The Marketing Playbook

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The Marketing Playbook

by John Zagula and Richard Tong

Portfolio © 2004, 313 pages, $22.95 (ISBN 1-59184-038-4).

Five Battle-Tested Plays For Capturing and Keeping the Lead

Venture capitalists John Zagula and Richard Tong spent years as marketing executives at Microsoft, where they learned how to launch successful brands and market popular product lines. During their activities at Microsoft and beyond, they determined that there are only five distinct strategies for marketing any product or service. In The Marketing Playbook, the authors describe these five plays in detail, and illustrate them with numerous examples from the front lines of effective marketing campaigns.

The authors explain that The Marketing Playbook can serve as a guide that can help any business develop its own playbook that will direct its specific marketing decisions and actions. By choosing one of the five plays they offer, a business can begin to focus on an appropriate strategy and follow a set of straightforward guidelines that can lead it to market leadership and success.

To make the most of its unique playbook, the authors write that a company must first select a play that fits its situation and goals, then create a carefully thought-out map of its playing field that will help it confidently apply the chosen play, and then run the play in action. They explain that this playbook will arm any organization with a set of simple guidelines that will help it successfully run the play and respond to the market’s response.

The Five Plays

The authors write that the five plays are simply strategies for winning the race in a competitive field. These five plays are:

• The Drag Race: Pick a single competitor to which you compare yourself, then put everything you can into beating it across the finish line. The authors explain that those who choose this strategy must have what it takes to get there first.

• The Platform Play: Ignore the competition, and focus on becoming a platform from which the entire industry can win as well. Make it easy and profitable for others to partner with you and painful for them to let you lose. At the top of a category, you must be on the lookout while gathering allies and defenses.

• The Stealth Play: Focus on a specific niche where you can build your strength unnoticed. Try to peacefully coexist with the market leaders until you have what it takes to openly challenge them. You must remember to stay out of the way of big, dumb slow competitors because they “can still squish you.”

• The Best-of-Both Play: Aim to dominate the whole category by collapsing both high- and low-end offerings into a new offer that lets customers have their cake and eat it too. “If you appeal to the most important needs of each part of the market,” the authors write, “you can win them all.”

• The High-Low Play: Instead of offering a combination that collapses the extremes of a category, you emphasize the importance of choice. With this play, you try to close out the competition by splitting the category and owning both halves. You offer both extremes, no compromises, and a migration path between them. Although this is the hardest play to manage, it can lead to high volumes and high margins if it is done correctly.

Moving From Play to Play

After describing how companies such as winemaker Robert Mondavi, Microsoft, American Express, DaimlerChrysler and others have used these strategies to succeed in their own industries, the authors explain how companies can learn more about their situations, understand key factors and address the market dynamics that are essential to their line of attack. They write that “doing your homework” helps in three ways:

1. It helps you discover, define or refine the vision that inspires you and the mission that motivates you.

2. It helps you reach conclusions that define the boundaries and constraints for choosing your strategy.

3. It can help define your investment priorities.

To maximize the outcome of doing your homework, they point out that you must: first, look at the developments that came before you and define the industry as it stands today, as well as the state of the other industries that support it; look for the openings in the dynamics of that industry; isolate the key economic and other levers in the industry that are required to exploit that opening; and finally, focus all your energies, priorities and decisions on moving those levers. ~

Why We Like This Book

The Marketing Playbook offers a workable metaphor for making marketing work. Seen as a team sport that requires running plays to create a winning marketing campaign, the authors offer organizations succinct strategies for building teams, choosing tactics, calculating time horizons and planning the next move while outmaneuvering the competition. The authors’ conversational tone and relevant experience make it a useful resource. ~

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