Marketing Planet

Marketing Warfare, by Al Ries and Jack Trout

The marketing team Al Ries and Jack Trout have very well succeeded in writing various books. There style as always, very easy written, make their books accessible for a great many people eager to learn how to improve their marketing approach. “Marketing Warfare†is no exception to this style.

Quality of the book

The risk of writing books that are easy to read is that they can lack in profoundness. Some heard critics on the book are indeed saying that the repeat too often; that the book could hold in 50 pages instead of 200 and that one should rather read Sun Tzu’s Art of the war.

Most of the critics have correct arguments. The difference is that not every one that looks for a marketing book is willing to go through a very theoretical exposure, nor will they manage to link the experiences from Sun Szu, Clausewitz or Napoleon to today’s marketing. Moreover, repeating ideas often happens to be more efficient especially since most readers today decrease in concentration capacity.

The book was edited in 1986 for the first time in the United States. The fact that it is still read today, 2005, is rather a sign of quality and success. So for those who are interested in ideas to improve their marketing strategy, Marketing Warfare can teach you certain ideas, let alone as a proof on the importance of perception and the battle ground inside the head of the customer.


From explaining, briefly, different wars and quoting Clausewitz’s “on war†, Marketing Warfare takes the reader to the battleground of marketing. Indeed, rules of the number, the strength and the competition are all different key elements are being derived from war strategies. When applied in marketing, they come to define the key elements for each market player.

Continuing on these bases, the reader learns the different roles that are possible in warfare, and how they can be applied into marketing strategies. Different examples illustrate the difficulties. Bear in mind that each market is unique and changes according to time and actors. A reader should not expect to find a full roll out for its own marketing strategy. Identifying its current positioning based on the examples will help the reader to see what possible moves he can make and which may be bound to fail.

Where school books for marketing students only enter into theoretical possibilities, the Marketing Warfare provides more lively situations, focusing on the real situation and “teaches†by means of examples that speak out for themselves. Situations are often explained as being obvious, but once again, the style of Al Trout and Jack Ries is the modern American style. In marketing it is about selling and perception, and so is their book. Making things too complicated will sell less and this is not the aim in marketing, so neither in Marketing Warfare.

Case studies

Marketing Warfare provides in the second part several case studies to illustrate the different theories explained earlier in the book. When reading those case studies it made me think of a game of chess. The difficulty and the challenge lies in being each time some steps ahead of your competitor and being aware of the consequences your moves can have. That will make you win from your competitor. To have this vision, and analyse each of your moves, you need experience. See as many situations, the reactions and their outcome will help you imagine accordingly the results for your own actions.

The case studies provide exactly this experience and gymnastic that you will need to act and to imagine possible results. When reading them, it seems all so obvious. (you may say, it is always easier to explain afterwards). But if it were so easy, why would so many companies make the same errors. Seeing the different situations over again create automatism in your head and make you think more strategically. Companies often forget on the long turn what made them big or strong. Exactly at that moment, competition will attack. The Coca Cola war and the Burger war are clear examples that still have not finished.

It depends on you

Reading Marketing Warfare depends on you, so does the interest you take out of it. Often people reckon that marketing is not logical, just fooling around with customers etc. It is less so than they may think. Big companies are big because they apply precisely a marketing approach that took them there. One wrong move, too much creativity or originality can take them away. Even if you manage to play the game you will always have to be aware of competition who wants to take your place, by means of whatever “war†: defensive, offensive, guerrilla of flanking. Marketing is for business, business means money, and today none thinks money is just fun.

The battleground is open, even if you don’t want to play a general nor become one, you will have to fight in order to survive.