Implementing marketing warfare strategies is the perfect addition to your overall marketing plans and can help to reshape your standing within an industry. Developed in by Al Ries and Jack Trout considered two of the godfathers of marketing , the theory focuses less on customer-oriented campaigns and more on maximizing all areas of a business towards the goal of outshining others. The Four Strategies There are four strategies used in marketing warfare. Each strategy has a specific purpose and can be adopted based on your needs: Defensive — Most commonly used by the market leader to protect their position. Corresponding tactics include campaign efforts to shift consumer perception closer to their brand and away from other competitors.

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Rather, firms would do better by becoming competitor-oriented. If the key to success were to introduce products closest to those wanted by customers, then the market leader simply would be the firm that performed the best market research. Clearly, much more is required. To illustrate their point, Ries and Trout compare marketing to a football game. If a team simply identifies the goal line and moves the ball towards it without regard to the competing team, they most likely will be blocked in their effort.

To win the game, the team must focus its efforts on outwitting, outflanking, or over-powering the other side. This is the case in football, war, and marketing, according to Marketing Warfare.

Because of the importance of the competition faced by the firm, a good marketing plan should include an extensive section on competitors.

Ries and Trout tell the story of several famous battles in history that illustrate lessons of warfare. These battles range from Marathon in B.

The lessons from these famous battles illustrate the concepts of planning, maneuvering, and overpowering the opposing side. These principles are relevant not only to warfare, but also to marketing. Ries and Trout disagree, arguing that once at the top, a company can use the power of its leadership position to stay there.

All other things equal, an army with a larger number of troops has an advantage over smaller armies. A larger vehicle has an advantage over a smaller vehicle in a collision. When several companies enter a new market, the one with the larger sales force is likely to become the leader. The larger company has the resources to outnumber smaller competitors. This is not to say that smaller companies do not stand a chance. Rather, smaller companies must recognize the principle of force and attempt to win the battle by means of a superior strategy, not by brute force.

Some managers may believe that they can overcome a larger competitor through superior employees. Ries and Trout maintain that while it may be possible to assemble a small group of star performers, on a larger scale the employee abilities will approach the mean.

Another argument is that a better product will overcome other weaknesses. Again, Ries and Trout disagree. The way to win the battle is not to recruit superior employees or to develop a superior product. Rather, Ries and Trout argue that to win the battle, a firm must successfully execute a superior strategy.

The Superiority of the Defense An entrenched defense that is expecting an attack has an advantage that can only be overcome by an overwhelmingly larger attacker. For example, a defensive position that is in a trench or foxhole will be shielded from the attackers, and the attackers will suffer many more casualties than the defenders. For this reason, the attackers require a much larger force to overcome the defensive positions. The same is true in marketing warfare. Many companies with insufficient resources have tried unsuccessfully to attack a leader.

A study was made of 25 brands that held the number one position. Sixty years later, 20 of those 25 brands still held the number one position. It is very difficult to overtake the market leader. The element of surprise helps the attacker, but when the market leader is large the attackers also must be large, and the logistics of launching a large scale attack or a large promotional campaign are such that the element of surprise is difficult to maintain and the defensive position becomes yet more difficult to upset.

When the defenders are taken by surprise, it usually is because they ignored warnings or did not take them seriously. The New Era of Competition Increasingly, one hears marketing terms that are borrowed from the vocabulary of military strategy. From "launching a breakthrough campaign" to the "cola wars", the analogy between marketing and warfare is evident. As in military strategy, it is unwise for a firm to publicly state deadlines for its victory.

Deadlines often are missed, and the firm loses credibility in the propaganda war if it fails to live up to a prediction. Politicians who are wise to this rule tend to make their campaign promises vague. Publicly stated marketing promises should be vague for the same reason. Firms also should avoid the trap of thinking that if they work hard enough, they will succeed in their attack.

Ries and Trout argue that it is strategy and not hard work that determines success. In warfare, when a battle turns to hand-to-hand combat, the advantage resulting from the strategic plan no longer exists. In marketing, a firm achieves victory through a smarter strategy, not by spending longer hours with meetings, reports, memos, and management reviews. When management declares that it is time to "redouble our efforts", then the marketing battle has turned to hand-to-hand combat and is likely to end in defeat.

The Nature of the Battleground In military warfare, a battle often is named after the geographic location where it took place - for example, The Battle of Waterloo.

Ries and Trout argue that marketing battles do not take place in geographic areas, nor in stores. Rather, marketing battles take place in the mind of the consumer. Before a military battle, the battlefield usually is mapped and studied in great detail. In marketing, market research traditionally has served this function.

However, Ries and Trout propose that the most important information is to know which positions are held by which companies in the mind of the consumer. In other words, who holds the high ground. In military warfare, mountains and higher altitude areas represent strong positions and often are used to present a strong defense.

