The Reality of Marketing Conflict


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Rhetoric aside, it’s clear that marketing is entering a new era, an era that will make the sixties and seventies look like a Sunday school picnic. Competition is getting brutal. The name of the game has become “taking business away from somebody else. ”

As companies experiment with different ways to increase sales, they are turning more and more to warfare strategies in general.

But aggressiveness alone is not the mark of a good military strategy. Especially aggressiveness as represented by the “more” school of management. More products, more sales people, more advertising, more hard work.

Especially more hard work. Somehow we feel better about success if we have to work hard to achieve it. So we schedule more meetings, more reports, and more memos, more management reviews.

Yet military history teaches the reverse. A single-minded commitment to winning the battle on effort alone usually dissolves into defeat. From the trenches of World War I to the streets of Stalingrad in World War II, the military commander that lets his armies get bogged down in a hand-to-hand slugging match is usually defeated.

The dogged determination of Xerox to make it in the office automation market is not a sign of future success. It’s a mark of futility.

Much better are quick, lightning like strokes that depend more on timing than muscle. (What the Germans call blitzkrieg. ) Not that muscle, or the principle of force, is not important. Far from it. But unless an attack is properly planned, you throw away your advantage if you let the battle degenerate into a war of attrition.

Whenever you hear your commander say “We have to redouble our efforts, ” you know you’re listening to a loser talk. The lights don’t need to burn late in places like Armonk. IBM wins by smarter, not longer.

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