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7 Tenets of Marketing Campaigns and the Art of War

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived between 544-496 BC. His book ‘The Art of War’ has become one of the most effective marketing guides in modern times. Sun Tzu teaches us that a well-defined campaign is essential to success and that we must know the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors and ourselves. He teaches us to exploit our competitor’s weaknesses and overcome our own. He also teaches us the advantage gained by gathering and protecting information. Following are key points to developing successful marketing campaigns:

  1. A Well Defined Marketing Campaign Nullifies Opposition – Any marketing campaign will encounter resistance from competitors and customers. Dealing with these factors should part of the campaign definition.
    • “Every battle is won before it’s ever fought” … Sun Tzu
  2. Success is predicated on Knowledge of the Competition and Yourself – Know your competition’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your own and you will be in a position to succeed. Apply this knowledge to marketing campaign definition and implementation will be successful.
    • “Supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy” … Sun Tzu
    •  “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle” … Sun Tzu
    • “Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive” … Sun Tzu
  3. Information on the Market Place is a Powerful Weapon – Knowledge of the methods by which your competitors attract and retain customers allows identification of opportunities. Incorporating this into marketing efforts will enhance their effectiveness.
    • “It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results” … Sun Tzu
  4. A Quality Marketing Plan Improves Effectiveness in Execution – The more effort put into marketing plans the more successful the campaign will be when implemented. The cost absorbed in the planning stage will be more than offset by the reduced cost and success of implementation.
    • “What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease” … Sun Tzu
  5. Overcoming Weaknesses Will Ensure Success – Leaving weaknesses exposed will minimize progress made through effective campaigns. Identifying weaknesses and striving to turn them into strengths will offer fewer opportunities to competitors.
    • “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack” … Sun Tzu
  6. A Competitor with Predictable Marketing Methods is Ripe for Surprise – Knowing the strategies employed by competitors will allow recognition of areas subject to exploitation. Developing campaigns that focus on these areas will bring success.
    • “He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious” … Sun Tzu
    • “He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared” … Sun Tzu
  7. Marketing Campaigns Must be Confidential until Implementation – Allowing plans to be evident to competitors prior to release will reduce the likelihood of success. Keeping them under wraps will significantly increase their effectiveness.
    • “These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand” … Sun Tzu
    • “Conceal your dispositions, and your condition will remain secret, which leads to victory; show your dispositions, and your condition will become patent, which leads to defeat” … Sun Tzu

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