Archive for category Defensive Marketing

Competition and the Consumer’s Mind


Formulas, Goals, and the Battlefield

I usually agree with Seth Godin on most things, but this one is a bit too far out for me.  I’ve included the entire post on his blog below, it short, and also a link to his blog if you want to read any of the comments there.  So take a quick read and I’ll continue below:

Compared to magical

The easiest way to sell yourself short is to compare your work to the competition. To say that you are 5% cheaper or have one or two features that stand out–this is a formula for slightly better mediocrity.

The goal ought to be to compare yourself not to the best your peers or the competition has managed to get through a committee or down on paper, but to an unattainable, magical unicorn.

Compared to that, how are you doing?

– Seth Godin

Formula: Short Sale

I do agree with Godin that many companies sell themselves short.  Always trying to lower the bar in the hope of gaining a few customers.    Where I disagree with Godin on this is that it’s not because of the comparison to competitors, but rather a poor strategy for taking consumers away from those competitors based on the tactics that are short sighted.

Goal: Long Term Relationship

The tactics you use should be based on the principle that your company is seen as the better choice.  There are many areas a consumer could focus to answer this question.  It is your job to make the answer self-evident when it come to comparing your company to your competitors.

The Battlefield

We fight on the battlefield of the consumer’s mind.  It’s one of the smallest battlefield you will ever find yourself on, about 6 inches.   You should create campaigns that, hopefully, take up territory.  And if you do it well, you should hold more ground then your competitors.  The strategy is different for each company.  It is based on the position of your product in the market place and how our competitors currently stand.  We recommend following the “Marketing Warfare” strategies laid out by Ries and Trout.  So make sure your strategy fits your goals.

Because the last time I checked … your consumers aren’t looking to buy Magical Unicorns … and I’m fairly certain you haven’t hired anyone with unicorn making skills recently.

Good Hunting and would love to read your comments on this topic.

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Google: Learning, Growing, and Attacking Itself

Google Plus logo

Image by Bruce Clay, Inc via Flickr

One of the guys I follow in my Reader , Gerrit Eicker, had this post “Google’s Graveyard III” (a potion of the text provided below) and it got me to thinking about another post I shared recently “6 of Apples Greatest Mistakes“, in which I suggest that mistakes are only mistakes unless we learn from them.

Marketing Warfare

I want to throw on top of these thoughts another possible activity that is going on: Google is ATTACKING ITSELF to keep it’s leader position.  My contention is that they are following the marketing principles laid out in Al Ries and Jack Trout‘s “Marketing Warfare” text, and specifically “Defensive Warfare”.

Defensive Warfare as laid out in the text is as follows:

  • Only the market leader should consider playing defense.
  • The best defensive strategy is the courage to attack yourself.
  • Strong competitive move should always be blocked.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to layout two assumptions here: 1) Google is the leader in the industry for cloud solutions, 2) through the use of acquisitions the are ‘blocking strong competitive moves’.  These two point could be posts in themselves so I just want to state them and move on, if you wish to comment on these assumptions, fine, but this post wishes to focus on the act of attacking yourself as a form of marketing strategy.

Focusing on Google+: Obsolete Your Old Products

One of the principles in Marketing Warfare is that you need the courage to attack yourself.  In this case by introducing new products which cause old products to become obsolete.  In this way, you are creating a moving target for those that are trying to overtake you or one of the products you have created.

Now through on top of this the ability to absorb obsolete product capabilities into the new product, and all the new capabilities already in the new product, and you have the ability to keep your advisaries constantly trying to play catch up.

And as an added bonus, you can take the lessons learned from the previous product (in this case Google Buzz let’s say) and use them to refine your approach to market, or customer service, logistics, or whatever the lesson provides, to the new product.

A fall sweep

10/14/2011 10:03:00 AM

We aspire to build great products that really change people’s lives, products they use two or three times a day. To succeed you need real focus and thought—thought about what you work on and, just as important, what you don’t work on. It’s why we recently decided to shut down some products, and turn others into features of existing products.

Here’s the latest update on what’s happening:

  • Code Search, which was designed to help people search for open source code all over the web, will be shut down along with the Code Search API on January 15, 2012.
  • In a few weeks we’ll shut down Google Buzz and the Buzz API, and focus instead on Google+. While people obviously won’t be able to create new posts after that, they will be able to view their existing content on their Google Profile, and download it usingGoogle Takeout.
  • Jaiku, a product we acquired in 2007 that let users send updates to friends, will shut down on January 15, 2012. We’ll be working to enable users to export their data from Jaiku.
  • Several years ago, we gave people the ability to interact socially on iGoogle. With our new focus on Google+, we will remove iGoogle’s social features on January 15, 2012. iGoogle itself, and non-social iGoogle applications, will stay as they are.
  • The University Research Program for Google Search, which provides API access to our search results for a small number of approved academic researchers, will close on January 15, 2012.
In addition, later today the Google Labs site will shut down, and as previously announced, and the former websites will be replaced by Google Product Search.Changing the world takes focus on the future, and honesty about the past. We learned a lot from products like Buzz, and are putting that learning to work every day in our vision for products like Google+. Our users expect great things from us; today’s announcements let us focus even more on giving them something truly awesome.Posted by Bradley Horowitz, Vice President, Product

Share with me your thoughts or any other examples of companies using the same Defensive Marketing as Leaders in their industry.

