Martial Arts Marketing

By Cotter, Michael J.; Henley, James A., Jr. | Multinational Business Review, Spring 1994 | Go to article overview

Martial Arts Marketing


Cotter, Michael J., Henley, James A., Jr., Multinational Business Review


Japanese Martial Art Maxim: Also no saki--Take your opponent's technique and turn it into your own.

This maxim is at the heart of a Japanese creation which is a popular activity to a large population of Japanese people. While it is taught as a method of self-defense enriching the spirit of the practitioner, it also invokes a manner of considering opposing forces foreign to Western-style thinking.

As Western business executives may use combat sport strategies for business marketing ends, so the Japanese use a martial art orientation in business plans and tactics. While Western and Eastern combat strategies have similarities, some subtle differences exist in assessing competitive forces. American business leaders may gain a competitive edge by further understanding principles implemented in Japanese marketing combat which parallel a martial art technique invented by the Japanese.

The global business environment is heavily influenced by a burgeoning encroachment of Japanese competition with its focus on increasing market share (Czinkota and Woronoff 1991). U.S. business strategists are remiss in their duties if they do not incorporate the influence of Japanese competition as a crucial element in marketing strategies. This strategy development requires an appreciation of successful Japanese strategies used against U.S. firms.

The purpose of this research is to illustrate a uniquely Japanese self-defense called aikido and show how a specific tactic of immobilization was successfully implemented in Japanese marketing strategies. Actual business examples indicate how aikido-style thinking may act as part of the foundation of Japanese planning. Western business leaders may glean new methods to integrate into present strategies to defend against future Japanese strategies in marketing combat.

Fist, aikido is briefly described and its contribution to marketing strategy is considered. Next, a general discussion of aikido combat philosophy is offered with special concentration on differences between the U.S. and Japan's competitive orientation. Finally, an examination of the specific aikido defense tactic of immobilization of this tactic in competitive marketing strategy with the West.

RELEVANCE TO MARKETING COMBAT

Marketing strategy is convincingly compared to military science for use in developing viable business strategies for market competition. Kotler and Singh (1981) drew parallels between marketing and military science offering a view of business as a battlefield. Ries and Trout (1986) used Kotler and Singh's work as a base in generating and implementing business strategies. Cook (1983) offered an arrangement to aid executives in choosing the optimal strategy, although Parasuraman and Varadarajan (1985) were critical of the evidence considered in Cook's framework. The Japanese have long considered Sun Tzu's third century advice on warfare and Masashi's The Book of Five Rings a standard reference for strategy for competitive situations (Keegan 1989). Further, the Japanese are still saturated with the "military ethos" and continue to use military jargon to talk of business practices (March 1990).

While the marketing/military science fusion offered fresh perspectives on market competition, aikido's hand-to-hand combat offers further insight into another facet of Japanese managers' orientation. The aikido combat method stems from principles inspired by bushido (the way of the warrior or samurai) which has become identified as the "Japanese spirit." This code of the samurai became the ideal to which the Japanese aspired in work and competition (Durlabhji and Marks 1993).

While embracing some common elements, the Japanese personal combat technique of aikido differs in movement and philosophy compared to a Western combat sport like boxing. Knowledge of these differences may offer U.S. business people greater understanding required to successfully compete with the Japanese. …

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