Marketing Warfare

Marketing Warfare – Focusing on Competitors as well as Customers

Whilst conventional marketing theory states that businesses should be customer-focused, the concept of Marketing Warfare argues that businesses should be competitor-focused.

Since the marketplace is dynamic, the actions and reactions of competitors must be taken into account, as well as the needs of customers, when devising a business strategy. Marketing Warfare uses military metaphors to understand the dynamics of business competition.

In the book ‘Marketing Warfare’, Al Ries and Jack Trout argue that there are four possible strategies for fighting a marketing war:

  • Defensive Strategy. Suitable for market leaders defending a dominant position.
  • Offensive Strategy. Appropriate to businesses able to challenge the market leader’s postion.
  • Flanking Strategy. Not a direct attack on the market leader, but a new product or service in an area not dominated by the market leader.
  • Guerilla Strategy. Ideal for small companies which do not have the resources to attack the leader, but are nimble enough to respond quickly to select and win a small, defendable market share in a niche market.

A practical technique for analysing competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, in order to devise a winning competitive strategy, is Charting the Competition.

Remember that competitors are not only a business’s immediate rivals; competition may come from new entrants, substitute products, etc. See Porter’s Five Forces Model of Competition for more details.

References and Further Reading

  • Ries, A and Trout, J. Marketing Warfare. McGraw-Hill. 1997
  • Sun Tzu. The Art of War

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