‘Marketing Warfare’ Category Archives


Principles of Guerrilla Warfare

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

From China to Cuba to Vietnam, history teaches the power of a guerrilla movement. In business, too, a guerrilla has a reservoir of tactical advantages that allows the small company to flourish in the land of the giants. Size, of course, is relative. What’s more important than your own size is the size of your competition. The key to marketing warfare is to the tailor tactics to your competition, not to your own company.

1: Find a segment of the market small enough to defend

It could be small geographically. Or in volume. Or in some other aspect difficult for a larger company to attack. A guerrilla organisation does not change the mathematics of a marketing war (the big company still beats the small company.) Rather a guerrilla tries to reduce the size of the battleground in order to achieve a superiority of force. Try to pick a segment small enough so that you can become the leader. The tendency is to do the opposite, to try to grab as big a market as possible. This could be a mistake.

2: No matter how successful you become, never act like the leader

Most guerrilla companies are lucky their leaders didn’t go to the Harvard Business School to learn how to market like General Motors, General Electric, and General Dynamics. That’s not to say that the business schools of this world don’t produce excellent leaders. They do, for the big companies whose case histories make up the core of their curriculum. But the essence of guerrilla strategy and tactics is the opposite of what’s right for the Fortune 500 crowd. Some corporate employees spend years without ever meeting a customer or seeing a competitive salesperson. Guerrillas should exploit this weakness by getting as high a percentage of their personnel as possible on the firing line. This drastically improves the “quickness” of a guerrilla to respond to changes in the marketplace itself.

3: Be prepared to bug out at a moment’s notice

A company that runs away lives to fight another day. Don’t hesitate to abandon a position or a product if the battle turns against you. A guerrilla doesn’t have the resources to waste on a lost cause. Here’s where the advantage of flexibility and a lean organization really pays off. A guerrilla can often take up a new position without the internal pain and stress that a big company goes through. A lot of infighting has to take place before things get changed in a big company. A small company can change things around without making internal waves. Guerrillas should also use their flexibility to jump into a market quickly when they see
an opportunity.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 10


Principles of Flanking Warfare

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

For most managers, flanking warfare might seem like a military concept with no marketing applications. Not so. Flanking is the most innovative way to fight a marketing war.

Most military commanders devote much of their planning time searching for ways to launch flanking attacks. In both a marketing and a military sense, a flanking operation is a bold move. A big gamble with big stakes. One that requires detailed planning on an hour-by-hour, day-to-day basis.

More than any other form of warfare, flanking requires a knowledge of the principles involved and an ability to visualise how the battle will unfold after the attack is launched:

1: A good flanking move must be made into an uncontested area

A flanking move does not necessarily require a new product unlike anything now on the market. But there must be some element of newness or exclusivity. It may not be obvious, but the success of a flanking attack often hinges on your ability to create and maintain a separate category. Traditional marketing theory might call this approach segmentation. To launch a true flanking attack you must be the first to occupy a segment. Otherwise, it’s just an offensive attack against a defended position.

2: Tactical surprise ought to be an important element of the plan

By its nature, a flanking attack is a surprise attack. The most successful flanking moves are the ones that are totally unexpected. The greater the surprise, the longer it will take the leader to react and try to cover. Unfortunately, great flanking moves are often undermined by test-marketing or too much research, which exposes the strategy to the competition.

3: The pursuit is just as critical as the attack itself.

Too many companies quit after they’re ahead. They achieve their initial marketing targets and then they move resources on to other endeavours. That’s a mistake, especially in a flanking move. Ancient military maxim: Reinforce success, abandon failure. Let’s say a company has five products: three winners and two losers. Who do you think gets the time and attention of top management? That’s right, the losers. It should be just the opposite. Yet for reasons that are more emotional than economic, many companies can’t deal with success. When you have a flanking product that starts to become successful, you ought to really pour it on. Your objective ought to be to win, and win big.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 9


Principles of Offensive Warfare

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

Offensive strategy is exactly the same as defensive strategy, except that it’s exactly the opposite. The two are so closely related it’s hard to separate them.

