The Epitome of Loyalty Marketing, Samurais and The Bushido Code

27 Jun 2024

7 Samurai-Inspired Principles for Marketers

Maybe it’s that extra long binge-watching session of three Shogun episodes in one evening. Perhaps it’s simply the prevalent appeal of the mystical Samurai and their code of honour.

If any modern marketer were to go down the rabbit hole of customer loyalty-driven ACos, CLVs, and MMRs, then the universal appeal of the mystical Samurai may lend us some timeless lessons. I’ve had a fantastic time formulating 7 Samurai-inspired Principles below.

These principles can guide and inspire any strategist in overcoming marketing challenges when it comes to fostering unwavering customer loyalty.

In the rich tapestry of Japanese culture, the Samurai warriors stand as paragons of discipline, honor, and, most notably, loyalty. 

But first, eyes on the prize:

The holy grail of FMCG companies is to get on the shopping lists of as many consumers as possible. Building next-level loyalty in this segment can be quite the quest. From disruptive technological advancements to shifting consumer preferences, FMCG brands must navigate a complex web of challenges to sustain growth and maintain a competitive edge.

The good and the bad: Shoppers have so many choices. Epic. We all love options. It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult to develop loyalty to a single brand. The ugly truth: It’s harder for brands to cut through on social media. Shoppers are distracted and hard to reach. Three-quarters of consumers switched to a new store, product, or buying method during the pandemic. McKinsey & Company proves that up to 75% of consumers exhibit new shopping behavior, including interacting with new stores and brands.

And just to sweeten the challenge further…There is a not-so-quiet rumble in the jungle of information out there: Brand Agnosticism may be an additional challenge for marketers to face and overcome.

Brand Agnosticism isn’t necessarily a conscious choice. It also isn’t simply a price point decision. In a nutshell, brand agnosticism “refers to a consumer who does not show a preference for one brand over another”. As opposed to brand loyal consumers, brand agnostic consumers are more so motivated by discounts, their personal values, product/service quality, and emotional connections.

What, then, is the way forward?

Well, recognising the problem can often lead to the solutions. This article hones in on eliciting emotional engagement. By focusing on creating a strong brand identity, emotional connection, and exceptional experiences, a brand can reduce brand agnosticism and create a loyal customer base.

Let’s go medieval on this problem. We summon the Samurai Warrior and 7 Bushido Principles:

Introduction to the Principles:

In the competitive landscape of the FMCG sector, building and maintaining customer loyalty is paramount. By drawing inspiration from the timeless principles of Bushido, we can craft a marketing strategy that not only attracts customers, but also builds a community and nurtures lasting customer relationships.

Each of the seven principles—Righteousness, Loyalty, Honor, Respect, Honesty, Courage, and Consistency—offers a unique perspective on how to engage with customers authentically and effectively.

By applying these Bushido-inspired principles to your FMCG marketing strategy, you can address the challenges of loyalty with a holistic and ethical approach, ensuring your customers feel valued and engaged.

1. Righteousness (義 - Gi): Ethical Engagement

  • Principle: Always act with integrity and put the customer's best interests first.
  • Application: Ensure your marketing practices are transparent and ethical. Avoid misleading claims and focus on providing true value to your customers. Ethical engagement builds trust and loyalty over time.
  • Case Study we love: Lego. Their ‘Rebuild the World’ campaign perfectly captures the boundless creativity of their brand – creativity that knows no limits, and celebrates bringing people together to rebuild, create and experiment. The campaign encourages children – and adults – to let their imaginations run free, using LEGO bricks to rebuild the world as they’d like to see it.
  • It also contains a poignant reminder of the power of play and creativity, celebrating young people’s optimism, imagination and resilience in an ever-changing, complex world. When FMCG brands celebrate what makes their customers happy, this is righteousness at its finest.

2. Loyalty (忠義 - Chūgi): Customer-Centric Focus

  • Principle: Stay devoted to understanding and meeting the needs of your customers.
  • Application: Use data analytics to gain insights into customer preferences and tailor your offerings accordingly. Show your customers that you are committed to their satisfaction through personalized experiences and responsive customer service.
  • Case Study We Love: Imagine it’s the start of 2019, and Amazon faces a confusing problem. Even though more people are visiting the website, sales did not follow. It was a big deal, and figuring out the root of the problem was not easy.
  • Amazon needed to know which customers weren’t buying stuff, their behaviours, and why the old methods of showing them personalised items weren’t working. It was a complicated issue that needed a smart and modern solution. Amazon levelled up on their SaaS: They used machine learning to understand different types of customers better.
  • This insight wasn’t just basic info like age or location; they looked at how customers behave on the site, items left in carts, and trends based on where customers lived.
  • Takeaway: FMCG brands must track the Right Metrics: You must look at several key numbers to understand what’s happening. Having lots of data is good, but being able to use it to make smart decisions is what counts.

