Attacking Strategy Pt. 2
The facts are beyond dispute: George Bush was as much of a flip-flopper as John Kerry. But Bush told the story first. He and his team did a masterly job of telling a story about Kerry and his inability to stick to one story. The Kerry team responded with a doomed effort to point out that Bush flip-flopped as much as Kerry did. Of course, this story couldn’t take hold because the other story was already in place.
Then the Kerry campaign tired to make the case that flip-flopping was a good thing, that it was another word for flexibility. In order to adopt Kerry’s story, people would have had to admit that they were wrong–and that almost never happens.
The best strategy would have been to go first. Failing that, the appropriate response would have been to tell a completely different story, one that used a frame that matched the worldview of the undecided voter.
Seth Godin’s “All Marketers Are Liars“
Tactical victories are brutal. It’s spending more hours at the office than someone, spending another few million on commercials than the competition, or compromising on your last remaining principles. It’s playing a game that you really have no power over. It’s the +1 strategy–they’ll bid 100, I’ll bid 101.
Do you really think there is a niche out there for you to be slightly more efficient than Tim Ferriss, or a little more of an asshole than Tucker or to read .5 more books than I do? There is a guy on YouTube and all he does is make response songs about other popular people’s videos. Not only is it cringingly lame, it’s just picking up garbage views–it’s their video plus a small twist.
Attacking strategy (Robert’s most valuable lesson) is not only the most productive channel for your resources, but it’s the most authentic path you can take. In a world of Global Microbrands, your positioning in crucial. The best possible position to be in is you. When you’re you, you don’t have to do any work. All you have to do is wake up each morning and refuse to be defined by other people.
About two weeks ago, I was talking to my younger brother about presidential politics. I made it clear that I was not an expert, but we got into it. I said to him that Kerry letting himself be swiftboated and flip-flopped into losing the swing voters was the dumbest thing I’ve seen in presidential elections.
The whole thing highlighted just how terrible Kerry was at communicating what he wanted to get across to the voters he needed. I think that inability to speak effectively comes from the fifty consultants saying “Be this guy on Monday, this on Tuesday and that on Wednesday and the voters will like you.”
Well, you also have to look at how the Bush administration handled its job during elections in states like Ohio. The democrats focussed only on Cleveland, and the cities, but Bush’s campaign took on the broad provincial districts and totally undercut the democratic effort. I recommend taking a look at a documentary called “…So goes the nation.” They’ve been playing it often on IFC recently, and it provides an interesting look into the 04 election.
“The best possible position to be in is you. When you’re you, you don’t have to do any work.”
I’ll counter that with a quote from Epictetus: “First, be who you would be. Then, do what you would do.”
It’s easy to say that “being you” is the best choice if you’re smart, eloquent, and ambitious. I may be missing the point of your post, but it sounds almost like the cliché that you should love yourself because you’re great the way you are. (Though you’re applying it to marketing.) What do you propose to the guy who lacks the talent and creativity to create anything better than knock-offs of popular Youtube videos?
Truth be told, the last paragraph of your post here confused the hell out of me. I don’t see the correlation between “refusing to be defined by other people” and attacking strategy (except, perhaps, that the former is a good defense against the latter).
Those are good questions, and I’ll attempt to address them in another post.
When you attack tactics, you have very few options: Be faster, more efficient, do a better job at whatever the “thing” is. When you attack strategy, you have a limitless array of options to choose from as your path.
Kerry (because he is an idiot) ran his campaign as “I am not a flip-flopper” because he was attacking the tactical maneuvers of the Bush camp. If he’d fought strategically, he could have been literally anything else “I’m an idealist,” “I’m an outsider” “I’m an idealist who instead of talking gets things done,” “I like to molest children,” anything. When you rebel against something, you’re still letting it define you.
The Epictetus isn’t a counter at all, and it has very little to do with the discussion.
Ryan, what other books or articles on strategy do you recommend? I have looked through your site (including the book recommendations lists) and only found Robert Greene’s book, Liddle Hart’s book and the book written about investing. Are there only three books on strategy you enjoy or are there more?
I’ll do a post on this at some point.
The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost is interesting.