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Marketing Warfare Revisited


Marketing Warfare Revisited Carl Von Clausewitz

Marketing is war my friends. By now most of you have figured that out. And most of you are familiar with Marketing Warfare, a book I wrote with my former partner Al Ries on the strategy and tactics that can and should be implemented on the front lines of marketing.

With help from Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz we concluded many things about the battlefield marketers face. Today on Branding Strategy Insider, I offer a brief re-cap on some of the greater points that will assist you as you head into the fray…

Defensive Position
Called for when your organization is the clear market leader.

1. Only the market leader should consider playing defense.
2. The best defensive strategy is the courage to attack yourself.
3. Strong competitive moves should always be blocked.

Key Points
-You strengthen your position by introducing new products or services that obsolete your existing ones.
-It’s better to take business away from yourself than have someone else do it for you.
-Attacking yourself may sacrifice short-term profits, but it has one fundamental benefit. It protects market share, the ultimate weapon in any marketing battle.
-When you own the pie, you should try to increase the size of the pie, rather than of your slice.

Offensive Position
Called for when your organization is # 2 or 3 in the market, and you have the resources to sustain a challenge to the leader.

1. The main consideration is the strength of the leader’s position.
2. Find a weakness in the leader’s strength and attack at that point.
3. Launch the attack on as narrow a front as possible.

Key Points
-What’s good strategy for the leader is bad strategy for #2, and vice versa.
-“Where absolute superiority is not attainable,” says Clausewitz, “you must produce a relative one at the decisive point by making skilled use of what you have.”
-There’s weakness in strength, if you can find it.

Flanking Position
Called for when your organization is 4-6 in the market, and you have the resources to pursue your flanking move, sewing up that market segment.

1. A good flanking move must be made into an uncontested area.
2. Tactical surprise ought to be an important element of the plan.
3. The pursuit is as critical as the attack itself.

Key Points
-The success of a flanking attack often hinges on your ability to create and maintain a separate category.
-Flanking skill requires exceptional foresight. The reason is that in a true flanking attack, there is no established market for the new product or service.
-Reinforce success, abandon failures. What if  you don’t have the resources to follow up the launch of a successful flanking attack (the “pour it on” principle)? Perhaps you shouldn’t have launched a flanking attack in the first place. Perhaps you should have waged guerrilla warfare.

Guerrilla Warfare
Appropriate for the other 96 organizations in a 100 org market.

1. Find a segment of the market small enough to defend.
2. No matter how successful you become, never act like the leader.
3. Be prepared to bug out at a moment’s notice.

Key Points
-There’s a critical difference between flanking and guerrilla warfare. A flanking attack is deliberately launched close to the leader’s position. The objective of a flanking attack is to bleed or unravel the leader’s share.

-How small a market should a guerrilla set its sights on? That’s where judgment comes in. Try to pick a segment small enough so that you can become the leader – but never act like the leader. Successful guerrillas operate with a different organization and a different timetable. Get as high a percentage of your personnel on the firing line as possible.

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1 Comment

Hanzo Ng on June 22nd, 2009 said

I’ve read this book many years ago and it’s awesome. In fact I’ve read every Al Ries’ book and remains as my fundamental marketing strategy.

I like this point: No matter how successful you become, never act like the leader.

It’s so true how the bigger we get the more arrogant and ignorant we become. It’s always good to remind ourselves that we are 100 small companies or units operating under one name. That way we always innovate and stay ahead.

Thanks for the recap.

~ Hanzo Ng

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