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The Annual Marketing Strategy To Solidify Your Category’s Leadership Position
Ditch last year’s template for a strategy that creates demand and makes the cash register sing.
Dear Friend, Subscriber, and Category Pirate,
This Category Design Tip shares how to create a legendary marketing strategy.
A major problem with most marketing strategies is they start with last year’s plan as the template. But legendary plans are about creating a different future, not continuing the past. And the most successful ones revolve around a Lightning Strike.
To chart your own category course (our mini-books are the best maps), hop aboard The Pirate Ship and subscribe below:
The Lightning Strike Strategy
A Lightning Strike is a way to align and synchronize your marketing efforts.
Paramount Pictures recently deployed a Lightning Strike to promote its latest horror film, Smile. One week before the premiere, Paramount hired "smilers" to show up in public places (like the Today Show and several Major League Baseball games) wearing bone-chilling smiles and neon t-shirts with a single word—smile. Images and videos of the “smilers” quickly went viral on social media.
Horror movie fans reshared the posts, along with their fascination and excitement about the film using the custom (and creepy) #SmileMovie emoji.
The result: hundreds of thousands of likes, comments, and shares across Twitter. Coverage in dozens of media outlets like CNN, Entertainment Weekly, Collider, and Sports Illustrated. And earnings of $100 million at the global box office in its first two weekends. As of writing, Smile is currently the #1 movie in the US—and it's the only horror film of 2022 to stay in this position for two weeks in a row. For a movie that reportedly cost $17 million to produce, the ROI is exponential.
This is the power of a well-executed Lightning Strike.
Keep in mind, a Lightning Strike is not an effort to try to market to “everybody.” Your goal should be to create the Comic-Con for your category—physically, virtually, whatever that means to you (and for your Supers).
To execute your own Lightning Strike, let’s walk through the main pillars.
The 3 Pillars Of Every Lightning Strike
Every startup, company, and creator is fighting 3 different types of wars at the same time: Information Wars, Air Wars, and Ground Wars.
The Information War: The war for who frames the problem, names and claims the solution, and as a result owns the narrative. These efforts are often focused on POV marketing/word of mouth.
The Air War: The war for who is able to most effectively “sell” a narrative at scale. These efforts are more focused on demand creation.
The Ground War: The war for who can best convert new recruits to the effort—prospect to prospect, customer to customer, consumer to consumer, and thus make the cash register sing. These efforts are more focused on demand capture and lead generation.
This is your marketing strategy, always and forever. That said, sequencing matters, so here’s a quick look at how to win each war.
1. The Information War
“Information marketing” can spread like wildfire in today’s digital world.
For example, a few years ago, legendary copywriter Craig Clemens came up with an information marketing campaign that changed the world. He called it “The American Parasite” and wrote a sales letter educating the general public about a problem they did not know they had: “leaky gut.”
All the biggest health nuts grabbed onto it—from medical doctors to Oprah.
This POV put “leaky gut” in the mouths of food, diet, and nutrition Superconsumers who began to educate people about the importance of defending against “leaky gut” with probiotics. That information war POV ended up selling more than $100 million worth of probiotics in its first year.
The Information War is about:
Having a differentiated POV (combined with differentiated Languaging)
Finding a way to get that POV and new Languaging in the mouths of Superconsumers.
Do this, and it will be very hard for anyone to enter your new category without someone saying, “Oh! They’re the Category Leader. Everyone knows that.”
2. The Air War
This starts with understanding: what’s the war you are fighting, and why does it matter? (Not to you, but to the customer.) Without a “why,” no one cares about the “when,” “where,” “what,” or “who.”
Tesla does this terrifically with their Tesla AI Day, Autonomous Day, and Battery Day events, which are primarily held in service of attracting more Superconsumers.
Air Wars can be everything from:
Publishing a whitepaper on the future of your category (and revealing industry leading research before anyone else).
Holding conferences, masterminds, and events that educate customers, prospects, and partners on the future of your industry.
One ad, run once, that changes everything. (Our friend and mentor, Rick Bennett, lays out how this works on this podcast.)
When people understand why the war you’re fighting matters, they will gladly show up in droves and enlist themselves to be part of your army.
3. The Ground War
Ground Wars are all about making the cash register sing today. These are the individual battles that make it known who is really winning in the trenches.
This can look like:
DAM the demand marketing, where you intercept another category’s point-of-sale and convert it to your own
Aggregating customer testimonials from their origin story
New product launch events, especially when beta-versions are released to Superconsumers to try, test, tweak, and tell others
Together, these three wars should make it feel as though your company has “taken over” for a small window of time. You want your community to sing your song. Not make up thousands of songs on their own.
When you’re ready to execute your own Lightning Strike, dive deeper into The Lightning Strike Strategy for detailed tactics and examples.
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