Waging the battle: Marketing Lessons from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War


It’s no longer a novelty to compare warfare to the business world. Both undertakings deal with strategic planning, predicting behavior, self-improvement and engaging with competition. And when you talk about warfare, it is almost impossible not to mention The Art of War.

Written by a high-ranking Chinese military officer named Sun-Tzu more than 2,500 years ago, the book is devoted on military tactics and ideologies, and has been one of the most respected doctrines that have influenced both Eastern and Western warfare culture. It has been translated into multiple languages and considered a “universal” source of wisdom.

Marketing, just like warfare, is an art bound by principles:

“Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.” Whether through social media, email, events or telephone calls, every marketing effort requires planning and preparation. Dealing with prospects is a delicate process where one mistake can dictate the fate of a company. There’s no room for haste.

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” True, only in marketing, your enemy is circumstance. Marketers must understand its own brand before they present it to the world. Peril is when a prospect over the phone feels you’re not knowledgeable enough. Peril is when your online readers feel you don’t understand their needs. In short, peril is when you don’t have a clue of what’s going on out there.

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” There’s no greater regret than letting opportunities pass by. The brutal competition between brands should only remind marketers that opportunities seldom come twice, and opening a door could lead to a more possibilities.

“In war, numbers alone confer no advantage.” It’s the content, not the likes. It’s the closed sales, not the number of leads. It’s the brand value, not the price. Quality is, and should always be, more important than quantity.

“In the midst of chaos, there is also an opportunity.” Tzu was a firm believer of the fact that certain failures give way to better things. Marketers must learn to see past the hurdles and look for a more meaningful, achievable way to attract and be of service to prospective customers.

“Great results can be achieved with small forces.” With just a simple but powerful blog post, or a moving sales pitch over the phone, or a memorable advertising image, or a small but empathetic gesture, companies can achieve marketing heights. Success doesn’t have to come in a huge box wrapped in silk ribbons.

“Never venture, never win!” Those people at the top of the marketing chain, those who have reached the pinnacle of their marketing journey, could only give you one piece of advice: take risks. It’s the lifeblood of marketing – if you exist only within your niche, that’s most likely the place where you’ll be extinct in the eyes of the consumer public.