Stratagem and Marketing: Hacking Sun Tzu to position your brand

“The Art of War is of vital importance to the state. It’s a matter of life or death, a road to either safety or ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected”. – Sun Tzu

After reading yet another Al Ries book, Positioning, I would rather argue that: “the art of Positioning is of vital importance to your brand. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected”. -Sun Tzomas

Positioning your brand and the core principles of warfare as handed down by Sun Tzu in the Art of War are extremely similar, or in fact, identical. The core lesson in the Art of War is to attack the enemy where he’s weak. I am going to talk a fair bit of the Carthaginian commander Hannibal Barca in this post to illustrate all my points. Hannibal fought the Romans during the Punic Wars, around 218 BC (he’s the dude who famously crossed the Alps with his elephants).

“in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak”. – Sun Tzu

Hannibal, like Sun Tzu, also realized the core principles of warfare; to attack the enemy where he is weak, which in ancient warfare was always in the flank. On his way to conquer Rome, he faced an army consisting of Celtic tribesmen opposing him during a crossing of the river Rhone. Instead of facing the enemy head-on where he was strong, Hannibal sent his commander Hanno upstream to cross the river in secret and fall upon the opposing Celts from their rear, who quickly routed them and gave Hannibal another victory. During the later battle of Cannae, Hannibal yet again lured the enemy (consisting of the entire Roman army) in by feigning weakness in his center, after which he fell upon the enemy in his flank and rear with his heavy cavalry, slaughtering some 44 000 of the 50 000 strong Roman army, losing only 6 000 men in the process. Whenever Hannibal fought, he achieved victory by being strong where the enemy was weak, and such a modus operandi is also the key to the battle of successful marketing and positioning. More

How to win the battle for the mind of the consumer

How to win the battle for the mind of the consumer

The Meta: The past months I’ve been studying Al Ries 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, and his previous work, 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. It’s absolutely awesome, and here’s why:


First there was the Word

Marketing is a battle for the mind of the consumer, or rather positioning in the mind of the consumer. Each brand we relate to in our lives, equals an attribute or category that we equate with the brand. Let’s say I’m a consumer looking for a car, and my primary concern is that it is safe. Which car brand is the leading safe car? I would say, Volvo is the leading safe car. Let’s say prestige is my main concern, then I would probably opt for a Mercedes, the leading prestigious car. The task of branding is to become the leader in a niche preferably so narrow you could replace your brand with a single word. Volvo = Safe. Mercedes = Prestigious. What is the word or attribute that could be replaced with your brand? If you are starting a business, this question should be a main concern. Another good question: how do you communicate this one word?

“Forget the brand. Think categories. Prospects are on the defensive when it comes to brands. Everyone talks about why their brand is better. But prospects have an open mind when it comes to categories. Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better”. -Al Ries

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What makes a visionary company?

What makes a visionary company?

The Meta behind this post: I read Jim Collin’s Built to Last some months ago, and the book was so brilliant, and filled me with so much creative fuel and confidence in regards to starting my own business, that I jotted the following post down in sheer panic, to try to summarize the ideas of his book.


For Jim Collins, it always starts with a question. Before writing the book “Built to Last”, Collins asked himself “What makes a visionary company?” After studying 20th century business and stock market performance, Jim, and his Stanford research team, working for many years, found a small number of companies which performed well over the market average, year, after year, after year. And by carefully studying the actual day-to-day practices of these over-performers, he found that they had a few key traits in common which set them apart from the rest of the competition. (Disney, Boeing, HP, Merck, 3M and Sony were some of these “Visionary” companies). Guess what? Even the smallest business can mimic these key traits.

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5 Simple Compliance tactics that will lead to increased conversion and loyal customers

5 Simple Compliance tactics that will lead to increased conversion and loyal customers

After reading Robert B Cialdini’s Influence, you come to the conclusion that human decisions, although seemingly irrational from the outside, do follow certain behavioral patterns which can be learned and understood. Cialdini uses the term “click and whirr” throughout the book, meaning that if you get the right trigger out there, you will almost certainly get an automated response from your customer. Here’s the most useful tips and tricks from Cialdini’s Influence: More

Starting an e-commerce brand part 1, getting the foundations right

Starting an e-commerce brand part 1, getting the foundations right

The meta behind this point: I have put together a brief guide to starting your own E-commerce brand, based on lots and lots of landmark management books, podcasts, and interviews with top entrepreneurs and though leaders.

STEP 1: Establish a model

In the book good to great, Jim Collins outlined a great business model which can be used to create a foundation for your business; it will answer the important questions and put you on the right track. Establishing solid fundamentals is imperative, since the whole business will rest on this foundation. The idea is to connect your passion, with what you can become the best at, in model that is profitable. Let’s quickly look at each item.