Good Hunting

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Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle

First, I want to share my complete frustration in the launch of the Apple iPad.   I want this known upfront that when I saw the product release notes I was not happy.  I wanted all the rumors. I loved all the capabilities that had been talked up so much in the past year.  These are just some of the things that made my mouth drool:

  • Duel Screen Mode: just set it down next to your Apple desktop and it becomes a second monitor
  • iPhone Capable: with a 100 mile Blue Tooth range for the head set (OK I was trying to start that BT rumor)
  • PBX Mode: Multiple simultaneous phone users (OK I just made that up, but damn, wouldn’t that be so cool!)
  • MAC OS/X OS: to replace all my future desktop needs, including running Parallel to run all my Windows apps.
  • Multi-Process Capable: Run 20,000 apps at the same time,  with no performance degradation!
  • Distributed Processing Capable: Desktop PC CPU’s maxed out, no problem use my iPad quads!
  • MEGA Memory: New crystal memory providing several Tera-flops!
  • MEGA Disk Space: New solid state device providing several Google-flops!

Oh yes,  and there was some minor mention of this device being the best eReader on the market.  I guess that’s important to.  I evaluated and used the Kindle DX and thought it was OK.  The B&N nook completely underwhelmed me.    The Plastic Logic QUE looks very promising.  Even the B&N nook sales rep pointed me to the QUE stating it was a better match for me then the nook.

So I’ve had some time now to let things sink in.  I’m going to stop pouting and having my little iPad tantrums  (Picture the TV commercial in which the gamers realize they rented or bought another bad game and completely lose it!)  Since I am a marketing expert I thought I better sit down an analyze this in the context of Marketing Warfare and have an intelligent response rather then trash any office I’m in when the topic of the iPad comes up!

Based on my analysis, Apple clearly thinks, and I believe they are, number 1 in the portable media consumption domain. The iPad is a defensive move to strengthen their position in this space.

Leaders Play Defense

“The defensive form of war is in itself stronger then the offense.” – Karl von Clauswitz

Only leaders should play defense.  It’s much easier to defend high ground with well entrenched troops then to fight your way up a hill trying to take over those high dug in positions.  So let’s break down the case that Apple is playing the role of the leader in Portable Media Consumption and has waged a defensive move to solidify it’s position by looking at the three principles of Defensive Warfare.

Only the market leader should consider playing defense

If we look at some the categories with Portable Media Consumption we find some startling Apple numbers.   These are some of the numbers I’ve found thus far:

  • Music – 10 billion songs downloaded
  • Audio Books – over 20,000 titles
  • Audio Podcasts – over 125,000 titles
  • Video Podcasts – over 25,000 titles
  • Movies – over 2 million full length movies sold
  • Applications – over 2 billion applications downloaded
  • TV Shows – over 200,000 episodes sold

I like to call this Apple domain the iUniverse.  They are #1 in music downloads,  the #1 on-line movie store, and the #1 in music sales.

The best defense strategy is the courage to attack yourself.

Always create a moving target for your competition.  This is accomplished by attacking yourself.  Every area of your product leadership in the marketplace needs to be recreated and renewed.   Apple has a strong history of doing that by releasing new versions of it’s wildly popular devices and environments:

  • Shuffle – 3rd generation
  • iPod – 9th generation
  • nano – 5th generation
  • Touch – 2nd generation
  • iTunes – version 9
  • TV – iTunes integration with control from iPhone or Touch
  • iPhone – 3rd generation

Strong competitive moves should always be blocked.

First lets look at the competitor moves of B&N + Plastic Logic, and Amazon. These companies have strong showings in one are of portable media consumption – digital books and periodicals.   These companies could create a set of products and user environments that would erode Apples position as leader in the Portable Media Consumption.  In many ways this has occurred because Apple has not reacted quickly enough to the strong acceptance of the Kindle.

The B&N and Plastic Logic partnership is a serious concern.  Here you have a strong device which outperforms (on paper) the Kindle and is coupled with the library of books and magazines available through B&N. Yes, it’s minus some of the cutie features of the nook like in-store book browsing, but that wouldn’t be too hard to change.  The point is the QUE is positioned as a business Pro Reader.  It can be your eBook reader, present your MS files,  remote sync with your folders back on the office server, sync your calendar, and sync your email.

