It has been two decades since Trout & Rees wrote the book "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," which suggests that it often is better, when you find yourself on the second or third rung of a ladder and someone else is firmly perched on top of it and shows no signs of climbing down to make room for you up there, to build a new ladder.
Creating a new ladder means finding a new design improvement, new target, new perceptual hill. Steve Jobs and Apple seem to make a very good business following this rule again and again.
There are two kinds of warfare (if you don't count guerrilla, which is normally not a viable long-term marketing strategy in the face of solidly branded competition): offensive attack or flanking.
As a flanker, by definition, you are not in competition with anyone. Your objective is to advance NOT on the competition BUT on an open position. In the perfect flanking maneuver, the competition is no one!
The criteria for evaluating a new radio format's position:
1. What is the interest overall in the format and position among target listeners? Is there sufficient room between them for a middle ground attitude and music mix?
2. What is the music taste pattern and music preference for the open position? Which possible approach is closer to the particular taste of your market? What has the exposure of the music been in the past in the market?
3. Is the hole already covered in the minds of the target audience by an existing station? This one can fool you. Just listening to an existing station doesn’t always indicate all of strong images which drive their usage today driven by their history.
Once you find a “hole,” the key is attitude, music focus and overall positioning and these ingredients are so important to the target that getting them wrong at the inception can be disastrous.
You only get a chance to be new one time. And, once you have sullied your name with the target group, especially today’s Gen X and Gen Y folks whose attention span is extremely short, it is much tougher to rejuvenate the image than it is to get it right from day one.
A smart flanker is going to attack empty territory. Everyone should give up only a little and no one loses a lot. The only exception: when a station deconstructs itself in the face of the new perceived "attack" and "defends" against it by, for example, shifting a successful focus to a different one, they have basically changed format and disenfranchised their core audience.
This only works when the flanker's potential target audience is larger or more desirable from a business point of view than the defender's current format and can get expensive for both the incumbent and newbee if the flanking attack turns into head-on.
The best advice in the face of any flanking attack: stay COOL.
React only when/if your numbers drop. Find out why you are no longer satisfying your target as successfully as you once did and correct that. Focus on attacking yourself, not the new competition.
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