December 12, 2011

Think Like A Prussian General

In his famous essay, Principles of War, Major-General Carl von Clausewitz postulated that one of the key principles of winning a war was to apply a preponderance of physical force and material advantage to a decisive point of conflict.

This principle is also applicable in marketing. Sadly, however, it is rarely understood these days. Instead, we are living in the era of "360-degree touchpoints."

The current media landscape is kaleidoscopic as never before. There have never been so many media options, or options within options. The term "online advertising" alone means so many different things that it has simply become a short-hand for twenty or more different types of advertising which have nothing in common, other than they are all delivered over the web.

What does a Google listing have in common with a YouTube video? What does a Twitter feed have in common with a website? Nothing except the delivery system.

In their never-ending rush to cover all their bases and produce impressive looking media flow charts, clients and agencies have forgotten Clausewitz' principle. The key to winning any battle is not spreading yourself so thin that you apply a little force in many directions. The key is to concentrate your forces so that you break through. We call this impact. Advertising that does not have impact is a waste of money.

There are two ways to have impact. First, by doing great creative work. Second, by buying your way into the public consciousness. The first is obviously preferable, but the second also works.

The most wasteful way to spend advertising dollars is by doing invisible creative work and diluting your media presence over "360 degree touchpoints" so that you're everywhere and you're nowhere.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, has enough money that they can spend effectively in every medium. In fact, the whole science of media planning and buying is based on the presumption that there are ways to maximize the effect of media dollars and also ways to piss them all away.

It's time to bury the "360-degree touchpoints" nonsense and start thinking like a Prussian general. You don't want to do a little of everything. You want to do a few things well.

No one will ever say it better than David Ogilvy, "The essence of strategy is sacrifice."

1 comment:

Carson Marks said...

Great article! I wrote something similar, focused on Ogilvy's quote of sacrifice. I referenced your article in regard to the similarity of generals.

http://simple-thinking.tumblr.com/post/35356393782/strategy-requires-sacrifice