Ad Strategies for Brand Warfare

Dr Max Sutherland

Military analogies are common in marketing. We launch campaigns, target audiences and do battle for the mind. Some years ago, I formulated a military analogy that made sense of a lot of ad tracking data and proved valuable in thinking about advertising generally. It is this: In marketing, as in the military, there are attack forces and there are occupation forces. They play different roles with different strengths and weaknesses.

At the time we had tracked many hundreds of ad campaigns, all of them continuously and some of them over long periods of time sometimes for several years (1). In all this data we hoped to see some consistencies start to emerge, and they did. These are now documented in Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer ( (2).

At the same time, there were also a number of anomalies in the tracking histories. As I struggled to make sense of some of these observations, I thought about how the military use different troops in different roles: attack forces capture the territory and occupation forces hold on to it. The smoke enveloping a number of inexplicable ad failures dissipated and the reasons for them began to emerge. Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer draws extensively on this military analogy.