For those directly (or even indirectly) involved in their organization's marketing initiatives, what Zagula and Tong offer in this volume can be very helpful. They introduce and then rigorously examine what they call "five battle-tested plays for capturing and keeping the lead in any market." Use of "any" is an exaggeration because, of course, it is imperative to market whatever one offers only where potential is greatest for sufficiently profitable sales. Zagula and Tong duly note that "no matter what the play, if you're running it on the wrong field or with the wrong resources, it just won't work." In marketing as in thoroughbred racing, "there are courses for horses." Also, different situations require different "plays." Here are the five which Zagula and Tong offer for consideration:
The Drag Race: "In some circumstances, your best bet calls for singling out one competitor and putting the pedal to the metal racing against them to win."
Comment: Endorsed by Henry V, the Russian forces at Balaclava, and Crazy Horse and his Oglala Sioux warriors...but not by the French forces at Agincourt, Lord Cardigan and the Light Brigade, and the Seventh Cavalry under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's command at the Little Big Horn.
The Platform Play: Once dominant, develop strategic alliances and strengthen position because "you never know from where a new challenger is likely to emerge."
Comment: Obviously, the strategy and tactics are almost wholly defensive. This allows time to consolidate, train, refresh, obtain and evaluate competitive intelligence, and in all other appropriate ways anticipate threats to dominance.
The Stealth Play: As you gather resources and complete preparations, whittle away at the incumbent's weak points. However, never forget that "big, dumb, slow companies can still squish you."
Comment: An excellent strategy for organizations with severely limited resources. Margins for error are razor-thin. The "big, dumb, slow companies" can afford to carpet bomb. Be a sniper. Carefully read Sun Tzu's The Art of War, especially the chapter on Estimates. Also Jason Jennings' Think Big, Act Small.
The The Best-of-Both Play: Rather than focus on compromises ("trade-offs") at both the high and low ends of the given market, gain dominance over the entire category "by collapsing these two ends. If you appeal to the most important needs of each segment of the market, you can win them all."
Comment: Huge "if" because, when attempting to appeal to all market segments, you could lose in competition for dominance in any one of them.
High-Low Play: Try to close out the competition by splitting the given category and thereby owning both. "This is the hardest play to manage, but if it's done right, you'll achieve high volumes and high margins at the same time."
Comment: An even greater "if."
Any summary such as this fails to establish for any one "play" the extensive context within which Zagula and Tong carefully explain the relative advantages and disadvantages of each. Hence the importance of the "Take-Aways" section which they provide at the end of the chapter which they devote to each of the five. Hence the importance, also, of Chapter 7 in which they discuss how to "shift gears" from one to another, Part II in which they help their reader to analyze the the "terrain" of her or his own competitive marketplace (i.e. mapping both perils and opportunities), and Part III in which they explain HOW to initiate and then sustain an appropriate play "as a killer campaign."
Of special interest and value to me is what Zagula and Tong have to say about "The Campaign Brief." It is thoroughly explained in Chapter 13. Here is a brief excerpt:
"First, your campaign brief will be a single document you'll follow for the campaign, so you'll need to cover pretty much everything.....You find the key points, the essence, of all the analysis, strategy, and guidance you've come up with so far -- and cram it all onto a single page. That's right, onto one single page....On the one page, you're going to put three core paragraphs that lay out the whole rationale for your strategy, each paragraph no longer than three sentences" which assert case, story, and positioning" followed by two paragraphs which specify key support followed by objectives, goals, and metrics. Zagula and Tong urge their reader to be able to complete the Three We's: We believe..., We will..., and We are....
No brief commentary such as this can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information and the wealth of insights as well as recommendations which Zagula and Tong's book provides. Suffice to say that it provides a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program which, for obvious reasons, must then be modified to accommodate the specific needs, interests, and resources of each reader's own organization.