This Is WAR!


For a variety of amusing reasons, our team has been including repeated references to war when we’re communicating about prospects and campaigns. This isn’t new to marketing. After all, we “target” our audience, then “deploy” a campaign to “capture” and “retain” the “battleground of brand awareness”.

And just as in a well conceived military effort, there are “attack” forces, and “occupational” forces. Each with an entirely different role – replete with individual weaknesses and strengths.

Our goal is to deploy the attack forces to capture that mental territory, and then implant the occupation force to hold fort. We giggled a bit at the analogy – but the more we played with it, the more sense it seemed to make – and the more the analogy became reality.

Dr. Max Sutherland’s monthly column provided a few insights which drove home the war analogy to a new level (I’ll paraphrase):

  1. Once the target’s “mental territory” has been captured, it takes much less “media artillery” to defend it.
  2. It may be a good strategy to use longer length “attack force” messaging first, then deploy shorter “occupation” messaging after the mental territory has been secured.
  3. Likewise, the analogy helped us understand why radio, billboards, print ads and even web banner ads could seem totally ineffective and yet (at other times) be strikingly effective.
  4. Vary troop brigades for different missions. For any new campaign, what is the precise mission? Is it to capture completely new mental territory? Or is it to relieve/freshen up the existing occupation forces?
  5. Make use of messaging sequels as occupation forces. This can minimize media spend, while securing the mental territory already captured. Point of fact – it’s harder to secure mental territory than it is to remain as an occupant there.
  6. Occupation forces require a consistent and uniform presence. To re-trigger what is already in peoples’ minds requires far less in the way of firepower. “Ad equity’ exists in past advertising. It consists of any unique characteristic features and icon(s) – associations in peoples’ minds that are now ‘owned’ by your brand.
  7. Campaigns for new brands fail if they don’t increase sales. For larger brands, this is not necessarily the case. The larger a brand’s mental share, the larger the role its advertising has as an occupation force – to reinforce and maintain its existing share. Campaigns for well-established brands are not necessarily failures if they hold on to, and reinforce their already captured territory.

Leading brands have to actively defend and hold their captured mental territory – to hang onto the mental salience that they have already achieved. Brands that neglect their occupation forces, that fail to hold on to the captured mental territory and fail to capitalize on it, lose salience.

This simple war analogy can provide some conceptual framework to planning, design and execution of any brand campaign. Our mission is to deploy marketing strategies and advertising campaigns with maximum efficiency – capturing, then holding the valuable brand territory our clients need to successful sales.


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