The art of marketing war and the strategist’ role in it

Anthropology. Archistrategist Sun Tzu

Marketing strategists for business, like guardian angels for people. According to Yevhenii Myroniuk, Brain Tank's leading strategy partner, thinker Sun Tzu (Sun Bin), can be called alpha for all strategists who aspire to become an omega.

Real marketing strategists are more like store-bought yogurts — not all are equally useful. And the point here is in the composition. The basis for most artisans in modern cases of Jack Trout, which in principle is not so bad. But only a few use classic "leaven," such as the treatise "The Art of War," written 2,500 years before Elon Rice.

We offer a kind of literacy — a series of articles about the history and principles of strategy, strategy in advertising and marketing, strategy as the most important weapon of any brand. One fight can be won even by a monkey with a grenade, another thing — a sniper, and the third — a victory without a single shot.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit

"Laws of War of the Venerable Sun" is perhaps the first material memo left by one of the great strategists. Of course, around the same era, there was the legendary Pericles of Athens. There were Persian kings Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes… There were enough wise statesmen, but somehow they were not up to blogging. Therefore, Sun Tzu's treatise can be considered the root of a family tree called "strategy." In a broad sense, it can be military, political, economic… We are more interested in the crown of this tree with the branches of marketing and advertising strategy. Next time we will definitely talk about them, but for now, we invite you to dive into the laws of war. Believe me, these rules can be adapted to many business tasks and take the brand to a new level.

But first, like all decent people, let's define ourselves in terms.

Academic base

Generally speaking, a strategy is a large-scale, undetailed plan to achieve a goal. In this definition, every word is in its place. I mean, it is a general plan free of details. And the goal is to get the final result without taking into account the intermediate ones.

We can assume that the strategy began to emerge about 11.7 thousand years ago. It was when the last glacier descended, and our descendants began to unite in small groups. But due to the scale, they did not have the task of achieving long-term goals. That is, they had no plans beyond what lay under their feet or beyond a couple of light days. It was a more primitive tactic but not yet a strategy.

Then came the era of agriculture and the domestication of animals. The number of people groups was constantly growing, and communication reached a new level. The community inhabitants could no longer directly influence each other. New tasks appeared: to realize their plans and desires in another way, not just in direct contact. There was a need not to consider each of the links in the chain but to look over them as if from a mountain.

If we can imagine the origins of civilization, they developed, for example, in the eastern Mediterranean and the east in India and China. These were communal-tribal clans that fought for their own survival through direct clashes. At that time, there was no need to calculate any long military operations. Gradually, groups of people grew larger, and their claims to each other demanded other solutions. A long-term plan was needed that went beyond the usual military campaign in the format of "steal/kill." They required a strategy. Why? About the fact that Kyivan Rus existed for 3 centuries, and the Great Wall of China was built for two millennia.

Even 1000 years before Kyivan Rus, China had a long-term plan in which prosperity and resistance were drawn, tactical and mechanical protection was devised. Hindus, Persians, Greeks hardly had such global plans…

The Art of War is a legendary, basic treatise on strategy. And although it takes up about a hundred pages, it is a kind of maxim of wisdom. What is written in it absolutely defines the strategist's role, methods, means, and goals.

It is challenging for a person to appear in the community of shepherds and farmers who will "sit on the mountain" and think about how to optimize the life of the tribe and where to move. Sun Tzu says bluntly that some people are involved in subsistence, others in construction, and still others in management… And our main task is to defend ourselves from enemies, so a commander's mission (strategist) is to ensure all people's safety and activities. This role is unique! In another part of the world, at about the same time, was Tsar Leonid, who gathered 300 of his brothers and, together with ± 6,000 Greeks, opposed ± 220,000 Persians. Sun wrote that if the troops clashed in battle, it was the commander's mistake. But for Leonid, most likely, the goal was to die in the Battle of Thermopylae.

So, for the first time in the community, the person is not connected with food, clothes, or construction… The task of such a person is to provide achievement of the purposes for all this group. This is the role of the strategist.

Methods and tools

According to Sun Tzu, not all means are good, and not all methods are good. The theory and practice of combat operations were earlier. What is new about the role of the strategist is to study both sides to save them, regardless of who wins!

According to Sun Tzu, war is a way to save the enemy with the least losses. If you can capture it, you will get everything safe and sound. If you allow capturing yourself, your army, city, and inhabitants must remain intact… In the new paradigm, war is not to burn and destroy the enemy as much as possible but to save everything possible.

Suppose you can save your population. It's great if you save your army. It's wonderful if you save the enemy's people. It's brilliant, and if you conquer and keep alive the enemy's army — you're a real strategist! You must have the means. You need to be strong, but what was the point of Napoleon capturing the empty Moscow, burned to the ground?

We will try to build some analogies with marketing, as the task of a marketing strategist is to constantly focus on the client's brand and the brand of its competitors. It is almost impossible not to fight. But Sun Tzu offers several methods to implement his strategy by winning with little blood:

Espionage. It allows you to fully explore the enemy and determine what can be sacrificed in his location and what can not. For example, there is an operational-dynamic type of spies constantly in the enemy's camp and reporting the whole situation. To a large extent, today, this role is effectively performed by specialized media, which provide "commanders" with comprehensive information about what is happening in the market.

