When we developed the positioning for the Armory and the Maneuver Marketing Communique we knew that the extensive use of military metaphors and concepts would be met with a fair amount of criticism. Marketing over the past several years has become dominated by a blue state of mind which is intolerant of all things deemed politically incorrect.
The positioning you see in the blog and elsewhere on our web sites has evolved over several years and hundreds of conversations with staff, partners and associates. Many counseled against the use of military metaphors because of the potential for criticism and ridicule. Their point being why alienate somebody if you don't have to? A point well taken.
But the reality is that most of the theory that drives vSente's campaigning methodology has it's roots in military strategy and specifically an area of thought called maneuver theory. Attempting to hide or disguise this would be less than genuine and dilute the power of the theories and contributions.
The father of maneuver theory is the ancient Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu. The essence of maneuver theory is the ability to shape the competitive landscape to your advantage and the disadvantage of your adversaries. The best practice of maneuver theory results in winning without fighting. Which by itself is delicious with irony when confronting critics of war metaphors...
At face value maneuver theory has much to offer marketing campaigning - especially if it holds open the opportunity to better a competitor without engaging them directly. As a marketer I first began applying maneuver theory to marketing campaigns back in the late 80’s. I was attracted to the concepts of maneuver theory because of my need to get more done with less money, quite often against larger better-provisioned competitors.
What I discovered as I read more and more about maneuver theory were the many similarities between military and business campaigning. Here are several examples:
a. Activity. Business and war are each a form of competition involving two or more adversaries striving to gain an advantage or achieve a victory.
b. Strategy. Strategy plays an important role in each activity and can determine the outcome of the conflict.
c. Resources. Both business and war face significant logistical issues that require the organization and projection of people and resources.
d. Competencies. Both the military and business must marshal and command a complex set of resources and competencies.
e. Leadership. Visionary leaders capable of driving sustainable results are critical to the success of each activity and can be a decisive factor in determining the success of the campaign.
f. Intelligence. The ability to collect, analyze and distribute competitive intelligence is paramount to both the military and business.
So is business war? Of course not. Does business share many attributes with war. Yes. Can those engaged in the conduct of both learn from each other? Yes. Is war an appropriate metaphor for business? Depends on your point of view. In our case the answer is yes.
We have been seeing an increasing number of folks finding our blog and web sites after googling sales and marketing military metaphors. I'm not sure why that is, but the point of this entry is to offer why we have chosen this form of metaphor to communicate who we are and what we do. There are two military related resources I would direct critics of war metaphors to in order to gain an understanding of the topic you're criticizing.
The first is the Denma translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War. They have written an excellent explanation of the real meaning of the Art of War in the their forward titled Applying the Art of War. The second resource is John Boyd's monograph Organic Command and Control in which the maverick fighter pilot outlines his approach to building agile, cohesive, motivated and empowered organizations.
So if you review these resources and still think military metaphors are bad at least you're criticism will be from a informed point of view. But as marketers if you're simply kvetching PCisms then you're missing s significant body of thought that just might hold the key to you greatly improving your own campaigning skills.