Defensive branding for entrepreneurship


There is an ongoing trend and record of failure due to poor defensive strategies by our small and medium-sized enterprises.

Things should change for the better in this age where information is available in abundance for any countermeasure.

In the same viewpoint both defensive and offensive marketing strategies share the same root.

Such that the decision on which one to apply for now, depends on how your business idea/brand/market has been provoked. 

In this perspective, we have decided to focus on defensive strategies.

This cuts across all types of businesses because as you grow,  you tend to attract more competition/business enemies and hence the need to always defend your territory.

Entrepreneurial businesses should capitalise on defensive branding for their survival, especially in this age of innovation and artificial intelligence where a business idea can become redundant overnight.

That is the same reason we have to share and learn from each other through our own home-grown strategies.

Defensive branding starts when we do a self-attack of our current operations and products/services range.

Holding on the traditional ways/methods and configurations may make us obsolete faster than we would have under responsive conditions.

Introducing new products/services that are tailor-made to suite new tastes and preferences of our markets is a foundational need for our entrepreneurial defensive brand strategy.

Netflix as a brand has managed to overtake other DVDs hiring outlets within our ecology and beyond.

These businesses would have seen it coming and innovate to the same level as a defensive strategy before losing their great market share.

Now it’s another story. Remember it takes two to tango in our broader markets just like abovementioned offensive and defensive strategies seem to be hand and glove. 

The decision is yours but surely at this juncture, defensive is one thing we can do best especially in our start-up phase where our ability to provoke others is highly limited.

In another perspective, we have to keep on looking for new ways that rejuvenate some signs of decline in our existing brands.

Most of our entrepreneurs are quick to quit when a brand and its offerings don't perform according to their expectations.

Let’s appreciate that booms and slumps are a common trend in the life cycle of a business where we only have to restrategise for better instead of closing the show.

Rebranding is one common exercise which can help us to be defensive in such circumstances so as to attract even new customers after a facelift of the current brand.

New packaging, colours, slogans and any other elements can help defend a brand from demise in its targeted markets.

In this way we might close some shortfalls that are existing in our brand setup and execution.

It is never too late to rebrand as a defensive mechanism. Though there is need not to overdo as this strategy might totally destroy the identity you have built over the years.

Brand identity is paramount and should be consistent.

As growing enterprises we shouldn’t be shy to deploy some measures that counter competitor dominance in our various territories.

Focusing on customisation of our products/services to suit our loyal customers and targeted markets is another critical defensive strategy.

In this regard the entrepreneur should tailor-make his/her offerings according to the specific needs, characters and expectations of the customers.

This strategy is even less costly as it runs away from branding for mass markets to a specific group of customers (niche marketing). 

I know of a certain local bus company in Manicaland province that has customised services for its particular clientele base by having specific convenient timetables for their long journeys from Mutare to Harare.

In this way it has managed to defend its territory and has attracted a greater number of professional/leisure customers becoming a leader in that route. Keep it up!!!

We have also learnt in our various business/marketing philosophies that pricing plays a significant role throughout the business life cycle.

The same applies in relation to a defensive branding where we continuously do price adjustments so as to remain attractive in our markets.

Price on its own should not be static. Sometimes we have to charge a relatively lower price as compared to other players in the same market (price penetration).

This is critical as a defensive mechanism especially for start-up brands which are still to find a perfect fit in the global market.

Also having in mind that too cheap can be perceived as low quality.

So do it wisely!!! Even discounts can play a defensive magic especially when these are done not as a gimmick but for real business (real brands don’t deceive through fake discounts).

Lastly, budgeting for brand advertisements and promotions should be an ongoing practice by our SMEs. In the sense that through advertising you are able to keep on inviting and reminding your market existence to all customers.

Some of our local brands have failed to defend their existence to other foreign brands just because they became too quiet to be remembered.

I leave you to introspect as we move forward.

Brett Baughman once propounded that: “When executed correctly, a defensive marketing strategy will control panic, restore order, and allow your business to flourish.”

 *Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the head of Business Science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. His doctoral research focused on business administration (destination marketing and branding major, Ukzn, SA). He is into agribusiness and consults for many companies in Zimbabwe and Africa. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at [email protected],, WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.

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