Art of War: Advanced Guerrilla Marketing Strategies for High Risk Profile Aggressive Companies

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Guerrilla Marketing is applied guerrilla warfare for marketing and advertising. I think most of us know as much. Che Guevara popularized the term “guerrilla warfare,” meaning, “little (agile) warfare.” And before him, Sun Tzu, the Chinese Philosopher wrote an entire treatise on the topic. You know it as “The Art of War.”


And these are the core principles:

1. Never fight when the enemy outnumbers you

In marketing, this means that instead of trying to sell to millions of people, attack small niche groups of fan-bois, Otaku (Japanese term for “reclusive fanatic”), and Mania (Korean term for obsessive product zealots).

2. Never fight when the enemy is on higher ground (uphill)

The uphill part can be applied to long difficult sales cycles

Probably the most hated and unpopular dictator in history said something smart, and it’s quoted by American and English politicians to this day, “If you have to explain, you’ve failed.” Use marketing that’s so clear and instantly compelling that you score a kill (conversion) by just dropping your weapon (since you’re uphill now).

Just drop a headline. Just drop a 5 second demo video. Just drop an impactual photograph. If you have to explain your game, app, product, service, company, or website, you’ve failed. Keep improving your position (messaging clarity and delivery) until you’re standing on your enemy’s bald spot.

3. Lure your enemy onto terrain that is favorable to you

While you can struggle to capture the higher ground, what’s even more strategic is to seduce, not force, your enemy to lower ground.

Forcing your enemies to lower ground requires exhaustion of resources: weapons, manpower, food, time. So instead, lure. Seduce.

Sun Tzu did this by sending a small force to attack one of his enemies major cities. This caused his enemy to abandon his hard earned position. In another event, he simply used food to seduce his enemy off of high ground. The trouble with high ground is that resource delivery becomes more challenging as the ground gets higher. So Sun Tzu killed all the food delivery troops on their way up.
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In marketing, this is what Apple and Google did to Microsoft’s userbase. Remember. In guerrilla marketing, your target (enemy) is NOT your competition. It’s your competition’s marketshare. Instead of attacking a dominant platform on it’s dominant ground (like Wolfram Alpha tried to do against Google’s market), Apple waited long enough to make the public starved for tasty UX. They came in hordes. Google did the same to Microsoft. Instead of developing a new Google OS for Intel platform PCs, they started attacking an undefended capital city: the bloated browser called Internet Explorer. You forget that browser still exists didn’t you? By changing the battle focal point, Google made making a new OS (fighting Microsoft’s market penetration where they are dominant) irrelevant. Google did this by introducing apps that you don’t even have to leave the browser for. The top of the mountain is no longer important when you’ve jumped mountains.

4. Kill without using weapons or troops where ever possible

This sounds to me like marketing automation. What Sun Tzu meant was to hunker down and let brutal winters, viscious disease, bitter starvation, internal betrayal, and if possible, acts-of-god destroy your enemies.

The principle here is to leverage the enemy’s (your target market) relationship with their product or service product against them.

Don’t try to sell your prettier-shinier-cheaper product to your market under the narcissistic preconception that “that’s what they want.” If you’re wrong, it’s going to require every single bullet in your arsenal to convince the market that that’s what you got.
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Instead, find the winter, disease, starvation and internal discontent in your enemy.

Set up search filters in Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest using the leading company’s name and product name. You might be amazed what your target market is actually pining away for.

5. Sun Tzu said a lot more stuff

See how Guerrilla Marketing applies to:

a. Google SEO

b. PR and Press Releases for Blog Coverage

c. Social Media Marketing

d. Trade Show Marketing

e. eCommerce SEO

f. Kickstarter and Venture Capital

By Robert Wan,
VP Strategy.