Sunday, November 25, 2007

Vale John Howard?

I think there's an interesting lesson in last night's Federal Election victory by Labor -- and it's about issues management/competitive positioning.
As the campaign progressed, many journalists and commentators spoke of Labor's (uncharacteristically) disciplined campaign, and in particular their refusal to be baited on issues which have historically allowed the Government to marginalise them with the electorate.
It's a strategy that wasn't without it's critics -- it was derided as a 'me too' approach, and, I suspect, may have deepened existing voter cynicism regarding the apparent lack of differences between the two major parties -- but it clearly worked.
It brought to mind what I think was the best example of a similar strategy in business that I've personally seen, Microsoft's Judo-like response to the growing buzz around Linux and Open Source in 2003/4.
After several years of trying to (increasingly stridently) combat the growing support for Linux and open source, partly fueled by IBM, Microsoft neatly (and very cleverly I think from a pragmatic point of view) changed its position to one that claimed to embrace Linux and open source ... where appropriate.
Of course the devil was in the detail of that 'where appropriate' but the strategy effectively took the issue off the table for them and diffused media attention. And it made it all the more difficult for competitors to win an argument among customers and the media that MS was the enemy of interoperability.
So, my lesson from Saturday night is to know your audience, know your enemy and pick your battles, you don't need to fight them all to win -- obvious really.