A Marketing Lesson from the Ninja Turtles

I have fond childhood memories of sitting on the couch with my little brother, watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fight bad guys and eat pizza.

I didn’t care for other 90s TV franchises (I’m looking at you, Power Rangers), but the turtles held a special place in my heart.

So when I came across the following essay from Mark Ford, I was intrigued. What exactly is the ‘Ninja Turtle marketing strategy’ — and how can it help you?

The Ninja Turtle Marketing Strategy
Mark Ford

About 15 years ago, travelling to California with my wife and our youngest son, I met one of the originators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

He was sitting next to my son. We got to talking. My son was a big fan of the turtles back then. This guy, I forget his name, drew a turtle for him.

I asked him how he came up with such a creative idea.

‘It wasn’t creative at all,’ he said. ‘It was a calculated marketing strategy.’

This young man was in his early 20s at the time. He and his friends had developed the concept when they were in their teens. It didn’t seem likely to me that they could be so calculating, as he put it, at that age. I figured he was pulling my leg.

But then he explained.

‘We were sitting around one day talking about how cool it would be to have a bestselling comic strip. “To do that,” one of us said, “you’d need to pick something that was really cool with kids who read comic books.”

‘So then we talked about what the coolest things were. We made a list and we decided that the three coolest things were mutants, ninjas and turtles. We made them teenagers because we knew it would be teenagers who we’d be selling to.’

‘Wow!’ I thought. ‘That is a calculated marketing strategy.’

In the years since that conversation, I’ve thought about it many times when brainstorming new products. ‘What is really hot right now?’ I always ask, to get the ball rolling.

By ‘What is hot?’, I mean two things:

  • What are the products our prospects are buying now?
  • What are the topics they are talking about?

The purpose of these questions is to discover their most current thoughts, feelings and desires.

Finding out what prospects are buying now tells you about their recent past. Finding out what they are thinking about gives you a perspective on the near future.

When I brainstorm like this, I am usually searching for a single, powerful idea that I can use to create a new product or promotion. But sometimes I see an opportunity to do something like those kids did with the Ninja Turtles: to create one super-powerful ‘mutant’ product or promotion by combining two or three hot topics or ideas.

Let me give you an example:

The iPhone — one of the most brilliant marketing coups in recent memory.

The iPhone is a beautiful mutant. It is a state-of-the-art mobile phone, a sophisticated MP3 player, and an easy-to-use mobile web browser, all in one.

Of course, it’s much more than that. But these three functions were particularly positioned in the marketing. And for good reason. They are must-haves for everybody from students to business travellers to retirees.

Finally, let me tell you about a business I’ve noticed here in Delray Beach.

It’s a restaurant that offers a large selection of microbrew beer, caters to the ‘foodie’ crowd with gourmet menu items, and restricts itself to tapas-style dining by featuring appetiser-size portions.

If you know anything about the restaurant business, you know that these are three big trends. By combining them in a cohesive way, this restaurant became an instant success during a time when many restaurants have been foundering.

But three ideas at once? Doesn’t this violate my much-touted Rule of One?

Yes and no. The Rule of One states that a marketing campaign does best when it begins with an emphasis on a single idea or benefit. When I see marketers and copywriters throw a bunch of ideas/benefits into the headline and lead of a promotion, I know it’s because they can’t decide which one will pull people in.

The Ninja Turtle strategy is different. It doesn’t come from doubt about which idea/benefit is strongest. It comes from recognising that there are two or three really hot trends in the market at the moment. And it takes advantage of them.

You can’t always use this strategy. Most of the time, the product you are selling cannot be connected with two or three super-hot trends. But when it can — and you can find some way to put them all together in a single package — well, then you can have the Ninja Turtle effect.

In using the Ninja Turtle strategy, be sure your promotional copy follows all the tested and true rules of good promotional writing:

  • Make sure there is a primary benefit for your reader contained in the principal idea.
  • Make sure the copy makes that benefit real, with specific examples of how your reader will experience it in their own life.
  • Make sure it makes claims and proves them — being as specific as possible.

The Ninja Turtle strategy won’t work if your product doesn’t genuinely provide the benefits needed, or if the two or three ideas can’t be coherently linked together.

But when it works, you will sense the power of your copy as you are reading through it yourself. And you will see the benefit of it when your prospects respond to you in droves.


Thanks for sharing, Mark. You’ve certainly shed new light on the Ninja Turtles! Who knew there was so much marketing genius behind this famous foursome?


Michelle Hammond,
Director, Wealth Builders Club Australia

Editor’s Note: Mark has spent more than three decades dispensing wisdom like this…and now he’s compiled it into the most comprehensive wealth-building program in existence…

It’s called the Wealth Builders Club. It includes everything from extra income blueprints (which have the potential to generate thousands of dollars per month) to investment strategies outside the stock market, plus several of Mark’s bestselling books. Click here to learn more.

Michelle is the Director of Wealth Builders Club Australia, a club for the ‘not yet wealthy’. Working alongside Wealth Builders Club founder and multimillionaire Mark Ford, Michelle is committed to enriching the lives of WBCA members by bringing them original, insightful ideas on wealth building, career advancement, and lifestyle.

Previously, Michelle worked as a business journalist, focusing on the Australian start-up sector.

Money Morning Australia