- Flanking marketing is a strategy where one company attacks the weak spot of a rival in terms of a geographic region, product or market segment where it is underperforming.
- There are four types of flanking marketing: low price flanking, high price flanking, flanking with size, and distribution flanking. Within these types, a company can exploit various weaknesses related to price, product, region, or customer experience.
- Real-world examples where flanking marketing has been used effectively include Volkswagen, LG, Apple, Premier Inn, and Mercedes-Benz.
What is flanking marketing?
Flanking marketing is a strategy where one company attacks the weak spot of a rival in terms of a geographic region, product or market segment where it is underperforming.
Understanding flanking marketing
Flanking marketing, also known as the flanking attack strategy, involves one company going after its competition in an attempt to win market share from them. This is an effective strategy for the attacker that is also very hard to defend for the company in a weaker position.
Fundamental to this approach is the attacker zeroing in on a competitor’s weak points. This can include deficiencies in almost any aspect of a business such as price point, product features, customer availability, customer support, or underrepresentation in a specific geographic area.
For flanking marketing to succeed, the attacker needs to identify which of their strengths will exploit the weaknesses of a competitor. To do this, a combination of the Value Disciplines model and SWOT analysis can be effective. For competitors with a product or service portfolio, the BCG matrix is also used to identify products that have low growth potential and low market share. Whatever the method is chosen, however, it’s important to be as specific as possible when identifying weaknesses.
Flanking marketing types
There are generally accepted to be four different types of flanking marketing:
- Low price flanking – where a company lowers the price of its products or services below those offered by its competitor. When products are more or less identical between brands, the company with the more expensive prices tends to lose market share.
- High price flanking – where a company raises the price of its products or services with respect to a competitor. This is often done to alter the status quo, set a new standard, or redefine some characteristic of the market. See the Mercedes-Benz example below for more detail on this strategy.
- Flanking with size – Apple referenced the small size of the iPod when it was marketed to customers and won market share from cassette and CD player manufacturers. Volkswagen’s famous “Think Small” marketing campaign also positioned the Beetle as a smaller (and better) alternative to much larger sedans from American makers.
- Distribution flanking – new distribution channels can also be incorporated into flanking marketing attacks. American watch manufacturer Timex started selling watches in pharmacies while competitor watches were sold only in department stores.
Some more flanking marketing examples
There are numerous examples of flanking marketing in the real world. We hope that the following examples are of some interest:
- Mercedes-Benz – in an early form of flanking marketing in the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz orchestrated an attack against General Motors in the prestige car market. The German manufacturer priced its luxury sedans much higher than the incumbent GM Cadillac as part of a campaign to position it as the superior vehicle. Over 50 years later, Mercedes outsold Cadillac for the first time and the latter lost its reputation as a luxury brand.
- Premier Inn – British limited-service hotel chain Premier Inn flanked its competitors by attacking a weakness most of them shared: a lack of quality. While its rivals were focused on low prices, Premier Inn introduced the Good Night Guarantee to take market share from them. Here, the company referenced a quality stay as its strength to emphasize its competitors’ deficiency in this area.
- LG Corporation – South Korean multinational LG noticed that rural areas of India were underserved by its competitors in the television market. Other firms were focusing on city areas where consumers could afford to pay higher prices. In response, LG developed a cheaper alternative for rural markets known as the “Sampoorna”. To market the new television, LG sent promotional vehicles across the country covering some 5,000 kilometers each week to increase brand awareness and secure market share before a competitor could move in.
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