What’s to stop either B&N/Plastic Logic or Amazon from moving into a space like ‘business users’ and create the needed user development tools and begin to compete head on with Apple in all other areas of the iUniverse.  It could conceivably happen.  Again, because of the slow reaction by Apple to these threats.

Not Offensive Flanking or Guerrilla

Let’s quickly run through the other marketing warfare possibilities: Offensive Attacks, Flanking Attacks, and Guerrilla Attacks.  These items are taken from Marketing Warfare by Al Ries.

Offensive Marketing (waged by #2 on the leader)

  1. The main consideration is the strength of the leader’s position. – If they are attacking a leader, I don’t see it so I can’t figure out what strength they would have focused on.
  2. Find the weakness in the leader’s strength and attack at that point. – Since I don’t see them targeting a leader and it’s strength, I can’t figure out the weakness inside the strength.
  3. Launch the attack on as narrow a front as possible. – This launch seems anything but focused on a narrow objective, and everything like a line extension to the iUniverse

Flanking Marketing (waged by #3 or all others on #2 or #1)

  1. A good flanking move must be made into a uncontested area. – Lots of tablets already, lots of eReaders, this is not uncontested ground.
  2. Tactical surprise ought to be an important element of the plan. – This was very publicized in the rumor mills with strategic leaks.  No surprise it was coming
  3. The pursuit is just as critical as the attack itself. – If this does become a success and they really pour it on, who actually loses the market share?  Back to who is the target?

Guerrilla Marketing

  1. Find a segment of the market small enough to defend. – This product actually overlaps several segments.
  2. No matter how successful you become, never act like the leader. – too late.
  3. Be prepared to bug out at a moment’s notice. – I don’t think they will give this up, it expands the iUniverse.

In Conclusion

I think this product release is a wise move on Apple’s part, if not a bit late.    Kindle must think twice about it’s next move.  B&N and Plastic Logic must weigh how much they want to pursue the ‘business’ niche front and pour in more resource to draw users away from Apple. (I’m seeing PC vs Mac all over again on this one)   Also, expect mainstream application integration by next year from Apple if they want to keep the QUE’s of the world at bay.    Expect Apple to continue to attack itself.  Next year will have a newer better version with more capabilities.  Each new iteration always better then the last and continuing to create moving targets for their competitors.

You can find my notes for this post on my MindMeister Mind Map at Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle.

I’d like to know your thoughts on this post and the Apple iPad.  Please leave me your comments.

Offensive Marketing

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Exceptionalism: Focus on the Never

Firstly, I need to apologize up front that I don’t remember where I got this idea from.  It is not my idea, I have used variations of this exercise in my consulting practice,  but I wanted to pass it along.  One of the problems I have when listening to a host of podcast products  is that at times I am not in a good position to stop and take notes.  This idea I found on either Phil McKinney’s “Killer Innovation” or on a “Venture Voice” interview, but that is a guess at best.

We all need tools to help us think of new ways to solve old problems.  We have a lens that we use to evaluate data as it comes in.  Every so often we find a new lens which helps us provide a breakthrough in performance or understanding.  In this case I wanted to share with you a new way of looking at things with a hope that it produces exceptional results.

Always / Never Brainstorming

This is an excellent team exercise.  I would expect at least two large hanging paper sheets and a pile of sticky notes and some felt tip markers would work nicely.  Here are the steps:

  1. Define the topic or focal point.  Try to be specific.  I prefer these questions NOT be open-ended if possible to make sure you are focused as possible. Here are some example:
    1. “What are the first impressions of our company/organization/church?”
    2. “What’s the last thing people remember about ?????”
    3. “What do people expect when they ????”
    4. “What happens when a person doesn’t ????”
  2. Have the team brainstorm things that ALWAYS happen (Time limit 10 minutes or until the ideas dry up)
  3. Now, have the team identify things that NEVER happen for this topic (Same time limit, and keep the answers relevant)
  4. Take a break – you just spent 20 minutes hurting your brains! (5 minutes)
  5. Nominal Grouping next – spend 5 to 10 minutes  moving the stickies together that are talking about the same thing (duplicate stickies if the idea is relevant to two groupings)
  6. Focus on the Never – now ask the team to come up with ideas that would make the never become a reality and be considered exceptional. (20 minutes)

Innovation Bonus Exercise

Now I did get this great idea from a Phil McKinney podcast as I was driving back from a State Cup soccer tournament.  This is the first time I heard this exercise described this way and should provide you some great ideas and insights.

Our brains are programmed to stop thinking once we think we found the right answer and often we leave ideas in our head and never share them because of this reason.  You as the leader or facilitator need to force your team past this creative barrier.    Here is the bonus exercise:

  1. Have all your nominally grouped ideas placed on a grid.
  2. Each idea group should run across the top of the grid
  3. Each idea group should run down the left side creating a matrix.
  4. In each matrix box, FORCE the team to come up with a new idea.
  5. Use this Hybrid list of ideas for innovative ways to move forward.