Leaders should play defensive, not offensive warfare. Offensive warfare is a game for the No. 2 or No. 3 company in a given field. This is a company strong enough to mount a sustained offensive against the leader. If your company is strong enough, it should play offensive war. There are three principles to guide you.

1: The main consideration is the strength of the leader’s position What a No. 2 or No. 3 company should do is focus on the leader. The leader’s product, the leader’s sales force, the leader’s pricing, the leader’s distribution. No matter how strong a No. 2 company is in a certain category or attribute, it cannot win if this is also where the leader is strong. What the leader owns is a position in the mind of the prospect. To win the battle of the mind, you must take away the leader’s position before you can substitute your own. It’s not enough for you to succeed; others must fail. Specifically, the leader.

2: Find a weakness in the leader’s strength and attack at that position

Sometimes leaders have weak points that are just weak points and not an inherent part of their strength. They may have overlooked the point, considered it unimportant or forgotten about it. But there is another kind of weakness, a weakness that gorws out of strength. As the Avis ads used to say, “Rent from Avis. The line at our counter is shorter.” Short of shooting some of its customers, it’s hard to see how Hertz can counter this strategy. This is a weakness inherent in Hertz’s position as the largest rent-a-car company, as it is for most leaders.

3: Launch the attack on as narrow a front as possible

The “full line” is a luxury only leaders can afford. Offensive warfare should be waged with narrow lines, as close to single products as possible. When you attack on a narrow front, you’re putting the principle of force to work for you. You are massing your forces to achieve a local superiority. The marketing army that tries to gain as much territory as fast as possible by attacking all at once on a wide front with a broad line of products will surely lose in the long run all the territory it has gained. And a lot more, too. Yet that’s exactly what many No. 2 or No. 3 companies try to do.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 8


Principles of Defensive Warfare

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

There are three basic principles of defensive marketing warfare. Each is easy to learn but difficult to put into practice.

1: Only the market leader should consider playing defence.

We’ve never met a company that didn’t consider itself a leader. But most companies base their leadership positions more on creative definitions than on market realities. Companies don’t create leaders – customers do. It’s who the customer perceives as the leader that defines a true category leader.

2: The best defensive strategy is the courage to attack yourself.

Because of its leadership position, the defender owns a strong point in the mind of the prospect. The best way to improve your position is by constantly attacking it. You strengthen your position by introducing new products or services that obsolete your existing one. Competition continually struggles trying to catch up. A moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one. Attacking yourself may sacrifice short-term profits, but it protects market share, the ultimate weapon in any marketing battle.

3: Strong competitive moves should always be blocked.

Most companies have only one chance to win, but leaders have two. If a leader misses an opportunity to attack itself, the company can often recover by copying the competitive move. But the leader must move rapidly before the attacker gets established. Many leaders refuse to block because their egos get in the way. Even worse, they knock the competitor’s development until it’s too late to save the situation. Blocking works well for a leader because of the nature of the battleground. Remember, the war takes place in the mind of the prospect., It takes time for an attacker to make an impression in the mind. Usually, there’s time enough for the leader to cover.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 7


The Strategic Square

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

There is no one way to fight a marketing war. Rather there are four. And knowing which type of warfare to fight is the first and most important decision you can make.

Which type to fight depends on your position in a strategic square which is easy to construct for any industry.

Let’s review the battleground in the mind. The mountain, of course, is the high ground owned by the leader.

If you go throw the mountain, then you are fighting an offensive marketing war. Hopefully, you’ll find a valley or crevice that your troops can break through. But the battle is tough, and often costly, because the leader usually has the resources to make strong counterattacks.

If you come down the mountain to stop competitive attacks, then you are fighting a defensive marketing war. And the rule is, the best defence is a good offence.