For example, in the U. Mountains often are segmented and competitors may launch different brands each targeting a specific segment. Too often, the leader responds by attempting to counterattack in each segment, only to fail and even to lose its original leadership position. There often is a significant market share gap between two competitors such that each has approximately a factor of two more market share compared to the next weaker competitor.

For this discussion, assume that there are four firms and each is approximately twice the size of the next closest to it. In such an environment, each of the four firms has different objectives: Number 1 firm: market domination Number 2 firm: increased market share Number 3 firm: profitable survival Number 4 firm: survival According to Ries and Trout, the main competitor of the market leader that holds the majority of market share is not one of the other firms in the industry, but rather, the government.

If the market leader attempts to grow larger, then anti-trust issues will be raised. If a major market leader wins the marketing war and causes the next largest firm to exit the market, then the government may take steps to break up the firm that is dominating the market. Consequently, the best strategy for such a firm is a defensive one. The reason is that the gaining of market share from the number three firm is unlikely to make a large impact on the much larger number two firm.

However, there are potentially significant rewards if market share can be gained from the dominant firm. The number three firm is too small to sustain an offensive attack on a larger firm. Its best strategy often is to launch a flanking attack, avoiding direct competition, for example, by launching a product that is positioned differently from those of the larger firms.

The smallest firm probably does not have sufficient resources to launch any type of sustained attack. If it launched a flanking product, a larger competitor likely would launch a similar one and would have the resources to win more customers. The smallest firm would do best to pursue a guerrilla strategy, identifying a segment that is large enough to be interesting to the small firm but not large enough to attract competition from any of the larger firms.

On the mountains in the mind of the consumer see The Nature of the Battleground discussed previously , the high ground at the top of the mountain is owned by the market leader.

Principles of Defensive Warfare A defensive strategy is appropriate for the market leader. Ries and Trout outline three basic principles of defensive marketing warfare: Defensive strategies only should be pursued by the market leader. It is self-defeating for a firm to pretend that it is the market leader for the purpose strategy selection.

The market leader is the firm who has attained that position in the mind of the consumer. Attacking yourself is the best defensive strategy. Introducing products better than your existing ones preempts similar moves by the competition.

The leader always should block strong offensive moves made by competitors. If the leader fails to do so, the competitor may become entrenched and permanently maintain market share. This move was intended to prevent Bristol-Meyers from advertising Datril as a lower-priced alternative to Tylenol. However, Bristol-Meyers responded by accelerating the launch of the television advertising campaign. Tylenol sales soared on the publicity and lower prices. Successfully attacking the competition and winning raises anti-trust issues.

Attacking oneself is less risky from an anti-trust perspective. It also is preferable to expand vertically rather than horizontally into new markets since laws prevent a firm from using its monopoly in one market to develop a competitive advantage in another.

Finally, once there is marketing peace and the brand has affirmed its dominance, it can grow its sales by growing the market. Principles of Offensive Warfare An offensive strategy is appropriate for a firm that is number 2 or possibly number 3 in the market.

However, in some cases, no firms may be strong enough to challenge the leader with an offensive strategy. In such industries, the market leader should play a defensive strategy and the much smaller firms should play a flanking or guerrilla one.

Attack on as narrow a front as possible. Avoid a broad attack. Simply attacking any weakness is insufficient. For example, the leader may charge a premium price and the price may appear to be a weakness. However, the leader may in fact have large profit margins and may be willing to lower the price as much as necessary to defend its position. For example, a leader may be so successful that it is crowded with customers, and the challenger then can exploit that success by offering a better customer experience.

The line at our counter is shorter. A more flexible challenger can use this fact to its advantage. The challenger should attack on as narrow a front as possible. Generally, this means one product rather than a wide range of products.


The Dos and Don’ts of Marketing Warfare

But when I read the book Marketing Warfare, I came to realize that Jack Trout also focused the most on differentiation and taking the niche areas to achieve before going and attacking the Industry Leader Organization. I guess in that the name "Marketing Warfare" was a bit misleading to me. I would recommend this book for the people who are trying to get an insight into how the marketing world looks like and also the way a marketing manager should be thinking. True that marketing tactics of previous centuries may not have survived today, but the argument the authors make is that military tactics are a fair comparison no spoilers, but the reason they give sounds perfectly logical. If you enjoy the topic of History specifically, military and want to know more about Marketing, this is an easy enough of a read and a Simply one of my favourite marketing books, and one that has completed changed my perspective on what it takes to understand the market. If you enjoy the topic of History specifically, military and want to know more about Marketing, this is an easy enough of a read and a great way to get your feet wet.


Marketing Warfare



Jack Trout


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