There is a great deal of confusion in the meaning of the word strategy. The concept of strategy came from war. Sometimes, when people use the word strategy, they mean tactics – or vision, or even guiding principals. Because of this confusion, and the association with the martial, I’d suggest that we abandon the use of the word ‘strategy’ when speaking of marketing – and more particularly, social media marketing.
War is considered a zero-sum game. One side loses and the other side gains. Of course, in reality, it is usually both sides that lose, as value is destroyed throughout society. Value destruction is the very reason we should move away from military metaphors. Of course, the military has much to teach us in business. This latest Harvard Business Review was dedicated to lessons learned from military commanders. I particularly enjoyed the story about how a commander came into a tense stand-off with local farmers, and by being an effective listener and taking the role of mediator, was able to help defuse/diffuse the situation.
Going to War? The Marketers Battle
In some markets, market share is finite. If two companies are both competing for the US Government’s bid for toilet brushes, someone is going to lose, and someone is going to win. It’s pretty competitive and adversarial. I imagine in the same situation I’d be reaching for my dog-eared copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
In most markets, however, there are more dynamic components in play. In the sugar-water wars of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, it’s unlikely that one side is going to prevail, and wipe the other out. They both serve the needs of different consumers. Their brands each have very different personalities – and ultimately, it’s less about the taste of the drinks than it is about the brand association.
An alternative vocabulary and system of thinking could be based on the new business philosophy of vision and values. In eschewing the idea of strategy for one of vision and values, we still possess the guiding principles and motivation for our tactics, but are not focused on a nearsighted competitiveness. We are focused on creating value.
Am I making too much of an accepted term? Or do I have a point? I’d love to hear your own thoughts – please comment!