April 4, 2020

Once upon a time, a powerful emperor advertised for a new “Chief Samurai.”

Only three applied for the job:

1. A Japanese Samurai
2. A Chinese Samurai
3. A Jewish Samurai

 “Demonstrate your skills!” commanded the Emperor.

The Japanese samurai stepped forward, opened a tiny box, and released a fly.

He drew his samurai sword and…Swish!–the fly fell to the floor, neatly divided in two.

“What a feat!” said the emperor.

The Chinese samurai stepped forward, opened a tiny box, releasing a fly as well.

He drew his samurai sword and…Swish! Swish! –the fly fell to the floor, neatly quartered.

 “That is even a bigger feat and an exceptional skill! How are you going to top that, number three samurai?”

The Jewish samurai stepped forward, opened a tiny box, also releasing a fly.

He drew his samurai sword, and…Swoooooosh! –he flourished his sword so mightily that a gust of wind blew through the room.

But the fly was still buzzing around.

The emperor was clearly disappointed and said:

“What kind of skill is that? The fly isn’t dead.”

The Jewish Samurai replied:

“Killing the fly is easy. That was a circumcision.”


I shared this story for two reasons:

  1. To emphasize the difference between ninjas and samurais. It’s a subtle distinction that may only be in my mind. But hey…it’s my blog. 🙂
  2. To emphasize how important precision is right now using a “samurai” approach.

Ninja vs. Samurai

I went to “The Google” for the definitions of each that served my purpose.

Here’s the definition of a ninja:

The functions of a ninja included espionage, deception, and surprise attacks. Their covert methods of waging irregular warfare were deemed dishonorable and beneath the honor of the samurai.

In addition, ninjas were known to be mercenaries, spies, assassins…simply put, they were not very nice guys.

And by extension, I’m not sure they are the most pleasant marketers either.

So why do so many in our industry talk about “ninjas” and “ninja tactics” as being best-in-class (or at a minimum, the secrets we all need to know)?

Samurai, on the other hand, has a different meaning.

Although I trust samurais will still kill you if they need to…but with honor and in a noble way.

Back to Google:

The samurai…were Japanese warriors. They were members of the important military class before Japanese society changed in 1868. The word samurai comes from the Japanese verb saburau, which means to serve someone and look up to them.

(Please don’t ask me how a Chinese person or a Jewish person becomes a samurai…that’s above my pay grade—and Google’s too).

Whether you buy into this distinction or not, it has caused me to never use the word “ninja” as a compliment when talking about a great marketer or a marketing technique.

Nor can I think of my students, customers, prospects–or anyone I might serve or sell to– as a victim of deception or surprise attacks. Surprise and delight perhaps.

It is also why I never use the word “tripwire” for a lead magnet…you are aware that a tripwire is a mechanism that blows up the person going through it?

I may be silly but I think it’s counter-productive to blow up your prospective customers (let alone your current customers) into smithereens when you are trying to sell them something.

How can they buy from you if that happens?

I know I’m taking this too far…but my point is this:

Talking or selling to your customers in ways that directly or indirectly refers to them as the enemy could reduce your awareness that lists are people too; and you could eventually (and more easily) take advantage of them.

Since I try to treat my “list” as “family” I will stick with samurai over ninja. Aren’t you happy about that?

Samurai is also where a tripwire becomes a welcome mat and credibility and transparency trump all.


Doing a circumcision on the fly vs. simply cutting the fly in half or in quarters is sort of analogous to how we present ourselves to our online and offline families as samurai.

Simply put: Words matter.

And ideas matter.

Once you start thinking about your students or customers as victims rather than family, you could go down a slippery slope, especially in a period where you feel more desperate to “sell” (for example during a huge distraction in the world…dare I say a pandemic)?

Samurai marketing is just an insurance policy to take the highest road possible.

Take the distinction as you see fit.

But precision in word and in deed is always in fashion.

I wrote this some time ago regarding “samurai creative talent” which is relevant as well (especially right now):

Deploy the samurais rather than the ninjas when it comes to your copy and creative…and hire or network with some heavy hitters, hopefully peers,  who understand direct response copy once you have your list and offer dialed in and your first draft written.

Your creative and copy is the least important part of your promotion or sales letter…until it’s not.

Your product and promotion (which is not a business in itself) is also not just about the newest techniques (although those are important); but fitting all techniques and tactics into a marketing strategy makes way more sense.

You should never adapt your technique (which includes media) to an idea–but always adapt your idea to the technique.

Get those heavy hitters to check your messaging…and your ideas.

Have a sounding board.

Don’t hit send solely on your own judgement.

You can’t write “by committee” but getting opinions from true samurais will give you a chance to hone in more precisely.

And listen carefully to what they tell you about how your copy and offer lands when it gets to your prime prospect — and where you might need to tweak.



P.S. Some resources for you during my weekly tour of the industry…finding out what the best marketers are doing during this COVID 19 period:

1. My discussion with Frank Kern, marketing genius

2. A presentation by Dan Kennedy (courtesy of my friend Mike Capuzzi) from 2009 re: marketing through the “Great Recession.”

Just insert “Pandemic” for “Recession” and listen carefully.

3. Titans Mastermind Summit: Marketing during this challenging time or “I hear there is a pandemic”

This is a group call with my inner circle exchanging ideas.

4. My book, Overdeliveris available as an e-book at $1.99–but only through midnight tonight, Sunday April 5th

Here are the links to buy it at this special price:



Barnes and Noble

P.P.S Hang in there…and keep reading and learning…and if you do that I know you will be so much better on the other side of this.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

  1. Hey Brian,

    Wanna THANK you and tip my hat for your… disguised content!

    Because it is NOT. Why?
    Well, in my culture what you are distilling is WISDOM… “Content” simply undervalues what it is that you are kindly sharing here: IT IS LIFE LESSON…

    Your blog is THE place to hang around, a place of STILLNESS where every word carry such a deep meaning (resonate with me, they say in English?)

    As somebody who has just discovered copywriting and is, currently, learning from AWAI…
    I’m glad you cut all the noise have been exposed to so far and make your blog a place to go to get “initiated”

    Stay safe


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