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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Branding as war

In the classic book Marketing Warfare (1986), Jack Trout and Al Ries make the point that marketing is no longer just about serving customer needs better, because everyone is already doing that. Rather, marketing is about fighting the competition.

Key point:"To be successful today, a company must become competitor-oriented. It must look for weak points in the positions of its competitors and then launch marketing attacks against those weak points."

Also: "The true nature of marketing today involves the conflict between corporations, not the satisfying of human needs and wants."

Key principles of marketing warfare:
  1. The best defensive strategy is the courage to attack yourself, but only the market leader should consider playing defense.
  2. Always block strong competitive moves.
  3. Find a weakness in the leader's strength and attack at that point.
  4. Launch the attack on as narrow a front as possible.
These principles apply equally to branding as marketing, although we may not normally think so, because branding is so carefully about getting close to the customer. But yes, in general, you want to knock out the competition to your brand more than you need additional customer insights.

The other important point here is that in branding, unlike marketing, smaller companies have an innate advantage in that customers today are turned off by big box brands. The question is how do you go from being a popular small brand to a mainstream leader without turning people off.