Hungry For Business – 5 Business Lessons You Can Learn From The Hunger Games

Have you seen the movie or read the book The Hunger Games?  I was fortunate enough to have a date night with my wonderful wife and we decided to head to the theaters.  It is amazing how much you can learn from sources you never expected if you keep an open mind.

The movie was pretty good, but not near as good as the book.  There is no way movie makers can fit the detail from a book into a 1 1/2 hour movie but they tried.  I finished up the audio book a few weeks before seeing the movie so it was still fresh in my mind and I was able to let my mind drift ever so slightly, considering what lessons can be learned from this unexpected source.  So here are 5 things I learned from The Hunger Games that can help your business:

WARNING: I discuss many things about the story so if you are one of those people who hates spoilers, bookmark this post, read the book, then come back.

5 Business Lessons You Can Learn From The Hunger Games

1.  There is a difference between what really happened and what the world hears about

You may have a different opinion, but I often equate books (even fiction books) as a form of reality and the movie version of the story something different.  All too often, when books are made into movies, screen writers and directors do the best they can be within the confines of the time, but a lot of the detail and back story is omitted.  I saw this with The Hunger Games.  Much of the detail that made the book come alive was left out due to time constraints.  On top of that, much of the book was narration and the thoughts of the main character, Katniss Everdeen.  It is difficult to show what people are thinking in a movie.

In business, there is often a disconnect between the business plan and how the world views a business.  Businesses make marketing plans, financial plans, and every other kind of plans imaginable.  All those plans create a narrative describing how the leaders of the business what things to go.  By the time the plan is implemented by the front line workers, the world sees a result that is often quite different from the plans.  The leaders of the business (the authors) work with the managers (the screen writers) to execute the plan the best way possible so that the customers (viewers) are satisfied.  No business strategy ever survives first contact with the customer.

Take Action: Understand that the plans you make for your business will be changed to fit the constraints of the business.  Instead of getting frustrated: focus on the key parts, include enough detail to accomplish your plan, and keep the big picture in mind so the whole thing makes sense to your customers.

2.  You don’t have to destroy anything or anyone to win, you only need to survive

In the story, the strategy of several tributes was to just survive, not to fight with the others.  Knowing that the strongest will usually win in a straight fight, so why go head-to-head with them?  The strong tributes often had one thing on their minds which left them distracted when it came to supplies, allowing one cunning competitor to take small bits of the supplies and remain unnoticed.

In business, no one wants to go head-to-head with Google, Microsoft, or any other large company. If you are in a market where the larger companies are competing, why not focus on a niche that the other businesses have ignored.  You often can’t beat Walmart on price, but can you beat them by offering products or services they don’t offer?

Take Action: If you don’t have to compete with other businesses, don’t.  Instead, focus on market segments that others have ignored or are not serving well.  By the time the big businesses notice, they may be the ones trying to catch up.

3.  Without the necessities, you can’t survive for long

Many military strategies include knocking out the supply lines of the enemy.  In the movie, that is exactly what Katniss and Rue conspire to do.  They knew that without a steady supply of easy food, the other tributes would have to focus on survival instead of hunting the other tributes.  Since the career tributes had always focused on offensive training, they could not feed themselves, focusing only on the initial stores of food and supplies.

Many businesses depend on external funding, wooing investors for millions of dollars even when they have no profits.  These businesses build and build, hiring more and more people, and expanding as fast as they dare.  If the investments ever dry up, the businesses are likely to fail unless they can learn quickly how to monetize their work.  They have to make sales and produce income or go bankrupt.

Take Action:  While external funding can be a great thing, never forget the reason most businesses are started is to make a profit, not to survive long enough to be bought by a bigger company.  A business must have a source of good talent, some profits coming in, and a sales force able to bring in the clients.  You don’t have to focus purely on profits, but ignore them at your own peril.

4.  If you can get someone’s attention in a big way, they will remember

Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire.  That is what they called her.  The costume that was created for her and Peeta in the opening ceremonies included fake flames that had everyone is awe.  Even if they didn’t like the costumes, the flames were very memorable.  Also, the tribute score given to Katniss, 11 out of 12, cemented her in the minds of all the spectators, not to mention the stunt she pulled to get that score with the game makers.

Publicity and brand recognition can have a tremendous impact on a business.  For a business to really prosper, they need what is often referred to as Top of Mind consideration.  When a customer thinks of a problem, the first solution that comes to their mind is the Top of Mind consideration.  Years ago, when you wanted a hamburger, McDonald’s was the first thing many people thought of.  For you, each problem you face brings up particular solutions in your mind.  For a business, being at the top of that list is golden.

Take Action:  Consider a strategy where you appear everywhere in your niche.  For example, if you are a bicycle manufacturing company, you could sponsor events, teams, and online communities as well as participate in activities that your customers are passionate about.  Maybe you make mountain bikes and start a program to spruce up local riding trails or clean up parks.  By doing good and being everywhere, customers will think of you first when they are looking for your product.

5.  Be careful what you do only for show; you may just have to live up to the expectations

Katniss and Peeta are in love… or are they?  Is this just a strategy to woo the audience and The Capital? Maybe, but what happens in the end?  How long will they have to keep up the act?  By putting on this act, did Katniss dig a hole for herself and everyone else that will leave them trapped?

As technology gets better and more people have smart phones, information sharing is getting easier and easier.  Businesses have to consider how their actions are viewed by the customers.  If a business talks about their desire to help the environment but pollutes the local rivers and doesn’t recycle, people will catch on very quickly.  What happens if your latest publicity stunt works better than expected but is contrary to your business strategy?  Are you willing to change your plan to live up to the expectation you created?

Take Action: Be careful what you agree to, you may just have to deliver.  If you advertise that you have excellent customer service, you better have excellent customer service or else the customers will find out and let the world know.  A good strategy is to create reasonable expectations and then over-deliver.  If executed properly, you will create life-long fans and customers.


There they are, 5 things you can learn from The Hunger Games that can help your business.  I hoped you learned some tips to help you succeed and survive in the arena.  Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

(Note: Links on this page directed to products are affiliate links.  If you decide to purchase through these links, I earn a small commission and appreciate your support.)

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