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Survive any marketing onslaught with Kotler’s 6 defence strategies

Philip Kotler fused together marketing and military strategy to come up with five offensive
strategies. And by that we don’t mean that they were inappropriate or insulting, but rather they
allow you to launch an attack on your competitors.

But what if you find yourself coming under fire from the competition? Well luckily for you,
Kotler also devised six defensive strategies, again all based on military tactics!

1. Position Defence

This is the marketing equivalent of sitting back into your chair, stroking a white cat, and saying
‘bring it on’. It’s where you pour all of your resources into building a fortress around your
flagship product, with full confidence that it’s strong enough to carry your whole business!

But in practise, no fortress is impenetrable. After all, even the Death Star had an exhaust port-
shaped chink in its armour! Resting on your laurels like this is generally the least effective
strategy, as in the long run you’re likely to end up losing out.

2. Mobile Defence

As any boxer will tell you, it’s much more difficult to hit a moving target than a stationary one.
In marketing this principle is applied by diversifying into new products and segments.

By spreading your efforts out this way, you become a much more difficult target to pin down.
They’ll be reluctant to commit to a large-scale attack on you as it will only affect one part of
your business, and may not deal the massive blow they want it to.

3. Pre-Emptive Defence

Maybe you’ve got a spy in your competitor’s ranks who’s tipped you off, or you’ve heard
rumours that they’re working on a product to rival yours. If this is the case then you could be in
the position to launch a pre-emptive defence to shut down your competitor’s attack before it gets
a chance to start!

You might rush out a new product which will outshine your competitor’s new one, or you might
pump more advertising resources to that sector to drown out any noise your rival wants to make.

4. Flank Position Defence

Getting flanked by an enemy is a constant concern for military commanders, which is why
efforts are made to protect yourself from all sides. In marketing, taking a flanking position means
that you establish a defensive presence in a weaker segment which you anticipate your
competitor will move into.
So you might launch a regional version of your brand or product overseas to counter any
expansion your rival might make into that market. The important thing is to dedicate enough
resources to secure a decent foothold in each flank, otherwise your enemies will be able to
steamroll you out of the competition without much cost or effort to them.

5. Counter-Offensive Defence

Ever heard of fighting fire with fire? When you’re facing a head-on assault then chances are that
you’ll want to retaliate. Well Kotler suggests three ways of doing so.

First is a head-on counter assault of your own, where you lock horns with your enemy and see
who’s tougher! The second requires more tact, as you pause for a moment and wait for the
attacker to reveal a weakness you can exploit. So you might find that your competitor’s product
lacks a key feature, and really play on that in your own attacks. Finally comes a pincer
movement, where you might release two counter products at once. One could match the
opponent’s and the other could beat it on price, so that they struggle to defend against both!

6. Strategic Withdrawal

This isn’t the same as just giving up, the word ‘strategic’ means that it’s different! It’s always
better to live and fight another day than to foolishly fight a losing battle until the inevitable
grizzly end.

This strategy is where you withdraw from your more vulnerable areas and redirect your
resources to the more defendable ones, which Kotler likens to a hedgehog withdrawing into a
spiky ball. So you might sell off some of your smaller operations to focus more efforts on your
more profitable ones.