5 Branding Hacks I learned from Rorion Gracie

If you had 30 minutes 1-on-1 with Rorion Gracie, what would you ask him? 

I was fortunate enough to share a car ride with Rorion, and listen first hand to his stories of how he completed his life’s mission of spreading Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the world (and making mad money doing it). 

Who is Rorion Gracie?

Rorion Gracie is a Brazilian business mogul, co-founder of the UFC, a branding extraordinaire, and the main reason you’ve heard of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The Gracies are the single most influential family in martial arts history, and I believe that much of their branding success is due to Rorion’s growth-hacking mindset. 

5 Business Hacks

I asked him about his personal story and his branding principles. Here are my 5 biggest takeaways:

 1. Sell a product you’re willing to die for 

His chief principle on launching and selling a successful product comes down to the product itself. If you don’t believe in it, get out now. Rorion literally lives Gracie Jiu Jitsu and will defend it ‘til the day he dies. He believed it was unlike anything the world had seen before, and he was right. Are you willing to die for your product?

  2. Create a referral program

When Rorion first moved to California, he taught BJJ out of his garage. The first class was free. He pitched a second free class if you brought a friend back with you. His initial business plan was as simple as that, and it worked. 

Dropbox came around 20 years later and successfully used the same principle, refer a friend and get extra storage space. For you non-techies, Meundies.com is a popular underwear company that gives you $20 off and 20% off to the purchaser if you refer them.  Their product is actually pretty amazing if you like a silky smooth feeling caressing your mansack or lady parts. Use this link http://fbuy.me/bLGM6 while you’re at it. See? Deliver a quality product and create an incentivized referral program, and people will do the advertising work for you. 

3.  Sell a product before it exists   

 Rorion sold the infamous Gracie Jiu Jitsu book before it was ever printed. (I will post the entirety of the story in the near future, it’s worth noting that he hustled hard to make the book.)

At first, Rorion couldn’t find a way to produce the book with potential publishers only willing to give him a whopping 5% of of the sales. Instead of working through someone else, he bought a full-page ad in Black Belt Magazine (at the time it was the only martial arts magazine around). It advertised the first ever Gracie Jiu Jitsu book for $70 along with the option to purchase one of five hundred $250 limited edition, gold-gilded books signed and personally addressed by Grandmaster Helio Gracie himself. The ad ran before any copies were ever printed, and of course he threw in a "buy it now for only $200" to instill a sense of urgency in the buyer's mind.  Rorion ended up making so much money off of the presale alone that he created his own publishing house, Gracie Publications. Keeping 100% of the revenue was much better than 5%.  Lesson learned: presale, presale, presale. 

4.   Be a first mover into new markets

 Rorion moved into new markets as fast as he could and established the Gracie name before any of the competition knew what hit 'em. In the late 80s, he filmed the documentary “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu In Action” which put his art on the map. He burned Gracie Jiu Jitsu onto a CD-ROM, the first of any martial art instruction to exist in CD form.  He created the Gracie Combatives program for self-defense, Gracie Bullyproof for kids, the Gracie Diet, and even made an online training academy for GJJ (to the chagrin of some of the Gracie family who believes the art should only be learned in person). 

First movers are first winners-- look at Instagram superstar butt-model Jen Selter. There are many booty pic copycats out there now, but she was a first mover and established her dominance over the Instagram booty crew. Now she makes stupid money posting pictures solely of her apple bottom. (Yes, that's what our world has come to.) Up and coming social networks like Periscope are the ones to look out for. Move fast, my friends. Jump into new markets and establish your name as quickly as you can, your bank account will thank you for it. 

5.   Share your work with every person you meet

The first rule of Rorion's garage fight club was tell EVERYBODY about fight club. Sure it’s awkward, especially if you’re a semi-introvert like myself, but you need to be proud of what you do (this goes back to principle #1), and you have to tell the world about your product/service. Rorion said he handed out business cards to every single person he met while he was training people out of his garage. He literally dragged a man into his car and forced him to try a class…and the dude loved it. With social media, everyone has a voice, so make yours stand out. Share your passion consistently and effectively, and if you have a solid product, it will eventually hit. 

Rorion Gracie and yours truly after the long trip to Victorville

Rorion Gracie and yours truly after the long trip to Victorville

Many of these principles Rorion used are exactly the same as can be found in the popular new-age marketing book, “Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday.  Rorion was constantly one step ahead of the game, and, thanks to his smarts, he created a martial arts revolution. In many ways, I probably wouldn’t be living the life I am now without Rorion’s influence on martial arts and the UFC.  Thank you, Rorion Gracie.

Be sure to subscribe so you can hear my other Rorion stories, including how to get out of speeding tickets, sneaking through military bases, and how to hustle money as a homeless man. 

How will you implement any of these hacks for your own business or personal branding campaigns?