This list represents the performance bar that all expect from any organization in the specific category examined.  This list becomes the managers performance list.  The manager will use this list to help identify talents and skills needed by the staff to accomplish these objectives.    Mentoring, training, feedback and possibly team reconfiguration (fire/hire) might be needed to help the team reach the Always Base Level, if they are not already there.  It is imperative that the manager get his team to this level and make sure they stay there.

The NEVER List

The Never list (and Innovation Hybrid List) is used by leadership to determine what the group will take on next.  An assessment needs to be performed first.  Do we have the right talents?  Do the correct skills exist at the right level to take on the new item?  What do we gain by taking on the new item as it relates to our competitors?  How long can we have an advantage before the competitors catch up to us?  And let’s not forget, how much will this cost us?

Marketing Warfare Correlations

Now before I get emails asking me how this relates to Marketing Warfare let me break this down quickly.  This exercise will work for three of the four areas of the strategic squares.   I’ll try and break this down by market position:

Market Leader – you are using this exercise to create a Defensive Marketing Plan.  The goal is to create a moving target for the competitors in your space.   The ultimate object of these  repetitive successes would be to discourage your competitors from attempting direct attacks on your position.

Market Non-Leaders – since you are not using this exercise to attack the leaders weakness within their strength, this exercise should be used in creating a flanking attack and would work best if you focused on an area in which the leader is currently not focusing on.

Local or Regional Leaders – this exercise will produce great ideas for guerrilla marketing warfare plans.    Many of these ideas will place you in a strong competitive advantage to the national companies that cannot respond to the dominance you hold in your local or regional spaces.

Please let me know what you think of this post.  I hope it helps you and your organization.  Your feedback is most welcome!

Good Luck and Good Hunting!

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Ad-Supported is all the rage! (Remake)

The ROI Hunters have been watching the latest fad: Ad-Supported Software. One such example caught our eyes and we sat around saying “Good idea, but who cares?” We are talking about Microsoft Windows providing a free ad-supported version of their successful operating system with free low end machines. After all, shouldn’t Hunting ROI be a win-win situation?

Defensive Leader Tactic

Microsoft is executing a defensive tactic, which we applaud. They are the leader. After all, their popular operating system generated around 13 Billion in sales last year (give or take a few Million), so it is not like they will be hurt by giving their software away with low end machines. This is an excellent response to some of the UNIX flavors running around for the last decade. Actually, it did make us wonder why it took them so long to give it away, at the low end of the price spectrum.

The Plan

Free Computer System: Give away the free ad-supported Windows OS on a low end $300 machine to those that can’t afford or don’t want to spend a lot on their technology needs. Obviously, there is a tether to the internet in this package somewhere. Either a low-cost dial up or wireless connection will need to service the ad generator. The ultimate goal: Increase Market Share & Attack UNIX competitors that have been flanking Microsoft.

Who Cares

Our question is directed at the poor soles that will buy advertising space on this channel. Which demographic would you place someone in that can’t afford or doesn’t want to buy a $300 dollar machine and the $100 operating system. What exactly are their on-line spending habits? How much do you think they will purchase on-line? Let’s face it, JupiterResearch reported at 40% increase in online ad spending last year, but we are fairly certain that this demographic was not the leader in this increase.

Maybe we are seeing the beginnings of the Lotto Advertising Network. (I hear the jackpot is going to be really high next week, but don’t ask me what your odds are) Good Hunting.

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Attack Yourself – A Difficult Prey

The ROI Hunters sat with a client last week. This client, with hard work and the scars to prove it, had worked to take a marketing hill and become a leader in a specialized area within a geographical region. So now they asked “what now?” and we began to strategize and create a plan. After all, Hunting ROI requires a the best map you can create.

Attack Yourself!

Ok, before anyone posts that this is not an original idea, you are correct. Not only did we discuss the tactic in depth, we also recommended they read the book “Marketing Warfare” by Al Reis and Jack Trout, which places the discussion in the correct context. A must read for anyone in leadership responsible for creating actionable plans for their organization.

We asked that the group identify their greatest strength and their most obvious weakness. We then took this group through an exercise of creating a plan to displace the leader with a new competitor in the marketplace. What would this new threat do to push the leader from their entrenched position?

The group came up with several very creative ideas and walked away with the impression that leadership only lasts as long as you work at it. Some ideas were very time consuming while others they would accomplish in a week.

This tactic creates a moving target for the true competitors in their space and should deter the less determined. We plan to hold another session like this in six months and create a new marketplace threat scenario. It should be a good yardstick for the leadership to show progress. If all goes well, we should be reviewing a different strength and weakness at our next meeting.


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