Step 1: Work with something you are deeply passionate about

Passion, passion, passion – the fuel behind any successful endeavor. What is your passion? What can you do for hours day in and day out without any thought of reward? What gets your juices going? What makes you motivated to get up in the morning? I think everyone knows instinctively what their passion is, (although sometimes you might have to dig a little deeper). You need to connect your passion with your business to be able to stand the hard work and the many unpaid hours you usually need to put in to develop a product or service – it simply won’t work if you don’t have a strong passion to fall back on when times are tough. More

Leverage Empathy: How to Win Friends And Influence People

Leverage Empathy: How to Win Friends And Influence People

The meta behind this post: HTWFAIP is one of those timeless classics that needs to be read, and re-read again and again, because of the value it will add to your life if you apply even a small part of it. The book outlines a few simple, core principles which in hindsight seem like common sense, yet the truth is that very few of us rarely apply these principles when trying to get what we want from other people.


HTWFAIP was written by Dale Carneige who started as a public speaking coach in New York in 1912, but his classes gradually developed into training people’s ability to deal with other people, rather than public speaking. After decades of work, in 1937, Dale Carneige wrote his seminal work, HTWFAIP, which has since had countless updates and remains an all-time classic. It is as valid today as in 1937, because it deals with human-nature type issues which are timeless.

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Canvassing the web for value – July

The-22-Immutable-Laws-of-BrandingGo ahead and click the red!

The past weeks I’ve been reading 22 laws of Branding by Al Ries and picked up a lot of good information regarding how branding works. Owning a word in the consumers mind and narrowing your focus until you find a slot where you can eventually become a brand leader and resisting the urge to overextend and dilute your brand are powerful lessons.

In terms of Podcasts, I had a blast listening to Tim Ferris guest Joe De Sena who talks about how he built up a global “Spartan race”, and how he created a hilarious “death race” (that seems more hilarious to talk about than to actually participate in).

I also read The Lean Startup, which perhaps would have been more relevant if I was starting a new tech company or solean-startup_book-covermething similar, yet it gave me some insights, like the value of quickly shipping a minimum viable product and just focusing on getting anything, something out there which you could stand behind instead of procrastinating and having hypothetical focus groups. I put both books up in my Review section.

I akickstarterlso read a great article on Kickstarter about why wallets is often a springboard into bigger things.

I’m currently listening to a podcast on Tropical MBA about how to design and sell consumer electronics products.

 

 

How Sigmund Freud changed the way we shop

How Sigmund Freud changed the way we shop

The Meta behind this post: I watched the documentary “the Century of the Self” and was amazed by how well it showed the remarkable impact of psychoanalysis in advertising, and how it brilliantly told this story towards the backdrop of 20th century history.


We weren’t always consumers, you know. In the beginning of the 20th century, you would still refer to the average American as the American worker, rather than the American consumer, but that was about to change, much due to the theories of Sigmund Freud, cunningly applied to American business by Freud’s American nephew, Edward Bernays, who worked diligently behind the scenes to turn America from a needs-driven to a desire-driven culture.

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How the theories of Darwin makes a successful company

How the theories of Darwin makes a successful company

 

“We all snickered at some writers who viewed dad as a grand strategist who intuitively developed complex plans and implemented them with precision. Dad thrived on change and no decision was ever sacred”. Jim Walton, son of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.

The Meta behind this post: This is another post originating from the book Built to Last by Jim Collins. When I learned that hugely successful businesses uses practices which involves high levels of experimentation and chance, I immediately became fascinated. The role of chance in building a visionary company is not only interesting, but I also recognized it in all of my own work, how I stumble across things by accident, and it seems as if this is shared by some of our most defining companies to date. 
 
 

When studying hugely successful companies like Wal-Mart, 3M, J&J and others from the outside, one is inclined to believe that their success and ability to act and react to changing markets (for sometimes over a century without posting a single year’s loss), is the work of genius planning and strategy. But lo and behold, upon closer scrutiny, Jim Collins in his seminal work “Built to Last” found that many of the major companies in his study, didn’t plan more than 2-3 years into the future, and that they stumbled upon most of their most defining products and services quite by accident. It turns out that the success of these companies was neither deviated from planning nor deliberation, but rather from an intrinsic evolutionary process of variation and selection based on Darwin’s maxim “Multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die”. More

Daily Rituals: How to merge discipline into your creative process

Daily Rituals: How to merge discipline into your creative process

We have failed to recognize our great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something quite amazing. Friedrich Schiller (German poet)

Merging discipline into your creative process is the starting point of success and Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work will show you how to do just that. Mason Currey has written an excellent book which delves into the small details and daily practices and routines from legendary authors, painters, architects, composers throughout history, from Mozart to Picasso – and the lessons we can learn from how they lived their lives, are many. It’s an inspiring read, and the biggest lesson is how these masters of their respective fields, used discipline and routine to harness their creative power to perfection. More