There is situation-based espionage associated with the misinformation of the enemy. Favorable and unreliable information affects the opponent's state and allows you to hide the real state of your affairs. That's how to confuse the competitor's spies (analysts).

Deception. At the beginning of the treatise, the author calls war the art of deception. And this technique is used before the army goes on the attack. Translated into marketing language, there is no need to force 15 companies to "fight" for what picture they will show. If this happens, the winner will be determined by chance. Today a muse will come to one of the creators, and tomorrow she will visit another. If the armies are in contact, the strategist has already lost because he has brought the battle to the plane of unpredictability.

The marketing strategist must deceive the competitor's brand and win the battle before his entire team (army) goes into battle. You can mislead a competitor. You can issue plans that will not be implemented. You can find out the plans of the enemy and get ahead of him. It comes to the point that some companies market fake products. It looks as if they have researched the subject deeply and made an informed decision. But when their competitors come up with the same offer, they fail. This is a strategy and not an innovative solution like "we need to start our own channel in TikTok."

Why are sales a war?

Our whole life consists of small battles: for the lady's heart, parking space, friendship… Otherwise, we will get what is left. Trade is a platform for confrontation between buyer and seller. Hundreds and thousands of sellers are fighting for millions of buyers. The only question that remains open is "whom is the war with?"

"The buyer should want to buy this product" is a too naive view of many marketers. The client does not want to part with the earned capital on which he spent time and nerves. A certain scale of battle occurs whenever a person makes a purchase.

Another question is that since the Enlightenment, a populist movement for humanity in the masses has begun. In this paradigm, everyone has to want something. But a person does not owe anyone anything, including wanting. Therefore, the seller must accept that he is going to war. He does not always do good to people but more often banally fights because he was chosen and not another seller of soda or cottages.

The competitor is the Enemy in all moral-ethical-cultural scales of the given concept. And if the consumer comes to you, he is the civilian population you captured, defeating the enemy. Going back to the archaic strategy, the faster you lose your competitor's head but keep all its power, the more accurately implemented your strategy. Trade is a direct war with a competitor for the civilian population (consumers).

The strategist's task is not to destroy the competitor's products, not to suppress its strengths… The strategist must outplay and overcome the personality of another strategist responsible for the competitor's brand. There has always been a strong strategist behind a strong brand, be it Lido Anthony «Lee» Iacocca or Enzo Ferrari. Even if the conditional Moishe had his own shop in Jerusalem 500 years ago, he was a strategist and fought for simple, peaceful consumers.

Customer always…

Frankly speaking, the consumer doesn't care which ruler he will get. He wants a better ruler. If we resort to allegories and analogies, then we want to walk in comfortable and beautiful sneakers. And what brand is there, and who will win? A person does not care. He is interested in the result — good shoes on his feet.

If we return to the topic of wars and conquests, the client is a peaceful citizen. And when the fighters of the marketing front come into the store, they also transform into ordinary civilians of this metaphor. They do not know when and how the battle of beer producers will end so that a bottle with the best blend, another wort, a new design will appear on the shelf… Peaceful people are not interested; fight yourself and we will accept the result of the battle.

Brand marketing

Military affairs with the categories of life and death can be transferred to trade, as in the latter case, it is the life or death of the brand strategist and sometimes the brand owner. This war aims to overthrow the strategist, seize his territory, and buy the owner's assets and plants.

A simple example is Pepsi and Coca-Cola. These brands started their movement so long ago that almost simultaneously. Caleb Bradham and John Pemberton sold their businesses for pennies with equal success. But then real strategists appeared and went their separate ways. Coca-Cola decided to fight head-on and sell its drinks around the world. Pepsi strategists told them “we have a lot of money, but can we take your chips? Yes, thank you… Can I give you more money and invest it in your fast-food chain? Oh, thank you… »

And although in 2019 Interbrand put Coca-Cola on the 5th place, and Pepsi on the 24th, but the business of "Coca" is not comparable to the business of "Pepsi." Pepsi is several times bigger than Coca-Cola because they did not destroy but absorbed their competitors. As a result, they have amassed a portfolio that stabilizes the entire business and is generally much more profitable.

And it's all about strategy. Coca-Cola is an example of a frontal attack, which does not diminish its success, but only qualifies it. This company does not have factories. They are engaged in marketing. Everyone who pours cola is a butler who works on a franchise. Their task is to buy more and more bottles of syrup. In turn, Pepsi owns all its plants. And if they get to a competitor, they squeeze out his strategist and seize the plant. That is, Pepsi is a follower of Sun Tzu's classical philosophy, and Coca-Cola is a follower of the Western tradition of warfare.

3 entities

But, let's return to the definition of 3 entities that we can get acquainted with in the anthropological research of the primary definition of strategy:

  • Role. For the first time, the role of a person who takes care of the security of both opposing parties is highlighted.
  • Methods and means are deception and espionage.
  • The goal is to gain access to the enemy's resources, preserving them as much as possible in the process of conquest.

Here on these 3 whales, the evolution of strategy is based. We hope you haven't been overwhelmed by the background. But without it, our next materials about outstanding strategists of world history and the tools of modern strategists from the world of marketing will not be complete. So stay tuned.