#43 Guru Mark Rober: It’s the Pits… And You’re Winning
December 28, 2021
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Mark Rober is a science YouTuber with millions of followers. On his channel, he makes science… fun! He assembles giant Nerf guns and Super Soakers, liquifies sand in a hot tub, and contrives all manner of quirky yet always educational activities.

And believe it or not, us marketers can learn a lot from Rober’s approach. But, just like in his YouTube video experiments, finding the link between his methodology and marketing isn’t a linear journey.

Are you ready to fall into a few pits before you reach the castle? Then hit that play button, and let’s get started!


What Does Super Mario Have to Do With It?

Nintendo released Super Mario Brothers when Rober was a kid, and playing that now-iconic video game was the highlight of his and his friends’ young lives. All they would talk about is how to get to that castle at the end of the game and rescue the princess. It didn’t matter how many times they died, how many “lives” they had to lose in the process.

Many decades later, around 2017, Rober ran a test on about 50,000 of his followers. He had them play, unbeknownst to them, two versions of a simple programming game. The only difference between the games was that one took an arbitrary number of points away from you if you couldn’t solve the puzzle.

When he analyzed the data from the game plays, he found that the puzzle players who didn’t have points taken away from them had a greater success rate (68% compared to 52%) and attempted the puzzle more times.

Mulling over this experience and that of being obsessed with “winning” Super Mario as a kid, Rober realized that failure didn’t matter. In fact, it was a necessary part of the process.

“This is what I call the Super Mario Effect: focusing on the princess and not the pits to stick with a task and to learn more” he explains. “This caused me to reflect and realize that there were lots of other examples from my own personal experience where this attitude of life gamification, this Super Mario Effect, led to more success and therefore more learning.”


A Novel Twist on Gamification

While gamification is a well-established concept today, it’s still relatively underutilized and, arguably, not well understood by marketers. Have a go at applying Rober’s Super Mario Effect to your strategies; you’ll find it has the potential to motivate your staff and reward your customers.

You might not need your customers to build a giant Nerf gun, but by using gamification in your marketing efforts, you might be able to convince them to buy one.


Do you think the Super Mario Effect has real-world applications in marketing practice today? Or do you think it has more use as a personal life hack?

We want to hear your thoughts! So share them (and this article) on your socials and drop us—Viral Octopus—a tag. And if you need more marketing advice, be sure to browse the other guru insights on this page.