Act­ing crazy: Your best com­pet­i­tive strat­egy yet?

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE -

“Feign mad­ness but keep your bal­ance: Hide be­hind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a mad­man to cre­ate con­fu­sion about your in­ten­tions and motivations. Lure your op­po­nent into un­der­es­ti­mat­ing your abil­ity un­til, over­con­fi­dent, he drops his guard. Then you may at­tack.” In lay­men’s terms, if your ad­ver­sary thinks you are crazy, he won’t feel threat­ened by you and so will not take you se­ri­ously or put up a fight against you.

His­tory is full of ex­am­ples of this po­tent tac­tic be­ing used to good ef­fect. The Tro­jan horse is a well-known war story about the de­cep­tion that the Greeks used to gain ac­cess to the city of Troy. Fol­low­ing a fu­tile 10-year siege, the Greeks built a gi­gan­tic wooden horse and hid Greek sol­diers in­side. Af­ter the Greeks pre­tended to sail away, the Tro­jans brought the horse into Troy as a vic­tory tro­phy. That same night the Greek sol­diers se­cretly crept out of the horse and opened Troy’s gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back dur­ing the night. The Greek army then de­stroyed the city of Troy, de­ci­sively end­ing the Tro­jan war.

An­other great ex­am­ple comes from Ro­man his­tory. Be­fore the Ro­man Repub­lic was founded, kings ruled Rome. For many years Lu­cius Ju­nius Bru­tus, the cre­ator of the Ro­man Repub­lic, pre­tended to be stupid. This way he was able to fool the fam­ily of King Lu­cius Tar­quinius Su­per­bus into trust­ing him while he covertly planned to over­throw them. Us­ing this el­e­ment of sur­prise, Bru­tus top­pled Tar­quinius Su­per­bus while his guard was down, forc­ing him into ex­ile and end­ing the reign of kings over Rome.

So the ob­vi­ous ques­tion is: How is this rel­e­vant to the world of busi­ness? This same strat­egy can be a very pow­er­ful weapon in your ar­se­nal against com­peti­tors.

To take on Niké, Skech­ers cre­ated a prod­uct so ques­tion­able in its ef­fec­tive­ness claims – ton­ing shoes – that ri­vals did not take the brand

se­ri­ously... un­til it was too late

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