Divide and Conquer


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Any attempt to describe a human mind in physical terms is bound to be symbolic. Yet there are certain symbols used in both military and marketing operations that seem to be especially appropriate.

In a military war, hills or mountains are usually considered strong positions, especially useful for defense. In a marketing war, management people often refer to strong positions as “high ground. " So it seems appropriate to use the mountain as a key concept in marketing warfare.

But in warfare, a mountain can be either occupied or unoccupied. Tissue Mountain, for example, is occupied by the brand Kleenex. Ketchup Mountain is owned by Heinz. Computer Mountain by IBM.

Some mountains are being strongly contested. Cola Mountain is partially occupied by Coca-Cola, but is under heavy attack by Pepsi-Cola.

When a customer uses a brand name in place of a generic, you know the mountain in their mind is strongly held. When someone points to a box of Scott tissues and says, “Hand me a Kleenex, " you know who owns the Tissue Mountain in that person’s mind.

Who owns the automobile mountain in the United States? Many years ago Ford did. But Ford got torn apart by the segmentation strategy of general Motors.

So today Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick each own different segment of the automotive mountain, with perhaps Cadillac in the strongest position as the owner of the high-priced luxury segment. (Today people will use the name Cadillac as a synonym for a high-quality product. ") As a result of its five strong independent positions, General Motors owns the dominant share of the U. S. automotive market.

Monolithic Mountain are being fought over and cut up into segments, each owned by a different warlord. This long-term trend is likely to continue well into the twenty –first century.

The original owner has a choice: extend or contract. Faced with an enemy that attempts to segment the market, a company can extend its forces to try to control the entire territory, or shrink them to protect home base.

The owner’s instincts are usually wrong. Greed encourages a brand leader to extend its forces to try to control all segments. Too often everything is lost in an effort to protect a small portion of the mountain. As Frederick the Great once said, “He who attempts to defend everywhere defends nothing. "

Is there no defense against a competitor who attempts to segment your mountain? Fortunately for the big companies of this world, there is. More on this strategy in the chapter on defensive warfare.

This article may be re-printed as long as following resource box is included as it is with out any alteration.

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