Marketing as a Game of Chess

Edan Gelt

What is marketing strategy and what do strategists do? I feel like I’ve answered this question so many ways but defining it through the game of Chess is my ultimate favorite.

Marketing is the act of taking a look at your business from a 500-foot level. In comparison to Chess, the board is your marketplace (or your business) depending on how you want to play, and the goal is to either capture your clients or maybe it’s to remove your competitors (depending on your 500-ft view).

So how is Chess like Marketing Strategy?

Goal: Checkmate an opponent’s king

Strategy: I’ll open with “X strategy of opening moves” and attempt to control the middle of the board. Protect my king.

Tactics: I will move my knight here to respond to you moving your pawn.

Do Opponents Moves Change Strategy?

Like Chess, even with the ultimate strategic plan, you can’t always control your opponent’s moves so your strategy needs to be nimble enough to account for the unexpected.

Referring to the above example, I’ve created a mock client. Assuming, I am the owner of my own football stadium (don’t I wish) and I’ve set my goal, objective, strategies and tactics as below:

Goal: Increase NOI

Objective*: Increase attendance and food sales

Strategy: Offer promotional prices for pre-season buyers

Incorporate a ticket/food combo plan

Tactics: Send email newsletter to attendees of last seasons games

Create social media ad for my target audience (research zip codes of prior attendees to establish list)

Create special offer of ticket/food and send out postcards to existing attendee database to upgrade ticket to combo

Place media on X,X,X radio stations promoting pre-season prices and food combo.

Buy bus backs and billboards in markets whose demos match fans.

Looking at the above – the marketer creates strategies and tactics that match the goal of the company (increase NOI) and coordinates the mediums and professionals that will go into making the plan a success.

Going back to the game of chess, imagine the plan is in the implementation stage and the weather has been rainier and cooler than expected leading up to pre-season. Ticket sales aren’t moving. Food sales are no longer important – it’s time to change the strategy and tactics.

Move queen, reevaluate strategy and adjust the tactical plan.

Goal: Increase NOI

Objective*: Increase attendance and ancillary gear sales

Strategy: Offer promotional prices for pre-season buyers

Incorporate a ticket/gear combo plan

Offer rain or snow gear with ticket prices (branded umbrellas, rain sticks, hats, gloves, etc)

Tactics: Send email newsletter to attendees of last season’s games

Create social media ad for my target audience (research zip codes of prior attendees to establish list)

Create special offer of ticket/gear and send out postcards to existing attendee database to upgrade ticket to combo

Place media on X,X,X radio stations promoting pre-season prices and gear combo.

Buy bus backs and billboards in markets which demos match fans.

Once you have your marketplace set up and you enter it, time to play!

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Marketing Psychology: Maintaining Toy Demand Post Holiday Season

If you’re a parent, have you ever wondered why you find yourself in a line, expensive toy in hand, after the holiday season?

I have.

Whether you are loaded with gift cards or cash-in-hand from family and friends, there is always that one big spend after the holidays.

This is not an accident. Toy manufacturers have our number!

Toy manufacturers are faced with the dilemma of keeping demand post-holiday. Luckily, they have a strategy for that. It starts with the basics of supply and demand, add a splash of marketing and a thick layer of psychology – and wa-la, we are the fools in line in February.

How it Works:

Your kids are dialed into toy advertising pre-holiday, whether on an iPad, the Cartoon Network or the flashy toy catalogs that come in the mail. Retailers and manufacturers spend a lot of money promoting the year’s hottest find(s). Kids beg their parents for the “toy of the year” and the parents undoubtedly promise that if they’re good, Santa will bring it or it will be a gift from mom and dad.

This toy is the primo gift and your child cannot wait to get it. It is the topic of every conversation and you’re excited to gift it.

Edan Gelt Chicago

You go holiday shopping and to your amazement, the toy is out of stock. Everywhere. All the stores have ordered it but they have no idea when it is coming in and every store in a 30-mile radius is depleted.

You look on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and the toy is 10 times the retail asking price.

In hopes of the toy actually being stocked, you wait. And wait. And wait.

A few days before Christmas, you give in and buy something else. A substitute. Something the same manufacturer has created similar to what was actually wanted but different enough to not be the “ultimate coveted toy”. And on Christmas day, you have one very disappointed child.

In hopes your child will be happy with the substitute gift, you move one. The toy companies don’t, neither does your child. “You promised” or “Santa thinks I’m bad,” is all you really hear.

The manufacturers start once again heavily marketing that coveted toy online, on TV, within games and then, there you have it; you are back at the store buying the promised gift, post-holiday on a blustery day in February.

This is not a coincidence. This is the strategy of economics, marketing and psychology. The toy manufacturers heavily advertise pre-holiday, create a shortage in the midst of holiday but offer a substitute, resupply post-holiday and heavily advertise.

Now that you know how it work, will you still be in-line next year post-holiday?

By: Edan Gelt, CMD, MBA
Marketing Strategist

Concept for this blog came from “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Ciladini PhD