Anonymous is a retired SAS colonel
Anonymous is a retired SAS colonel
A view from SAS Colonel

The art of brand warfare: lessons from an SAS colonel

Despite the obvious differences, the battlefield and the marketplace are surprisingly similar; but what unites them is strategy, says a retired officer of the British...

Ultimately, strategy is about winning wars and is the essential link between politics and tactics. Strategy marries the ends, the ways and the means.

Having a clear strategy is essential as it can deliver clarity from your leadership, as well as an ability to lead and implement tactics with conviction.

Leading with clarity and conviction are the key to success on any battlefield.

Nevertheless, companies must always remember that strategy is an art, not a science.

This is because certainty does not exist on the battlefield and neither does it exist in the marketplace.

But, while certainty may not exist, conviction is critical to successfully applying any strategy on the battlefield.

Know your enemy

First and foremost, when developing military strategy, knowledge of your enemy is paramount. The same applies in business with your competitors.  

For knowledge of the enemy, I’d look back to the ancient Chinese military general and philosopher Sun Tzu. He talks of attacking the enemy’s strategy first, then his alliances and only lastly his army.

Companies must always remember that strategy is an art, not a science.This is because certainty does not exist on the battlefield and neither does it exist in the marketplace.

However, on top of knowledge of your competitor, knowledge of yourself is also essential. Without a full and frank understanding of a brand’s strengths and weaknesses, your strategy will be permanently hindered.

To fully understand your brand when constructing your strategy, you need to look back to another military philosopher, Carl Von Clausewitz.

He was a Prussian military general at the end of the 18th century who spoke of "The Trinity". He meant it as the trinity of the government, the military and the people.

In the commercial setting, however, this would represent the board, the brand and the consumer.

In the crucible of war, it is the mix of these three that will determine the outcome and levels of success. If you fail to understand your brand, then these components will not work in harmony together and you’ll not be able to perform in that crucible.

Positioning is pivotal

Once an army, or in this instance a brand, knows the strengths and limitations of both itself and its enemy, positioning becomes everything.

Positioning is the result of the early analysis to understand an army’s place in the battlefield, and moulds the greater part of the strategy.

Ultimately, correctly positioning yourself in the battlefield will allow you to maximise your strengths against the enemy while at the same time supporting your weaker areas.

While individuals may develop strategies, we must never forget they are implemented by armies.

Effective positioning will optimise the performance of your troops. While individuals may develop strategies, we must never forget they are implemented by armies.

Positioning will also show you your enemy’s weakest point. This allows you to act with the highest chance of success at exactly the right moment.

In theory, the perfect strategy is the one that allows you to win without firing a shot. However, both armies and brands must be prepared to fire when necessary.

Essentially, a winning strategy marries together intelligence and self-belief – that is to say, acting on believed knowledge and acting with conviction.

The best strategy is one that wins, but the ‘perfect’ strategy probably does not exist.


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