Reviewed by digital marketing experts

Definition of Flanking Strategy

Flanking strategy is a digital marketing approach where a brand targets underserved or niche segments of the market to gain a competitive advantage over established rivals. By focusing on these underserved areas, the brand can avoid direct competition and establish a strong presence within the niche. This marketing strategy is particularly effective for smaller businesses seeking to challenge industry leaders by exploiting overlooked opportunities.


The phonetics of the keyword “Flanking Strategy” can be represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as /ˈflæŋkɪŋ ˈstrætədʒi/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Flanking Strategy focuses on targeting market areas that a competitor has overlooked or underexplored, allowing for less direct competition and an opportunity to establish a strong market presence.
  2. Successful flanking strategies require extensive knowledge of the market, customer needs, and competitor weaknesses to identify gaps and opportunities that can be exploited.
  3. When implementing a flanking strategy, companies often focus on providing innovative products, superior service, or a unique selling proposition that distinguishes them from their competitors, ultimately attracting untapped customers.

Importance of Flanking Strategy

The digital marketing term “Flanking Strategy” holds significant importance because it allows businesses to create a competitive edge within a saturated market.

By identifying under-served niches or adopting innovative approaches, companies can implement this tactic to attract and secure a specific customer segment.

As a result, they can expand their market share while simultaneously avoiding direct competition with prominent market players.

A well-executed flanking strategy enables businesses to differentiate themselves, capitalize on new growth opportunities, and strengthen their brand positioning within the digital landscape.


A Flanking Strategy in digital marketing refers to a competitive tactic employed by businesses to exploit the weaknesses or gaps within a competitor’s digital presence. The primary purpose of this strategy is to outmaneuver the competition by positioning one’s brand more effectively, gaining a bigger market share, and increasing brand awareness.

By closely observing and analyzing a competitor’s digital presence, such as their website, social media engagement, content marketing, and advertising campaigns, companies can identify areas that may have been overlooked – understanding the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses enables devising an effective flanking strategy. This strategy is particularly useful in saturated markets or when competing against well-established businesses.

Instead of going head-to-head with industry leaders, businesses utilizing a flanking strategy can secure a unique market position with targeted efforts. For instance, a company might focus on a niche market segment, untapped geographical regions, or create unique product offerings that differentiate them from their competitors.

Strengthening one’s own digital presence in areas where competitors lag creates favorable conditions for long-term growth – this can be achieved through targeted digital marketing initiatives, such as SEO, social media campaigns, email marketing, and content creation. By concentrating both on the competitors’ weaknesses and one’s own strengths, a business can make a lasting impact on its target market, setting itself apart and ultimately achieving success.

Examples of Flanking Strategy

Coca-Cola Life: In 2013, Coca-Cola introduced Coca-Cola Life as a flanking strategy to appeal to health-conscious consumers. This product contained fewer calories and less sugar than regular Coca-Cola, and it was sweetened with natural ingredients (stevia and sugar). This strategy allowed Coca-Cola to compete with healthier beverage alternatives and cater to a new target audience without directly attacking or changing their flagship Coke product.

McDonald’s McCafé: Recognizing the growing popularity of specialized coffee shops and the competitive threat from coffee chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s launched the McCafé concept. By offering a range of premium coffee beverages and specialty drinks in addition to their traditional fast-food menu, McDonald’s successfully introduced a flanking strategy to attract a new market segment of customers seeking high-quality coffee without directly confronting their competitors in the coffee shop space.

L’Oréal Elvive Low Shampoo: In response to the increasing demand for sulfate-free and gentle hair care products, L’Oréal introduced the Elvive Low Shampoo line. This flanking strategy aimed to cater to a niche audience seeking healthier hair care options without jeopardizing their existing market share in traditional shampoos and conditioners. By offering a sulfate-free alternative, L’Oréal successfully entered the gentle hair care market without directly competing against niche brands specialized in sulfate-free products.

FAQ: Flanking Strategy

What is a flanking strategy?

A flanking strategy is a military tactic used to gain an advantage over an opponent by attacking their weaker or exposed sides, rather than engaging them head-on. This approach allows an attacking force to surprise the enemy and gain a superior position, potentially increasing the chances of a successful outcome.

What are the benefits of using a flanking strategy in battle?

Using a flanking strategy can provide several advantages, such as offering a surprise element, breaking through enemy lines, disrupting the enemy’s command and control, and reducing the effectiveness of their defenses. By attacking the enemy’s exposed sides, a flanking force can also exploit vulnerabilities and apply greater pressure than would be possible with a direct assault.

What are the potential risks of using a flanking strategy?

While a flanking strategy can be highly effective, it also carries certain risks. These include the possibility of overextending your forces, exposing your own flanks to enemy counterattacks, and encountering unanticipated obstacles or opposition. Additionally, maintaining proper coordination and communication among separate units can be challenging during a flanking maneuver.

Are there specific conditions that are ideal for executing a flanking strategy?

Yes, certain conditions can increase the effectiveness of a flanking strategy. These may include superior intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities, favorable terrain features, sufficient force size and mobility, and the element of surprise. However, it is essential to adapt the flanking approach to the specific situation, taking into consideration the enemy’s strength and disposition, as well as your own resources and capabilities.

Can a flanking strategy be used in other fields, such as business or sports?

Absolutely, the principles of flanking strategy can be applied to various fields beyond military tactics. In business, for example, a company might implement a flanking strategy by entering a market through a less-competitive or niche segment to avoid going head-to-head with established competitors. Similarly, in sports, teams or individual athletes may use flanking tactics to take advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses or to catch them off guard with unexpected moves.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Competitive Analysis
  • Niche Marketing
  • Market Segmentation
  • Alternative Channels
  • Indirect Approach

Sources for More Information