If you go around the mountain, then you are fighting a flanking marketing war. This is usually the most effective and least expensive type of marketing operation to conduct. But opportunities for good flanking moves are becoming scarce in many product categories.

If you go under the mountain, you are fighting a guerrilla marketing war. You want to select a territory secure enough to defend. Or too small for the leader to bother with.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 6


The Nature of the Battleground

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

Marketing battles are not fought in the customer’s office or in the supermarkets or the drugstores. Those are only distribution points for the merchandise whose brand selection is decided elsewhere.

Marketing battles are not fought in places like Dallas, Detroit, or Denver. At least not in the physical sense of a city or a region.

Marketing battles are fought in a mean and ugly place. A place that’s dark and damp, with much unexplored territory and deep pitfalls to trap the unwary.

Marketing battles are fought inside the mind. Inside your own mind and inside the mind of your prospects, every day of the week. A terrain that is tricky and difficult to understand.

A marketing war is a totally intellectual war with a battleground that no-one has ever seen. It can only be imagined in the mind, which makes marketing warfare of the most difficult disciplines to learn.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 5


The New Era of Competition

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

Aggressiveness alone is not the mark of a good military strategy. Especially aggressiveness as represented by the “more” school of management. More product, more sales people, more meetings, more advertising, more hard work.

Especially more hard work. Somehow we feel better about success if we have to work hard to achieve it. So we schedule more meetings, more reports, more memos, more management reviews.

Yet military history teaches the reverse. A single-minded commitment to winning the battle on effort alone usually dissolves into defeat. The military commander that lets his armies get bogged down in a hand-to-hand slugging match is usually defeated.

Much better are quick, lightning-like strokes that depend more on timing than muscle. (What the Germans call blitzkrieg). Not that muscle, or the principle of force, is not important. Far from it. But unless an attack is properly planned, you throw away your advantage if you let the battle degenerate into a war of attrition. Whenever you hear your commander say “We have to redouble our efforts,” you know you’re listening to a loser talk.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 4


The Superiority of the Defense

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

The biggest mistake marketing people make is failing to appreciate the strength of a defensive position.

The glamour of offensive war and the thrill of victory makes the average marketing manager eager to pick up a lance and go charging off at the nearest entrenched competitor.

The paradox is the fruit of victory. If you can win a marketing battle and become the leading brand in a given category, you can enjoy that victory for a long time. Simply, because you can now play defence, the stronger form of warfare.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 3


The Principle of Force

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

In the military, the numbers are so important that most armies have an intelligence branch known as the order of battle. It informs commanders of the size, location, and nature of the opposing force.

When two companies go head to hear, the same principle applies. God smiles on the large sales force. Given virgin territory, the company with the larger sales force is likely to wind up with the larger share of the market.

Once the market is divided up, the company with the larger share is likely to continue to take business away from the smaller company. The bigger company can afford a bigger advertising budget, a bigger research department, more sales outlet etc. No wonder the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Is there no future for the small competitor? Of course there is, which is one reason why this book was written. “The art of war with a numerically inferior army,” said Napoleon, “consists in always having larger forces than the enemy at the point which is being attacked or defended.”

There’s the illusion, of course, that over the long run, the better product will win. But history, military and marketing, is written by the winners, not the losers. Might is right. Winners always have the better product, and they’re always available to say so.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 2


2500 Years of War

by Tony in Marketing Warfare

At Austerlitz in 1805, perhaps Napoleon’s biggest military success, he didn’t have the big battalions. What he did have was manoeuvrability. He tempted the Austrian-Russian alliance to attack his right flank. Then he manoeuvred his left flank to strike at the enemy’s weakened centre. The result was almost total victory. Rapidity of movement was the key to Napoleon’s success. His troops, he claimed, could march 2 miles to the enemy’s 1. “I may lose a battle,” said Napoleon, “but I shall never lose a minute.”

What about marketing? How many minutes, hours, days, and even weeks are lost in planning, in researching, in test marketing? Precious time often wasted. And the result: another defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

— Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare, Chapter 1