The Battle Was Over A Week Before The Fight

John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him:   There is always a lot
25 Feb 2017 11:20
The Battle Was Over A Week Before The Fight

John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him:


There is always a lot of discussion about strategy around the time businesses are preparing budgets or governments are preparing for an election.

But, if you ask people to define what a strategy is, you will get long and complicated explanations and will be amazed at the sheer number of different models.

Strategy is a critical part of a business and the quality and insight of the strategy will define the degree of success the business will achieve, or conversely, the lack of a strategy will ensure the business fails.

Any worthwhile strategy develops out of the understanding of the task; the reason the company is in business and why the company is undertaking this particular activity.

That understanding is created out of many different sources and the extent to which the available data is collected.

In the initial stages of development of the strategy, it is important that you have all the information and that the information is correct.

 Many a good strategy has fallen because of one small error of fact.

There are three simple steps in a strategy development. First, establish exactly where you are then establish where you want to be.

 The strategy is the plan for you to most successfully get from where you are to where you want to be. It really is that simple.

The better the first two steps have been developed and the better the information used to do that, the surer you can be that the strategy will be successful in providing the shift you are seeking.

Another good way to develop a strategy if you are looking at consumer products is to humanise it a bit by asking “what do they think of us no?” and “what do we need them to think about us?”, because in marketing consumer products the attitude of the target audience is more important in the buying decision than the product attributes.

No matter how you construct the brief, the most important element in a strategy is the link and the degree of effectiveness that link has in creating the shift.

 The second most important thing is that the strategy can actually be executed. I have seen many strategies where the link could not be achieved because of physical limitations.

 For example, in the Trafalgar case study below, Nelson could have asked his Captains to sail in backward to confuse he Spanish (and it certainly would have), but not even British Captains of that time could not do that.

The strategy may call for the link to use massive television weights, but the budget may be too small to buy the impact needed. Or it may call for a huge sampling campaign to establish taste preference but there are no sample packs available.

The battle of Trafalgar is one of the classic demonstrations of the power of a strong strategy.

Spain had been at war with Britain had been for quite some time.

Most of the battles in this war had been fought on the high seas and Trafalgar was to be the final decisive attack by the British under Nelson.

At that time sea battles were fought by ships that were designated “Ships of the Line”.

They got the name because of the way the navy fought, having the ships sail into battle in a line, one astern of the other and about four ship lengths apart.

The vessels were basically floating gun platforms, often with five levels of gun ports on either side. They were square rigged, which meant the best point of sailing was downwind and they were difficult and slow to manoeuvre, so during the battle they seldom changed direction.

Each vessel carried many cannon, but never enough to fill every gun port on either beam, so it was common practice to move cannon to the side of the ship that would be facing the enemy to give maximum firepower.

They guns were fired in a rolling manner, starting at the front and moving to the stern in order to minimise the load on the ship from the backlash.

This created a devastating wall of cannon shot, called a broad side. 

The British vessels were smaller, faster and carried less firepower but their crews were more skilled both in seamanship and weaponry.

The Spanish decided to move their armada up the coast to a French port when a squadron of the British fleet anchored at Gibraltar and this gave Nelson the chance to attack.

Two weeks before Nelson had held a war meeting with all his captains and devised a strategy they would employ when next they engaged the Spanish.

 Every one of the Captains knew the strategy in detail.  Every Captain knew his part in the plan. Now was the time to execute that strategy and Nelson did so even though he was out numbered thirty-three to twenty-seven, with deadly success.

The Amada was sailing close to shore to protect their starboard side from the expected attack coming in on the port beam.

All cannon were massed at the gun ports on the port side and were ready for broadsides.

The British sailed at right angles to the Spanish who waited for them to turn into line, but they kept sailing and passed through the Spanish line, each British ship passing through the space between two Spanish ships.

On the way through they fired a broadside into the stern of the Spanish vessels, turned to port and then sailed in line, but on the side the Spanish were not expecting.

The stern shots immediately destroyed two vessels and damaged the rest without, the Spanish being able to fire a shot.

 The British then sailed parallel and fired many broadsides into the almost undefended Spanish, who took time to bring their cannon back from the original position.

The battle raged for a number of hours and eventually broke up into skirmishes until it ended five hours after it started.

The Spanish lost twenty-seven ships, the British lost none.

 The Spanish Amada was destroyed and the war finished. Unfortunately, Admiral Nelson was killed by a sniper’s shot in the later stages of the battle.

The strategy worked because Nelson understood the weakness of the Spanish battle plan and exploited it.

That’s all you need to do to win the marketing battle and in the process you probably won’t get shot by a Spanish sniper.

For me, strategy development is the most exciting part of marketing and it needs and deserves time to be committed to it.

Fijisun E-edition
Total Excellium
Fiji Sun Instagram