Marketing as an Art of War

Topics: Guerrilla warfare, War, Marketing Pages: 11 (2655 words) Published: October 13, 2007
Marketing as an Art of War
Malini Pande
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The true nature of marketing today is beyond serving the customer; it is outwitting, outflanking, and outfighting your competitors. In short marketing is a war where the enemy is the competition and the customer is ground to be won. Marketing battles are not fought in physical places but in the minds of the prospective consumer. The mind is the tricky terrain both difficult to understand and difficult to win over. A marketing war is a totally intellectual war with a battleground that no one has ever seen. It can only be imagined in the mind and that is why marketing warfare is one of the most difficult disciplines to learn. Even though the language of marketing has been borrowed from the military, we talk and act like generals, but do not plan like generals. This paper attempts to deal with the application of the principles of military strategy to our marketing operations and thus increase the chances of success in this era of fierce competition.

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"The Economic Times" or "The Hindu Business
Line" carries more blood thirsty language than is
found in any of the general newspapers. "We'll
murder them", "Its kill or be killed", "This is a life
or death struggle", these quotes form a part of
the conversation of business leaders discussing
their marketing campaigns. The language of
business is becoming littered with similes of
war and military analogies.
Articles dealing with competitive strategy are on
the rise and business people frequently use
military talk to describe their situations. There
are " price wars" ,"border clashes" and
"skirmishes" along the major computer
manufacturers; "an escalating arms race" among
cigarette manufacturers, "market invasion" and
"guerilla warfare" in the coffee market. A
company's advertising is its "propaganda arm",
its salesmen are its "shock troops" and its
marketing research is its "intelligence". There is
talk about "confrontation", "brinkmanship",
"super weapons" ,"reprisals" and " psychological
warfare". It's very evident that marketing is
entering a new era, where the name of the game
has become "taking business away from
somebody else". As companies figure out
different ways to increase sales, they are turning
towards employing more and more warfare
strategies in general.
Different military theorists have different theories
regarding the objective of war. Clausewitz, the
nineteenth century's greatest military theorist
saw war as a necessary means to pursue
national self interest. It was a means to vanquish
the enemy by achieving unconditional surrender.
On the other hand the twentieth century's
greatest military theorist Captain Basil H. Liddell
Hart set the contemporary position "The object
in war is a better state of peace, even if only
from your point of view." Modern competitors
rarely adopt the Clausewitzian objective of "total
annihilation of the enemy". Liddell Hart's
doctrine that "the object of war is a better state
of peace" may be more appropriate guiding line
of business. When a company undertakes
warlike maneuvers towards another firm, for
example when Kodak attacks Polaroid, the
objective is not to annihilate the other but to
attain a better state of peace. When Kodak
introduced its own version of the instant camera,
it may have aimed to achieve the dominant
share, but Polaroid fought back and managed to
contain Kodak's share at about 25%, and now
both of them seem to accept the compromise
share. This however does not mean to say that
Kodak might not launch an attack in the future to
regain the 50% share.
In most battles the terrain is important enough
for the battle to be named...

References: Kotler, Philip & Singh, Ravi. Marketing warfare in the 1980s. Mckinsey Quarterly.
Ries, Al & Trout, Jack. Marketing warfare.
Levitt, Theodore. Marketing myopia. Harvard Business Review
The author, Malini Pande, is a second year PGDM students of the Indian Institute of Management
Kozhikode and may be reached at
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