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Book review: The Marketing Playbook


Book reviews > The Marketing Playbook


Zagula and Tong are ex-Microsoft marketeers who have written a delightfully fresh book born out of hard-bitten experience in one of the most powerful marketing organizations in the world.

They have identified five unique gameplays that are frequent patterns across many marketing campaigns and detail how these may be played out with effective.

Five plays

These are the bones of the five plays. Note how these are useful not just for marketing, but also for many other competitive situations.

The Drag Race

If you are surrounded by competitors, don't try and beat everyone. Pick one competitor and, like a drag racer, out-accelerate them, leaving them in your dust.

The Platform Play

If you are a market leader, stand firm on your platform and repel all boarders. Gather loyal allies. Build impregnable defenses. Bare your very long teeth. Show that attack is futile.

The Stealth Play

If you are not ready for a bruising fight, sneak past your opponents when they are not watching. Quietly wear them down and weaken their weak points further. Stay out of the spotlight whilst maintaining your covert operations.

The Best of Both Play

If you are behind a couple of smart players, zip up the middle, taking the best of two competitors, making you better than either of them. Find the most valuable customer and entice them away.

The High-Low Play

If you are a front-runner and someone is trying to do a 'Best of Both' play on you, block their passage by splitting the category in two and then dominating both houses. Segment further and target more closely than the other guy.

Making the plays work

As with most such situations the solutions don't seem that magical until you look harder at the detail.

Mapping the playing field

Surprisingly few companies get a really good understanding of the terrain before they bring out the big guns. Even Microsoft knows that going out all-guns-blazing is a waste at best and suicide at worst.

Creating the killer campaign

You can have a killer product, but without a killer campaign, your hard-fought design and production work is little short of landfill. Killer campaigns are internally aligned and externally focused with a sharp precision that cuts through market noise to create serious attention of targeted customers.


The authors are ex-Microsoft, but are still loyal and the stories are mostly pro-Microsoft. If you don't like this particular giant, then the book will probably bug you. But if you can see past the plaudits, then The Marketing Playbook has a lot to offer.



Buy Me

John Zagula and Richard Tong, The Marketing Playbook, NY:Portfolio, 2004

A delightfully fresh book, born out of hard-bitten experience from two ex-Microsofties. This is a practical how-to book with five distinct gameplays plus how to make it work in your organization. See also the review.



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