Unlike the immortal words of Ulysses Grant: “… War… war never changes.”, marketing does change, however, the more it changes, the more it also stays the same, essentially.
What do marketing and war have in common, though?
Probably more than you think. Let’s find out what the two have in common and what they can bring to your business.
Before we start, though, it’s important to note that most of our knowledge on the topic comes from the book “Marketing Warfare” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
4 Marketing Warfare Strategies
1. Defensive Warfare Marketing Strategy
This tactic is used only by market leaders and established companies that want to protect their brand. As the name suggests, the market leader aims to defend their position, therefore this strategy is not appropriate for secondary businesses in the field.
In a nutshell, here are the main principles of a defensive warfare marketing strategy:
- Only the market leader uses it. It’s pointless for a brand to be defensive, unless they’re on top.
- The best defense is to attack yourself. Address your own weaknesses, and launch products/services with improved features. Do not wait on standby for a new player to come and win over market share.
- Block strong moves by the competition. In case a strong competitor manages to arise, act immediately, copy their innovations and strengthen your position.
Example: You are a leader within the baby shampoo industry. One of your main competitors releases a no-tears baby shampoo, and you instantly react by launching your own no-tears shampoo, accompanied by a “only smiles” slogan.
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2. Offensive Warfare Marketing Strategy
This is a strategy for strong competitors, looking to penetrate the top of the market, and to directly challenge any opposition, including the leader. These are typically big companies that are just behind the top player.
The main ideas behind an offensive warfare marketing strategy are:
- The strength of the leader. In the position of a #2 or #3 company, you should always monitor what the leader is doing. It’s important to be mindful of your current position in the market, and avoid making mistakes.
- Finding weaknesses. Look for the weak spots, and use them to your advantage. It’s essential to differentiate weak spots from weaknesses, as the leader likely has enough funds to counter-attack.
- Launching a focused attack. When the time comes, do not make the mistake of attacking in several directions. Instead, focus your efforts on one thing, and don’t waste time and resources.
Example: Your burger joint has managed to become one of the top 3 burger businesses. In an effort to become number one, you launch a new keto burger that has no buns, and includes three types of meat. The burger company that is ahead of you tries introducing their own keto burger, but you’ve already thought about that. The very next day, you release another keto burger with even more meat, and you lower the price of your original keto burger.
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3. Guerilla Warfare Marketing Strategy
The guerilla marketing warfare strategies are a lifeline for small companies. The essential here is to adapt your tactics to your competitors.
These are the core principles of the guerilla marketing strategy:
- Focus on a niche segment that you can protect. The classic guerilla strategy dictates that you should focus on a niche segment, in which you have certain power, and therefore can protect your positions from the leader.
- Never act like a leader. Even if you achieve great results, never allow yourself the luxury of behaving like a leader. Leaders often become lazy, due to their dominance, and you can’t do that, as it could lead to disastrous consequences.
- Always be flexible. If you lose a battle, that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. You need to, however, quickly get your act together and to return to the battlefield. Flexibility is the main strength of a guerilla.
Guerilla marketing has several types, as listed by Ries and Trout:
- Geographic guerillas
- Demographic guerillas
- Industry guerillas
- Product guerillas
- High-End guerillas
Example: Your small business, operating in the field of home decorations and improvements, is just about to launch a new paint sprayer. Then you proceed to paint the wall outside your store – half with a regular roller, and the other half with your paint sprayer. It’s a low-cost, low-effort creative idea. And even if it doesn’t have the greatest impact, you should continue to be flexible and look for ways to advertise yourself.
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4. Flanking Warfare Marketing Strategy
This is a high-end strategy that requires careful planning and to a certain extent – boldness. The goal is for a company to capture a segment of the market that either has a gap or is not very well covered.
Here are the main rules of a flanking marketing strategy:
- Stand out. A great flanking maneuver means that you should aim to cover a niche that is in need of something new. Be the first to create a marketing segment, offer something exclusive that buyers are looking for.
- Surprise your opponents. One of your main advantages is the element of surprise. Don’t waste valuable time in marketing research and testing – nobody should know about your plans. One thing you can be sure about is that competition is always alert, and will do everything possible to learn about your plans, so be as quiet as possible, until the time comes to revolutionize with your new product/service.
- Don’t stop pursuing profit. Remember to always focus on your most profitable products. Do not devote time and efforts into products/services that aren’t. When you manage to create a new product/service, use the time you have to actively build an impenetrable competitive advantage, before others have figured out how to react.
In their book, Ries and Trout suggest that the following moves are beneficial when conducting a flanking marketing strategy:
- Flanking with low price
- Flanking with high price
- Flanking with small size
- Flanking with large size
- Flanking with distribution
- Flanking with product form
- Flanking with fewer calories
Example: You notice the public’s demand for ecological products, and within your industry – the beauty industry – no one is offering such products. You become the first to release a series of biodegradables like bamboo toothbrushes, no package soaps, recyclable lipstick tubes, etc. These products start to get profitable, so you continue to release more and more, establishing yourself as the industry leader.
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What do you think about these marketing warfare strategies? Has your company ever tried any of them, or perhaps you’re thinking of applying one or more?
Do you know of any good examples that prove the effectiveness of offensive, defensive, guerilla, or flanking marketing tactics?
Let us know in the comments.