Marketing Warfare Strategies

By Qasim Eisa


Marketing warfare strategies

As we promised you to publish an important article about the marketing strategies and specially those which tackle the warfare tactics and planning.

This post is quiet long and includes a lot of rich information, I recommend to prepare a cup of coffee before you start reading.

So here we go and let us explore how war and war tactics affect business in general and more specifically marketing and its planning.

Marketing warfare strategy

-Warfare strategies are types of strategies used in business and marketing.

-Trying to draw Parallels between business and warfare and then applying military strategies to business situation.

-In business we don’t have enemies but we do have competitors, and we don’t fight for a land, but we do compete for market share.

-It is argued that in mature low-growth and in if real GDP growth is negative or low, business operates as zero-sum game, one person’s gain while the other person lose.

-Success depends on competing competitors for market share.

The Use of Marketing warfare strategies:

-Strategy is the organized deployment of resources to achieve specific objectives, something warfare and business have in common.

-In 1980s Business strategist realized that there are vast knowledge base on military strategies that are not examined.

-They turned to military strategy books for guidance so books like “On War” by Von, “The Red Book” by Mao Tse Tung “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu became a  business classics.

-From Sun Tzu they learned the tactical side of military strategy, and the specific tactical proscription (Ban) which in business it is called (First mover advantage)

-Sun Tzu said, “Generally, The one who occupy first the battle field and waits for the enemy is at easy, and who comes late to the scene and rushes to fight is weary.”

-From Von they learned the dynamic and unpredictable nature of military strategy. Von felt that in the situation of chaos and confusion, strategy should be based on fixable principles. Strategy should  not come from formulae and rules of engagement but from  adapting to what he called (Friction or minute to minute event)

-From Mao Tse Tung, they learned the guerrillas warfare strategies.

The major first supporter of warfare strategies was Philip Kotler and Singh R(Marketing warfare in 1980s), Journal of Business Strategy winter 1981 page 33-34

And J.B Quinn (Strategy for Change: logical incrementalism Irwin Hollywood II) in 1980s.

Quinn claimed, that an effective strategy,

1.First probes (explore or inspect) then withdraws to determine the opponent’s strength,

2.Forces opponent to stretch their commitment,

3.Concentrate on resources.

4.Attacks clear exposure (front, side, frontage).

5.Overwhelm (swallow) a selected segment markets.

6.Build a bridgehead in that market.

7.Regroup and expand from that base to dominate a wilder field.

The main marketing warfare books were:

(Business war games) by barrie James in 1984

(Marketing Warfare) by  Al Ries and Jack Trout in 1986

(Leadership Secrets of Atilla the Hun) by Wess Roberts

By the turn of the century warfare strategy had gone out of favor.  It was felt that they were limiting.

There were solutions in which non-confrontation approaches were more appropriate.

“Strategy of the Dolphin” was a development in mid 1990, to give a guidance to when to use aggressive strategy and when to use passive strategy.

Today most strategists stress that considerable synergies and competitive advantage can be gained from partnering, co-operating and collaborating.

They stress not how to divide up the market but how to grow the market.

Marketing Warfare Strategies:

01-Offensive marketing warfare strategy:

Attack the target competitor with an objective such as “Liberating” some of its market share.

02-Defensive marketing warfare strategy:

The strategy intends to maintain your (market share, sales revenue, profitability or some other objectives.)

03-Flanking marketing warfare strategy:

Operating in areas of little importance to the competitor.

04-Guerrillas marketing warfare strategy:

Attack, withdraw, and hide. Then do it again, and again, until the competitor moves into another market.

05-Deterrence marketing strategy: 

It is a battle won in the minds of the enemy. You convince your competitor that it is wise to not enter the market.

06-Preemptive strike: 

ِAttack before you are attacked (description of defensive marketing strategy)

07-Frontal Attack:

It is a direct head-on confrontation (description of offensive marketing strategy)

08-Flanking Attack:

Attack the market competitor’s flank. (description of marketing flanking strategy)

09-Sequential strategies: 

A strategy that consists of series of sub-strategies that must be all successfully carried out in the right order.

10-Alliance strategy:

The use of alliance and partnerships to build strength and stabilize the situation.

11-Position Defense:

The erection of fortifications (description of defensive marketing strategy)

12-Mobile Defense:

It a strategy of constantly changing positions (description of defensive marketing strategy)

13-Encirclement Strategy:

Envelop the opponent position (description of offensive marketing strategy)

14-Cumulative Strategy:

A collection of seemingly random operations that when complete will obtain objectives.

15-Counter offensive:

When you are under attack, launch a counter offensive at the attacker’s weak point (description of defensive marketing strategy)

16-Strategic withdrawal:

Withdraw and regroup so you live to fight for another day. (description of defensive marketing strategy)

17-Flank Positioning:

Is strengthen your flank (description of defensive marketing strategy)


Avoid confrontation by bypassing enemy and competitive forces. (description of offensive marketing strategy)

-Typically companies use many strategies, some offensives and some defensive, and always some deterrents strategy.

-According to business literature of the period, offensive strategies were more important than the defensive one.

-Defensive strategies were used when needed, but an offensive strategy was necessary.

-Offensive strategies end up with market gains and defensive strategies could at best keep you from falling too far behind.

-Marketing warfare strategy also examines leadership, motivation, intelligence gathering, marketing weapons, logistics and communications.

You can also read more post about marketing strategy such as

Michael Porter Generic Strategy

The three strategies of Michael Porter with development and criticism

4 Categories of Aggressiveness Strategy every marketer should know

And many other posts about marketing and copywriting.

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