Marketing warfare strategies

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Marketing warfare strategies are a type of strategies, used in business and marketing, that try to draw parallels between business and warfare, and then apply the principles of military strategy to business situations, with competing firms considered as analogous to sides in a military conflict, and market share considered as analogous to the territory which is being fought over.[1] It is argued that, in mature, low-growth markets, and when real GDP growth is negative or low, business operates as a zero-sum game. One person’s gain is possible only at another person’s expense. Success depends on battling competitors for market share.

The use of marketing warfare strategies[edit]

Strategy is the organized deployment of resources to achieve specific objectives, something that business and warfare have in common. In the 1980s business strategists realized that there was a vast knowledge base stretching back thousands of years that they had barely examined. They turned to military strategy for guidance. Military strategy books like The Art of War by Sun Tzu, On War by von Clausewitz, and The Little Red Book by Mao Zedong became business classics.

From Sun Tzu they learned the tactical side of military strategy and specific tactical proscriptions. In regard to what business strategists call "first-mover advantage", Sun Tzu said: "Generally, he who occupies the field of battle first and awaits an enemy is at ease, he who comes later to the scene and rushes into the fight is weary." From Von Clausewitz they learned the dynamic and unpredictable nature of military strategy. Clausewitz felt that in a situation of chaos and confusion, strategy should be based on flexible principles. Strategy comes not from formula or rules of engagement, but from adapting to what he called "friction" (minute by minute events). From Mao Zedong they learned the principles of guerrilla warfare.

The first major proponents of marketing warfare theories was Philip Kotler[2] and J. B. Quinn.[3] In an early description of business military strategy, Quinn claims that an effective strategy: "first probes and withdraws to determine opponents' strengths, forces opponents to stretch their commitments, then concentrates resources, attacks a clear exposure, overwhelms a selected market segment, builds a bridgehead in that market, and then regroups and expands from that base to dominate a wider field."

The main marketing warfare books were:[citation needed]

By the turn of the century marketing warfare strategies had gone out of favour. It was felt that they were limiting. There were many situations in which non-confrontational approaches were more appropriate. The Strategy of the Dolphin was developed in the mid-1990s to give guidance as to when to use aggressive strategies and when to use passive strategies. Today most business strategists stress that considerable synergies and competitive advantage can be gained from collaboration, partnering, and co-operation. They stress not how to divide up the market, but how to grow the market. Such are the vicissitudes of business theories. At last, a recent contribution for understanding and using marketing warfare strategies is the visual business war game proposed by S. Goria.[4]

Marketing Warfare Strategies[edit]

  • Offensive marketing warfare strategies - are used to secure competitive advantages; market leaders, runners-up or struggling competitors are usually attacked
  • Defensive marketing warfare strategies - are used to defend competitive advantages; lessen risk of being attacked, decrease effects of attacks, strengthen position
  • Flanking marketing warfare strategies - Operate in areas of little importance to the competitor.
  • Guerrilla marketing warfare strategies - Attack, retreat, hide, then do it again, and again, until the competitor moves on to other markets.
  • Deterrence Strategies - Deterrence is a battle won in the minds of the enemy. You convince the competitor that it would be prudent to keep out of your markets.
  • Pre-emptive strike - Attack before you are attacked.
  • Frontal Attack - A direct head-on confrontation.
  • Flanking Attack - Attack the competitor’s flank.
  • Sequential Strategies - A strategy that consists of a series of sub-strategies that must all be successfully carried out in the right order.
  • Alliance Strategies - The use of alliances and partnerships to build strength and stabilize situations.
  • Position Defense - The erection of fortifications.
  • Mobile defense - Constantly changing positions.
  • Encirclement strategy - Envelop the opponents position.
  • Cumulative strategies - A collection of seemingly random operations that, when complete, obtain your objective.
  • Counter-offensive - When you are under attack, launch a counter-offensive at the attacker’s weak point.
  • Strategic withdrawal - Retreat and regroup so you can live to fight another day.
  • Flank positioning - Strengthen your flank.
  • Leapfrog strategy - Avoid confrontation by bypassing enemy or competitive forces.

Companies typically use many strategies concurrently, some defensive, some offensive, and always some deterrents. According to the business literature of the period, offensive strategies were more important than defensive one. Defensive strategies were used when needed, but an offensive strategy was requisite. Only by offensive strategies, were market gains made. Defensive strategies could at best keep you from falling too far behind.

The marketing warfare literature also examined leadership and motivation, intelligence gathering, types of marketing weapons, logistics, and communications.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Picon, Marco (2015). Sun Tzu and the Art of Economic War. Grafeno Publishing (published August 29, 2015). ASIN B014NE72D6. ISBN 9789801282679. 
  2. ^ (Kotler, P. and Singh, R. (1981) "Marketing warfare in the 1980s", Journal of Business Strategy, winter 1981, pp. 30-41
  3. ^ (Quinn, J. (1980) Strategies for change|Strategies for change: Logical Incrementalism, Irwin, Homewood Il
  4. ^ (Goria, S. (2012) "How to adapt a tactical board wargame for marketing strategy identification" [1], Journal of Intelligence Studies in Business (JISB), vol 2, n°3, 2012, pp. 12-27