Attack Strategies in Marketing: Frontal & Flank

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Should you attack your competitor head-on or complete a sneak attack around the side? That's the subject of this lesson featuring popular marketing attack strategies, frontal and flank. We'll explore both in this lesson.


When you think about marketing, do you view it as going into battle? Think about it in terms of a game of chess: Your opponent is the competition, your goal is checkmate, and your hope is to come out on top and win the match.

Marketing attack strategies are like well-planned chess moves.
attack, strategy, frontal, flank, marketing, chess

If you go into a marketing ''chess match'' armed with information about your competitors' strengths and weaknesses, you can better assess the best way to attack and vault your product or service to the top.

In this lesson, we'll discuss two of the attack strategies frequently used in marketing: frontal and flank.

Attack Strategies in Marketing

Attack strategies in marketing are necessary. Regardless of the type of product or service you sell, you are faced with competition on all sides. You may be the market leader, or you may be back in the pack. Understanding where you are and how best to attack the competition can help you capture a greater share of the market and enhance your visibility, customer loyalty, and revenues.

Two of the most common types of attack strategies require a strong focus on your competitors' strengths and weaknesses to make the right move. Let's look at each.


A frontal attack strategy in marketing focuses on a challenger taking on the market leader head-on. This means focusing on your competitors' strengths and matching your own pricing, products, marketing, and promotions to the leading brand. Like a frontal attack in battle, the winner is often determined by who has endurance to last the longest.

Frontal attacks can be risky because they pit your best against your competitor's best. If you don't match up, the loss can be felt in terms of sales, customers, and public image. Let's face it: It's easier to key in on your competition's weakest points and supersede them than to face the giant head-on and potentially lose.

Front attacks can come in many forms, including pure frontal, which is a head-to-head marketing battle; limited frontal, which is focused on specific markets; and research and development, which involves building a product to compete directly with the market leader.

Frontal Attack Example

McDonald's McCafé offerings could be considered a type of frontal attack strategy in marketing because the fast-food restaurant, not typically known for its coffee beverages, created a line designed to compete directly with coffeehouses like Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and Tim Hortons. By crafting premium coffee drinks without the premium price tag, McDonald's launched a frontal attack on the market leaders designed to move customers from the coffeehouse to the drive-thru line.


A flanking attack strategy in marketing is designed to get competitors focused on hitting the competitors' weaknesses and surmounting them. Weaknesses might include customer segments not being reached or geographic areas being overlooked by the market leader, which creates an area of opportunity for brands in the challenger role.

Flank strategies are less risky to competitors because they focus on moving stealthily to enter an uncontested area of the market. The biggest challenge comes when the market leader identifies a competitor's entry into a market with a new product or service, and then throws all of its energy behind eclipsing the new entry.

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