In 2004, David Morey and Scott Miller wrote one of my favorite marketing books of all time, The Underdog Advantage. Underdog, as I like to call it, is a defining piece in how marketers can leverage the political model of going to market to grow their own brands. As I often tell my classes, I find that political campaign marketing strategy is the ‘harbinger for future marketers’ as there’s no better place to test strategy, at least in my opinion, than in the pressure cooker environment of the zero-sum game of political campaigns. Politicians aside, whatever you think of them, would never get off the ground and win any election without the most cutting edge marketing strategy and tactics around.

For as much as ‘political marketing’ changes, there are some fundamentals that are long-standing and ever-green. Moreover, it’s these same strategies that subtly (or, not so subtly) allow thought leadership marketers to leverage their point of view to gain share of voice and share of market, as detailed in the thought leadership marketing equation. Let’s have a look at how thought leaders can leverage insurgent marketing to dominate their market.

Some of you might be wondering why you haven’t heard more about thought leadership marketing or insurgent marketing. In fact, “insurgent marketing” brings up just 238 results in Google, while “thought leadership marketing” brings up just 10,400 results. Compared to the 2.4M results for “social media marketing”, our beloved insurgent and thought leadership marketing pale in recognition. One of the reasons that these two strategic modes are not more often quoted is that they are not something that you ‘bolt on’ to an organization. In fact, in a case study by the Zyman Group (the company of Sergio Zyman, the former marketing head of Coke), a purveyor of insurgent marketing and the employer of the aforementioned authors, illustrates this ‘marketing overhaul’ that took place at one of their clients who pursued the insurgent marketing model:

“To accomplish this objective-which will take three years to complete-we will transform the client’s marketing organization by: (a) Re-defi ning the role of Marketing; (b) Adapting the Marketing Organization design; (c) Revising existing and introducing new marketing and strategic processes, systems and tool kits; (d) Adjusting the key “people” areas: recruiting, training and development; and career management; and, (e) Re-defi ning the Values and Principles of the Marketing Culture for better clarity and strategic alignment. We also worked with the client to develop a new vision: “Placing the consumer at the center of brands and portfolio Marketing strategy and execution.”
The bottom line here is that insurgent and thought leadership marketing can be (is) a transformational process. In fact, our best work at The MarketingSavant Group in working with thought leadership marketing clients has been with young companies and startups who can adopt the model at the outset and build their business as the thought leader in their market space. Thought leadership can be a truly ‘transformational marketing experience.’

So, now on to the question that you’ve probably had all along. How does using insurgent marketing strategy favor the thought leader and how do thought leaders use insurgent principles?

1. Thought leaders leverage and adapt the political campaign model. In true insurgent marketing, political candidates adopt the political marketing model wholesale. Because we’re not in the market of a zero-sum game, rather, thought leaders in their purest form are altruistic before capitalistic and pursue positive or infinite-sum games where everyone gains through collaboration on common challenges. Nevertheless, there are elements of the political campaign model that are applicable:

Thought leaders prepare a change map. They figure out where the players are and then map out the strategy and commit to changing the dialogue in the market.
Thought leaders practice insurgent leadership; ever committed to learning, change, reinvention and persistent inquiry into the challenges of their market.
They frame the project and the challenges for the market. They create clarity out of chaos and propose frameworks and critical paths from current state to ideal state.
2. Thought leaders ‘do the doable’. In fact, marketers that leverage thought leadership gain credibility and trust by providing realistic and ideal solutions to market challenges. They’re always focused on the doable. Certainly they may set out more objectives than any one company can achieve, but the solutions are never out of reach. Here are a few more ways that thought leaders ‘do the doable’.

They create frameworks and processes that thrive on momentum. Politicians require momentum to keep their campaign going between polls, stops, debates and other hurdles. Thought leadership marketers map out ‘momentum objectives’ to keep things always moving forward.
They set the doable road map in place and follow it. Thought leaders are bound by strategy and long-term objectives, not flighty marketing whims. If you don’t stick to the plan, you falter. In politics, if you don’t stick to the plan, you fail.
Thought leaders choose the destiny and define the future. This is perhaps one of the most critical elements of thought leadership marketing & insurgent strategy. Clients, customers and constituents alike need to have a clear picture of the destiny with faith in their future. Thought leaders help to co-create that!
3. Thought leaders ‘move the movable’. A doable strategy is nothing if we don’t have the right target markets, properly segmented and our message rightly positioned (sound familiar?). In politics, there’s an attitudinal segmentation map that looks something like this: HO – SO – UNDECIDED – SOS – HAS. Without going into to much detail, the ranges go from Hard Opposition to Soft Opposition to Undecided to Soft Support to Hard Support, respectively. In thought leadership marketing, we simply look at this as target markets that are undesirable all the way to your current loyal clients, and everyone in between. Thought leaders ‘move the movable’ by: