, Caesar was presented with Pompey’s head, as the boy-king of Egypt, Ptolemy XIII, had him killed in a supposed act of support.

Instead of celebrating Pompey’s death, Caesar reportedly broke down and wept, as no Roman deserved such an unceremonious death. He then used the death of his old foe as a casus belli to invade Egypt, or rather, install a Roman-friendly ruler on the throne: Cleopatra.

Whether Caesar was truly distraught over Pompey’s death, or it was simply a ruse designed to claim even more territory for the republic, is unknown. Regardless, he saw an opportunity and took it, eventually incorporating some of Rome’s wealthiest provinces into the empire.

Thinking strategically in your marketing is also of the utmost importance. Doing so will help you identify new opportunities when they arise, and you’ll know exactly how to take advantage of them.

For example, say a new trend has caught your eye; if you are thinking strategically, you may be able to quickly devise a marketing strategy that relates to this trend before others do.

4. Lead, don’t control

When Julius Caesar was commanding his legions, his men would have followed him to the ends of the earth. He didn’t see his soldiers as expendable tools to achieve his goals, but rather as men who were heroically laying down their lives for the glory of the republic.

During the battle of Alesia, Caesar was beset on all sides by Gallic tribespeople, and his defences started to crumble. When it seemed as though the Gauls were about to push through a gap in the wall, Caesar reportedly grabbed a shield and ran towards the front line, plugging the hole in his defences.

Caesar’s men saw this timely rally and started fighting with reinvigorated strength, eventually pushing back the Gauls and seizing victory. Even though Caesar was an important figure, his men were inspired by his bravery and willingness to lead from the front, which could explain why his soldiers loved him.

When he later returned to Rome following the defeat of Pompey and the end of the civil war, Caesar’s leadership quickly turned to control. He started the process of turning the Roman Republic away from “democracy”, and towards totalitarianism.

This was a line many of his closest allies weren’t willing to cross. For instance, his oldest friend and a man who was essentially his brother, Titus Labienus, felt Caesar was defiling everything the republic stood for and turned his back on him.

Caesar’s decision to tighten his grip over Rome politically was ultimately his downfall, as it culminated with his murder on the steps of the senate.

When you’re marketing and operating a business, you should also aim to lead your team, not control them.

If you have a team working under you, leadership implies that you’re giving your team direction and fostering growth, while control suggests you have a tight grip over them.

When you have an inclusive and supportive management style, your team can work to the best of their ability, which could go a long way in improving the quality of your marketing strategies.

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Just like Caesar led many victorious campaigns throughout Europe, Yardstick can help you devise a strong marketing campaign. To find out more, please email us at or call us at 0115 8965 300.

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