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Warfare And Marketing – Part 3: Five Original Attack Strategies and Classic Case Studies

The history of warfare can be traced thousands of years ago, and anecdotes about wars in human history have always been told, lessons learnt and rules made for future generations. Those principles can also be applied to marketing activities, combined with contemporary marketing theories, opening up a more solid perspective and approach when analysing markets and making strategic decisions…

In the previous two articles I went over the similarities between warfare and modern marketing to lay the foundation for the following articles, and Part 2 on the specific options of each of the original strategies of the Defensive Strategies. If you have missed the previous part, you can review it here.

In this article, I will introduce you to five Original Offence Strategies, often applied to new brands entering the market or those who dare to challenge the leading position.

The first is Frontal Attack, for businesses with sufficient resources and ready to go head-to-head with the leading brands. Currently, the frontal attack is mostly a competition between the “big guys” in the market, for instance, Pepsi versus Coca-Cola today. If you are not a “fully-packed” company, it would be wiser to choose other options.

The second is Flank Attack, which means focusing resources on a niche segment to avoid direct confrontation to the market leaders. For example, when Pepsi first entered the beverage industry, at that time the entire market belonged to Coca-Cola, so the brand focused on a niche segment of younger generations who had not been through war and thus somewhat less attached to the Coca-Cola brand. It was an efficient way to enter the market. Form that base, Pepsi Cola has grown over the years into a business that is on par with Coca-Cola and competes with the leader on every front.

The third is Guerrilla Attack, which is to disperse resources and concentrate on many niches at the same time, where leading positions have not yet been established. Take for example the coffee market in Vietnam which has a multitude of segments from high-end to extremely affordable, there are geographic market niches that large enterprises cannot penetrate. For example, the low-priced coffee segment under ten thousand dong per cup for blue-collar workers and students is served by mainly pavement coffee stalls with no leading brand yet. When approaching this segment, I think businesses can conduct guerrilla activities geographically, in many different districts, at any corners or alleys possible. Some brands that have been successful with this strategy include Guta, Milano, and several more.

The fourth is Encirclement Attack, which means confronting and challenging opponents on all fronts. This strategy is suitable for brands that already have a solid position in the market as this strategy serves as an effective way to preserve market share. In Part 1, we discussed Sabeco’s case study and affirmed their desire to conquer all market segments when deploying this strategy. Similarly in the mobile phone industry, while Apple exclusively aimed at the premium mass segment, Samsung has applied an encirclement attack strategy that covers multiple market segments, from high-end to mid-and low ranges. This strategy has effectively prevented many attempts of Apple to penetrate lower segments with its iPhone C models.

The fifth is Bypass Attack, which is roughly interpreted as capitalizing on megatrends that can redefine needs in current markets or establish new demands. This is the best Offense strategy, yet very challenging to implement because in order to achieve this, businesses need to utilise research databases to predict and anticipate new trends, thereby leaving all competitors behind. For example, Facebook redefined the social network concept, or Uber popularize the concept of sharing economy in the transportation industry. Steve Jobs when returning to Apple once said, “All I do now is waiting for the next big thing to come.”

In summary, although on the surface we cannot accurately comprehend the strategies of companies, through analysis we can see that whether it is large corporations or small firms, the strategic decision-making process that they adopt is also based on the same original principles and strategies whether in military or business. In a rapidly evolving and fragmented global economy, businesses often combine a group of original strategies into their own accompanied by the right mix of resource allocation. This practice gives rise to the concept of hybrid strategies in practice.

I hope that, through this series, readers can gain some confidence in understanding and applying the original strategies of warfare in contemporary marketing and business.

See you in the next post,

Minh Minimal


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