Marketing Warfare in the Zimbabwean Mobile Sector

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Introduction

The concept that marketing is warfare can be said to be largely true in respect of the Zimbabwean mobile sector where players have drawn lessons from established battlefield concepts of planning, maneuvering and outwitting fellow players in order to stay ahead of the pack. However the marketing is warfare concept does not adequately charectirise the competitive nature of the mobile industry as there are other factors to be taken into consideration such as customer needs.

The mobile sector was introduced in Zimbabwe by Strive Masiyiwa through his Econet brand. A protracted battle with authority ensured before he was finally granted the licence to operate a mobile network. In the meantime, Net-one was granted a licence to operate and started offering Mobile phone services in 1996 followed by Net-one which was granted a licence in 1998 with Econet being the last to enter the market after its legal battle in July 1998.

The mobile sector has since grown to incorporate other players who offer mobile services such as Africom, Broadacom and most recently Tel one who offer the (086) mobile line range. Going by the concept that marketing is warfare, the increase in players thus equates to an increase in the number of armies in the battlefield.

This essay shall analyse how the players in the mobile sector industry have utilized well known battlefield strategies in order to control the giant share in the mobile industry.

‘Marketing is warfare’ defined

Al Ries and Jack Trout have drawn a parallel between military warfare and the competitive strategies employed by competitors in the marketplace. Ries and Trout propose that there are four strategies that can be used in fighting a marketing war; defensive, offensive, flanking and guerrilla tactics. In any industry there is a market leader, market challenger, market follower and market niche. The market leader employs the defensive strategy in order to maintain its position as market leader and to expand its market share further. It has to continuously protect its market share from offensive attacks by its competitors.

The market challenger is the one which follows behind the market leader and can employ offensive tactics to out rightly attack the market leader and its smaller competitors in order to increase its market share. It can also choose to accept its position as a market challenger and fight to maintain and defend their position as such.

The market follower is much smaller and commands a smaller share of the market. It can chose to use the flank attacks which is an indirect approach rather than the offensive which can prove to be a more expensive and less effective method. The market follower recognizes the areas of the market not being covered by the market leader and challenger and focuses its attention on those areas in order to gain competitive advantage.

Econet as the Market Leader

Econet, commands about 58% of the mobile market in Zimbabwe with about 8million subscribers whilst Telecel has a market share of about 28% with subscribers amounting to 2.5 million.Net-One is last with a market share of around 15% and a subscriber base of 700 000.

The above statistics clearly show that Econet is the market leader in the Zimbabwean mobile sector. However this has not always been the position as Net-one, the first to offer mobile services in Zimbabwe was at one time the market leader. This could be attributed to the fact that Net- one was the first to provide mobile services with Telecel and Econet entering the fray two years after net- One had already started providing services to the market. As such it was only normal that Net-One was the market leader at this stage.

Due to the economic challenges experienced by the country especially the period before 2008, Net-One failed to maintain its position as market leader resulting in Econet taking over that position

Amongst the tactics used by Econet...
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