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.
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Connected Marketing Concepts

Email Marketing

Email marketing leverages a set of tactics to build a stronger brand, drive traffic to your products, and build a solid funnel for converting leads into loyal customers. While email marketing isn’t new, it’s still one of the most effective marketing strategies to build a valuable business.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing involves the marketing of products or services that leverages the popularity, expertise, or reputation of an individual. Influencer marketing is often associated with those who have large social media followings, but popularity should not be confused with influence. Influence has the power to change consumer perceptions or get their audience to do something different.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

E-commerce Marketing

E-commerce marketing is part of the digital marketing landscape, and beyond, where e-commerce businesses can enhance their sales, distribution, and branding through targeted campaigns toward their desired audience, convert it into loyal customers which can potentially refer the brand to others. Usually, e-commerce businesses can kick off their digital marketing strategy by mastering a single channel then expand for a more integrated digital marketing strategy.

Buzz Marketing

Buzz marketing leverages the power of word-of-mouth advertising to create products or services with enough novelty that they go viral. In many cases, buzz marketing leverages on versatile content that can easily scale and be readapted to various contexts and fear of missing out (FOMO) to amplify the effect of word-of-mouth campaigns.

Shotgun Marketing

Shotgun Marketing
Shotgun marketing is a form of above-the-line (ATL) marketing, where popular mediums such as TV and radio are used to market to a mass audience. This technique of marketing targets as many consumers as possible. Also known as mass marketing, the technique attracts a large number of leads that, on average, might be of lower quality in nature.

Multichannel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Partnership Marketing

With partnership marketing, two or more companies team up to create marketing campaigns that help them grow organically with a mutual agreement, thus making it possible to reach shared business goals. Partnership marketing leverages time and resources of partners that help them expand their market.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

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