The “rest of the world” can at times seem a very odd place for us Americans.
Case in point: Our British colleagues at Stein IAS deluged us with congratulatory emails when Germany beat the USA 2-1 in the World Cup “group of death.”
By “only” losing by a goal, we maintained our goals differential over Portugal and advanced to the knockout round. The Brits thought this was grand. “Well played, lads,” they wrote.
We, in turn, chided the Brits by volleying back that “only Europeans could be happy about losing.” (The British took great umbrage at being referred to as Europeans, but that’s another story, I suppose.)
Our cross-pond colleagues volleyed right back: “Only you unsophisticated Yanks can’t grasp that a strategic loss can lead to ultimate victory.”
This was all very amusing--but in fact made me think.
In marketing, there are great strategists. But there aren’t a lot of them. Positioning and messaging are often passed off as strategy; they are not the same.
Generalities such as “deploy multi-channel demand generation activities to intersect the target at the right time and place” make their way into many a PowerPoint presentation; but they, too, are not strategies.
The word strategy comes from the Greek strategia, “art of troop leader; office of general, command, generalship.” The definition of strategy is “a method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.”
Baron Antoine Henri Jomini, the father of Napoleonic war, set conventional strategy on its head by emphasizing the concentration of force to win decisive victories. In other words, focus your forces to win important battles.
More recently, the Vietnam-era strategic concept of “rolling thunder” gave way to “targeting, technology, and stealth” in the first Gulf War.
My point here is that marketers need to think about and apply strategy in its true sense--and not succumb to the watered-down stuff that passes for strategy.
From Jomini: Pick the right battles and concentrate your forces to win decisive victories. Don’t spread your forces thin. That is sound strategy for particular situations.
From GW1: Leverage smarter and more precise targeting, achieve technological supremacy, and never underestimate stealth. Also sound strategy.
There’s no need to go running for your copy of Sun Tzu; not all great strategia is born of generals. (Though a lot is.)
I’m simply suggesting that to win in competitive (a.k.a. “all”) markets, real strategy has to be put in play. And, in fact, the Brits may have been right in suggesting that losing a battle to win something bigger is indeed a viable strategy.
But with the 4th of July just passed, I’d suggest the British may well have watched and learned from a strategist they at the time considered a rank amateur--General George Washington.
While his British counterparts at the time preferred to rigidly stay a strategic course, Washington espoused a radical approach for the 18th century: “strategic adaptation.”
Well, we know who won the War for Independence, so I’d venture to say Washington’s was the best strategy of all. And one that is even more relevant today than it was then.