3. Honor (誠 - Makoto): Brand Integrity

  • Principle: Uphold the integrity of your brand in all marketing efforts.
  • Application: Maintain consistent messaging and quality across all channels. Honour your brand promises by delivering reliable products and services. A strong, honourable brand fosters customer trust and loyalty.
  • Case Study we Love: Apple is hard to beat. "Think Different” by Apple has cultivated a niche following that in some ways resembles a cult. Now more of a lifestyle brand than a tech brand,"Think different" helps create a unified brand position that keeps its loyalists coming back to the Apple store every time. But the brand promises don’t stop there.
  • Have you seen their Mother Nature campaign? Brilliant. Though critiqued as cringy, greenwashing and “greenhushing,” The Apple ad was, however, effective.
  • Sometimes, there’s no good way to talk about the world's largest company and its massive environmental footprint, so it might as well not take itself too seriously.

4. Respect (礼 - Rei): Customer Appreciation

  • Principle: Show genuine respect and appreciation for your customers.
  • Application: Implement loyalty programs that reward repeat purchases and long-term engagement. Use social media and other platforms to acknowledge and thank your customers regularly. Respectful marketing demonstrates that you value your customers' patronage.
  • Case Study we Love: Marc Jacobs is one of the first brands that celebrated their most loyal followers. They ditched the casting portfolios and high-profile models used for previous campaigns to give its Fall 2014 range a social media twist. Nine fans appeared in the ads, after being narrowed down from more than 70,000 who applied to the open casting call. They experienced a 12 per cent sales lift from this campaign, a UGC and Influencer Marketing Campaign that fanned the fires of its fans’ maniacal love.
  • Takeaway : Gone are the days when an Influencer Marketing Program meant paying someone $10k for 3 posts on Instagram. Consider your community, Build them a space, Connect with them. It’s a Love Potion like no other.

5. Honesty (誠 - Makoto): Transparent Communication

  • Principle: Be honest and straightforward in all communications.
  • Application: Ensure your marketing messages are clear, accurate, and truthful. Transparent communication about product benefits, pricing, and promotions builds trust and encourages repeat business.
  • Case Study We Love : In a world where celebrity endorsements can cost a fortune, Surreal Cereal took a different route. Unable to afford A-list celebrities, the brand turned this limitation into, well, an honest-to-goodness opportunity. They scoured the streets and social media to find everyday individuals who just happened to share names with famous personalities like Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, and Dwayne Johnson. The brand hit $2.5M in revenue at 155% ROI on Search Campaigns.
  • Takeaway: Authenticity speaks volumes, As does  humour.

6. Courage (勇 - Yū): Innovative Adaptation

  • Principle: Have the courage to innovate and adapt to changing customer needs.
  • Application: Embrace new marketing technologies and strategies to stay relevant. Demonstrate diversity at the heart of your brand. Experiment with creative campaigns and be willing to pivot when necessary. Courageous marketing demonstrates your commitment to evolving with your customers.
  • Case Study We Love: Dove “Real Beauty”
    Thisfamous campaign also illustrates having the courage to step out beyond the traditional and expected work that was so typical in the health and beauty category. Moving beyond perfect, beautiful models was risky, but it was also courageous.
  • For marketing executives, the Dove “Real Beauty” program remains a model for how to generate viral impressions and revitalize brand loyalty. What made the “Real Beauty” program unique was that it changed the conversation about what makes women beautiful and provided multiple channels for people to participate in the discussion.
  • Takeaway: Adding diversity to your brand does not mean showcasing ethnicities. Brand managers and marketing executives who want to achieve a similar result should think about adding new voices to their own brand conversation.

7. Consistency (孝 - Kō): Reliable Experience

  • Principle: Provide a consistent and reliable customer experience.
  • Application: Ensure that every touchpoint, from product quality to customer service, reflects a consistent standard of excellence. Consistency in experience reinforces customer trust and fosters long-term loyalty.
  • Case Study we Love: No matter where you are in the world, Coca Cola promises the same set of principles: happiness, sharing and family. These brand pillars are consistently, universally and passionately embedded into their core values.
  • Kicking things off with one of the most iconic Coca Cola campaigns of all time, the Hilltop advertisement of 1971 depicts people on a hilltop, singing together – backed by The New Seekers’ track ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.’ Over thirty years later, the company’s valued ‘share a coke with’ sentiment still enables the brand to create more personalised customer experiences for their target audience, and beyond.


By drawing inspiration from the loyalty of Samurai warriors and the principles of Bushido, modern marketers can develop strategies that cultivate deep, lasting customer relationships. Loyalty, when practiced with the dedication and integrity exemplified by the Samurai, becomes a powerful tool in building a brand that customers not only choose but also champion. As you delve into the world of Bushido-inspired marketing, remember that true loyalty is earned through unwavering commitment, ethical conduct, and consistent excellence.

This connection between the Samurai's practice of the Bushido code and the epitome of loyalty can serve as a strong foundation for your loyalty campaigns, providing a compelling narrative that aligns with both historical values and modern marketing strategies.

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