Napoleon May Turn Out To be The Greatest Marketing Strategist of all time

The Greatest Marketing Strategist:Napoleon

By Tom Dougherty

Napoleon the greatest marketing strategist of all time
Napoleon as a strategist

(Read my blog about Napoleon and Waterloo here from a marketer’s perspective) and Napoleon Bonaparte is still studied for his military axioms and tactics. Most marketers realize that marketing is a form of warfare — albeit without the national imperative or the mortal risks. At Stealing Share, we look for clues anywhere we can find them and we study success (as well as failure) to learn both the lessons and pratfalls.

Napoleon has always held a special place in our mythology because his pithy military quips provide an innate understanding of human nature and the nature of struggle. Sun-Tzu, the revered author of the Art of War has been studied by marketers for more than two decades — as you will see, Napoleon deserves the same treatment. Here are some Napoleon quotes here on brand strategy.

”One bad general is worth two good ones”

Napoleon was referring to the importance of being single-minded in both process and purpose. What is interesting about the statement is that he did not compare one good general to two good ones — he compared a bad one to two good ones. In marketing, focus and single-minded intent is the best predictor of success. When you build a brand to steal market share, deciding on a single mission is often your biggest hurdle.

Human nature tells us that all too often we are too close to the situation and this subjective vantage point makes it difficult to see the situation dispassionately. Find and then stick to a single focus. Where might Miller Lite be today if they had decided between “great taste” and “less filling.” Trying to be all things to everyone is a recipe for disaster. A great market position not only informs the target audience whom you are for, it proclaims as emphatically whom you are NOT for.

Napoleon and Sun-tzu were the greatest marketing strategist of all time
Napoleon’s army was prepared

“Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the later than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never.”

Napoleon might well be referring to the struggle all businesses have in managing scarce resources. For example, resources like time and money. When planning a successful campaign Mr. Bonaparte realized that time, was his scarcest commodity and that hesitation often preceded disaster. In building a brand strategy to increase market share, timing is everything and victory often belongs to the swiftest. Speed is rarely the ally of the market leader. Often the market leader is encumbered by entrenched process and expensive infrastructure. They are wedded to the status quo. When opportunity peaks its head above the entrenchment… it is time to strike.

“It should not be believed that a march of three or four days in the wrong direction can be corrected by a countermarch. As a rule, this is to make two mistakes instead of one.”

Once again, Napoleon was referring to focus and intent. We find, as we evaluate business strategies for our clients, that often as not, they once possessed a single-minded brand strategy that would have led to market leadership had they seen it through to the end. Instead, they second guessed themselves and “marched back in the wrong direction.”

Entrepreneurial companies are strongly at risk for this error in strategy. Often as not, their verve and early success came as the result of the individual force of presence of a creative founder or president. Harnessing this energy and not allowing it to loses focus is a great challenge. More often than not, patience, focus, and absolute commitment lead to success. This axiom has as a prerequisite careful planning and measured risk.

“If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur.”

Napoleon was a brandman
Napoleon understood human behavior

The ability to analyze risk, uncover opportunity, and plan to exploit the breech are the skills that every marketing department needs to foster. Can you look dispassionately at the situation? Are you able to see opportunities even if the path seems to lead in a different direction than your processes currently lead? Do you see your brand mission as a servant to customer beliefs of business process? Can you see opportunity when it may, at times, look like adversity? Napoleon asks us all to do our due diligence and homework.

At Stealing Share we have a simple process.

  1. What are the goals? You must have specific goals and know, precisely what it is you wish to accomplish. How will you measure your success?
  2. What are the problems and obstacles?
  3. Can you look with an objective eye and be willing to see the problems? What if the “problems” are part of your process? What if the obstacles are an investment in an equity of no importance in the mind of the target? What if the problem is a foundation upon which your business model is built? Seeing them enables you to fix them.3) What are the solutions? This is often the easy part. The challenge is in identifying the issues and problems. Asking the right question lead to the right answers. Socrates promised us that you would never solve a problem by asking the wrong question.

“The strong man is the one who is able to intercept at will the communication between the senses and the mind.”

Military thoughts can guide marketing
Everything was planned out

Here Napoleon speaks to the heart of marketing and brand strategy. It is the melding of the left and right brain. The ability to understand with logical clarity and to interpret the logic with a creative brush. The same skill that creates a brand strategy or market strategy to increase market share excites the target audience to prefer your brand. It must appeal to both their right and left-brain.

All too often we settle for the logical argument because it is the easiest to quantify, but our past success promises us that the emotional values are possibly more important than the cognitive assessment. Most of your customers do not really know why they chose your brand. Likewise, your adversary’s customers do not know why they prefer the competition’s brand. If you ask, they will give you an answer, but often as not, it is far from the truth. Understanding the emotional cues is the difference between winning and losing. Napoleon said it best… “Between a battle lost and a battle won, the distance is immense and there stand empires.”

(Read about the importance of precepts here)

(Read about Coach John Wooden on strategy here)

The Navy brand takes a hit from the Blue Angels

In the world today, nations rely on its armed forces for security and defense. That is a given. But we also rely on the individuals in that service to defend our reputation and project both the military and ethical power of our society.

War and conflict are impossible to simulate. Under stress, the military is asked to conduct itself ethically while treading over the trip wires of fear, danger and death.

Sometimes, those actions run afoul of our own societal sensibilities as came to light in the Abu Ghraib scandal a few years back. No one could look at those pictures and read of the debasing treatment of detainees without feeling a sense of remorse and national embarrassment. We hold, in our brand of The United States of America, a belief that we are better than that. Still, bad decisions and poor actions are often the result of a mindset that says someone is the enemy.

But the Blue Angels? Give me a break.

Blue-AngelsThe Washington Post reported, “The Navy officer is the latest in a string of senior military commanders to come under investigation for sexual misconduct or other misbehavior. Congress and the White House have grown especially frustrated at the Pentagon’s struggles to police sex crimes and harassment in the ranks.”

There is no excuse for this. None.

Let’s defend our brand as fiercely as we do our shores. The brand of America stands for something. We treat people with dignity and honor their unalienable rights. We defend their freedom from exploitation and stand up for the weak and oppressed.

The Navy needs to prosecute this offender. Severely. Looking at these situations in the crucible of our civilian world (which defines the Blue Angels role as a public extension of the military brand) says that something is wrong.

If we do not prosecute this crime, we foster a belief that the military is insular to the rules of our society. This is not what we want or need.

We cannot overlook the obvious and then be surprised by scandal. We tell all of our clients that brand is not marketing. Brand is a culture. It needs to reflect the culture you embrace and, through that embrace, it also directs actions. The Navy reflects our culture and we are a culture of laws. How about we enforce them with more than a slap on the wrist and a transfer? Certainly the Catholic Church learned that such meaningless punishment fosters a culture of ignorance.