Maneuver Warfare for Strategic Marketing

From Military to Business

Maneuver warfare works on the premise of using deception and ambiguity to disorient your opponent with surprise and shock. This methodology works very well for small forces competing against larger forces. The modern-day theorist, Col. John Boyd spearheaded this theory which was eventually adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps as the modern method for operations. Maneuver Warfare techniques can also be applied within business, especially for product launch planning.


The ability to use agility, flexibility, and surprise during a product launch can disrupt competitors. Using novel methods to deceive and confuse, can cause stronger competitors to focus on the wrong areas of strength and become paralyzed as they cannot anticipate your next moves.

Key Elements

Create, exploit and magnify are a key focus for Maneuver Warfare. The following are key elements of this area of operations:

  • Ambiguity - Alternative or competing impressions of events as they may or may not be.

  • Deception - An impression of events as they are not.

  • Novelty - Impressions associated with events/ideas that are unfamiliar or have not been experienced before.

  • Fast transient maneuvers - Irregular and rapid/abrupt shift from one maneuver event/state to another.

  • Effort (cheng/ch'i or Nebenpunkte/Schwerpunkt) - An expenditure of energy or an eruption of violence—focused into, or thru, features that permit an organic whole to exist.


In addition, the payoff of using these five key multipliers is:

  • Disorientation - Mismatch between events one (seemingly) observes or anticipates and events (or efforts) he must react or adapt to.

  • Surprise - Disorientation generated by perceiving extreme change (of events or efforts) over a short period of time.

  • Shock - Paralyzing state of disorientation generated by extreme or violent change (of events or efforts) over a short period of time.

  • Disruption - State of being split-apart, broken-up, or torn asunder.

German Influence

Colonel Boyd identified four key elements that the Germans used at the end of WWI and WWII that resulted in the famous (and somewhat successful) Blitzkrieg operations.

  • Fingerspitzengefühl: Intuitive feel, especially for complex and potentially chaotic situations

  • Einheit: Mutual trust, unity and cohesion

  • Schwerpunkt: Any concept that provides focus and direction to the operation

  • Auftragstaktik: Mission, generally considered as a contract between superior and subordinate



Understanding Maneuver Warfare elements and how you can apply them to your business can result in innovative and exciting product launches and market strategies. Using typical product launches results in low morale from employees, lack of excitement for media, and boring moments for customers instead of WOW moments that can excited the market. Remember what Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. So if you wonder why your targets are not met or no one is excited about your great new product, rethink how you are launching it. Get your customers excited and confuse the hell out of your competitors. Shake things up!