Marketing Warfare – The Flank

We were the headline performers for a FM Global Asia Pacific Conference Gala Dinner held at Rasa Sentosa Shangri-la tonight. Hossan Leong was also earlier on the event program that was hosted by Joe Augustin.

Coincidentally, we were at Sentosa last Saturday for a show and we will be going to be at Sentosa next week too for another show at Resorts World.

The illusion show for FM Global went great and we actually performed a completely different show a few days ago on Sunday, just for top management from around Asia Pacific.

This was a much bigger crowd and we brought out the usual favourites like ‘Magic Babe’s’ “Strait Jacket Striptease” and “The Spike Box”. A number of people came up to us after the show to thank us (including the top executive of the company) and to take photos.

One of the audience members who came up to us pointed out that he enjoyed the show very much because he found our pairing as an equal duo to be very refreshing. It was completely different from the traditional male and female teams in magic and was more unique than an individual performer.

The positioning of ourselves as an equal duo is by design and is a “flank” in the world of marketing warfare. It was a flank on the global magic marketplace to stand out from any other magic team or magician in the world.

The flank is taken from military warfare and applied to marketing as a tactic to sidestep the competition to take an offensive advantage or gain market share.

In Jack Trout and Al Ries’ book “Marketing Warfare”, they discuss specific marketing tactics based on their Positioning concept/ strategy.

In an overly simplistic view, it can be very loosely perceived as doing the opposite of what the competition (everyone else) is doing.

In marketing, going head to head with the competition is never a good idea. All parties generally take big hits even if one comes out on top. It is a drain on resources, time, brand name and morale.

The same goes for mix martial arts fights. Two strikers (boxers or kickboxers) who go head to head strongly with strikes end out hurting each other and themselves. They each land strikes which are damaging but it also takes a lot of effort to deliver strikes and hurts the hands. That is why mixed martial artists are excellent flankers. A flank in the fight would be when one fighter side steps the other and delivers a throw, grapple and take down and locks in a submission hold. He wins and neither fighter gets hurt as much.

Jackie Chan did a classic flanking move to stand out from the rest of the Kung Fu action stars and stuntmen. He often recounts his approach to differentiate himself in the seventies at the beginning of his career. In the era where Bruce Lee was reigning supreme by bringing Asian martial arts to mainstream movies and pop culture, everyone was trying to be Bruce; resulting in multiple clones (wannabes) of the master.

Jackie flanked everyone by doing the opposite of what Bruce Lee did. While Bruce was the tough action hero, Jackie always portrayed himself as the often hapless and reluctant hero. Bruce Lee always kicked high to show off his skills and flexibility, Jackie always kicked low. Bruce always ended his punches with an aggressive battle cry. Jackie would grimace in pain and shake his hand. His flanking move of combining physical comedy with martial arts paved the way to his success; not discounting his talent, hard work and technical skills.

Flanking is a guerilla marketing tactic and is also explored aggressively by Joe Conrad Levinson in his Guerilla Marketing book series. The guerilla marketer is one who is often mobile and has limited resources and manpower. Therefore, a large percentage of marketing tactics tend to be flanks to circumvent the position of the competition.

While guerilla marketers used to refer to new upstarts and small businesses, even larger business with individual business units have to employ guerilla marketing warfare in the current ever dividing highly segmented marketplace.

Flanking as a marketing tactic, however, is easier said than done. While you strive to do the opposite than the rest of the marketplace, you need to ensure that you are still operating within the limits of commercial appeal otherwise you will be seen as deviant and be rejected by the larger segment of the marketplace. While you might amass a small cult following, depending on your locality, if might not be enough to be successful at the level you desire.

Sometimes you need to execute a marketing flank on yourself to keep your innovative edge. Gillette is famous for flanking themselves as a defensive marketing move and to retain innovation leadership.

We did a marketing flank to ourselves too with our most recent mega event. When we first announced in early Jan 2010 that we would be attempting a brand new stunt, everyone thought or even expected that we would be attempting another teleportation mega illusion.

We knew that is what the public, media and industry anticipated, which is why we decided to do something completely different. We chose to go with a psychological illusion instead of a physical one. The move paid off as “The Impossible 4D Prediction” garnered us the most buzz in traditional and online media. Even till today, our keyword search terms statistics still show people searching for “The Impossible 4D Prediction”.

BTW, a brand new separate page has now been created as a case study for our psychological illusion here:

Flanking will keep you on the cutting edge of innovation for your customers as well as help you sidestep competitors offensive marketing moves. It keeps you moving forward and not stagnate at what works. Innovators do not subscribe to the “if it is not broken, don’t fix it” philosophy. Innovators always push the envelope and break new ground!


About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
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2 Responses to Marketing Warfare – The Flank

  1. Pingback: Fighting from the Bottom « BACKSTAGE BUSINESS: The Art, Science & Business of Showbiz by J C Sum

  2. No doubt the headline and topic drew us into this blog.
    Have a fond respect for Trout & Ries and other sources that
    shaped & molded the role Market Warfare plays, within Industry.
    Have carrired these principles forward for the last three decades
    to impact our clients’ success – resulting in generating $750 million revenue (cumulatatively) for valued clients.
    Flanking is an interesting angle – and the examples expressed
    are good demonstrations.
    Will quickly outline a program that we put in-place for a technology client deemed “Mission Possible.”
    After a front-end research effort, we confirmed that an Industry Leader was repositioning its business – building position and business base in a new, growth-oriented, target market.
    As a by-product, they were planning to redirect the company’s efforts quietly, which would leave certain segments of the existing, customer base – “high and dry”- with no migration path.
    Our client was #2 in this technology space and was looking for ways to expand its core business, increase the revenue base and steal share from the larger incumbent.
    We structured a hard-hitting, program (eventually worldwide in-scope, after the Pilot phase was completed), which literally “defined the problem in our client’s terms and exploited the competition’s shifting commitment to this active, customer base.”
    Talk about playing off the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the competition (incumbent) – they never knew what hit them!
    The program consisted of a well-defined, Gameplan/Playbook, effective Competitive Positioning, Competitive Analyses/Tools, comprehensive contact data-base with various program techniques that created “comfortable” access/entry to key accounts to allow the direct Sales Team and 3rd Party Channel Partners to “engage” with target prospects, training/implementation guide, conversion tools that made the transition from the existing system to our client’s system – transparent and painless and a brilliant financial program that minimized the prospect’s risk and clinched the sale.
    This progam was waged for one, full year.
    The commissions and bonuses paid to key producers exceeded the cost of the program – which comparatively was peanuts.
    This program also opened-up the prospect base to other products and services provided by our client.
    The program was the big money maker that fiscal year and this class of program has become a standard of doing business for our client.
    This is a real-world, example of flanking the competition – and there are many other examples and translations.
    Hope this is useful to your blog and instructive to your readership.
    A firm believer in “flanking,” however one must make sure that the basis for leveraging this approach is validated and justified.
    Have to do the homework to assure that you are not “chasing shadows” and that the basis for any flanking move is well-grounded.
    Good Hunting!
    Edmond Hawkeye Hennessy
    Performance Marketing Group
    Author: Market Warfare – Leadership & Domination Over Competitors
    A breakthrough book endorsed by Jay Conrad Levinson –
    The Father of Guerrilla Marketing

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