In 1066, the Anglo-Saxons had a strong defensive position featuring sharpened stakes and shields. There seemed no way for the Normans to breach it.
When the Normans attacked the Anglo-Saxons were able to repel them easily, so the Normans turned and ran.
Sensing victory, the Anglo-Saxons chased the retreating Normans.
But, as they left their defensive positions, they were cut down by other hidden Normans waiting for them to do just that.
The Anglo-Saxons were thinking in one dimension, whoever fights best wins.
But the Normans were thinking tactically, lure them out from their defence to kill them.
The Normans were thinking beyond the obvious one-dimensional thinking.
Nine hundred years later, Erwin Rommel had learned from this.
In North Africa, his tanks attacked the strongly held allied defensive positions.
The Germans retreated and the allied tanks chased them. Straight into the waiting German anti-tank guns.
The allies were thinking in one dimension, whoever is losing runs away and whoever is winning chases them.
But Rommel, like the Normans, was thinking beyond the obvious one-dimensional thinking.
We don’t fight them where they are strong, we lure them out to where we are strong.
This is tactical thinking, beyond the obvious one-dimensional thinking.
In Vietnam, the Americans were unbeatable in a straight fight, they had better weapons, and many more of them.
So the North Vietnamese didn’t fight them in a straight fight in Vietnam.
They fought them in the America media.
They allowed stars like Jane Fonda to be photographed with their smiling troops.
They fed photographs of US atrocities to the American media.
Eventually, the American people made their government end the war.
The Vietnamese won by thinking beyond the obvious one-dimension of head-on fighting.
In advertising, one-dimensional thinking is when we simply try to sell a product or brand head-on by running ads telling people to buy it.
Multi-dimensional thinking is when we think beyond the obvious.
Many years ago, Coca Cola had a saturated market, everyone had tried the product, the word ‘Coke’ was the second most recognised word in the world, after ‘OK’.
To just keep telling people to try Coca Cola was a waste of money.
So they thought tactically, the advertising came to be about buying a Coke for yourself and a friend, and enjoying it together.; to sell two Cokes instead of one.
And the campaign “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ran, and successfully increased sales and Coke’s share of the Cola market.
Around the same time, sales of baking powder had stalled.
Everyone bought a pack of baking powder when they set up home, used it once and then forgot about it, and it just sat in the back of a kitchen cupboard.
So instead of just advertising baking powder, the manufacturers thought tactically.
They couldn’t sell baking powder to people who already had a pack, but if they could find a way to get people to use that pack, they’d have to replace it.
So they ran a campaign reminding housewives that the baking powder that had sat in their cupboard for years was still useful, it could be placed in their fridge to kill any smells.
So housewives used the old pack they had sitting around and then had to replace it.
Selling baking powder without mentioning buying a new pack.
That’s thinking beyond the obvious one-dimension.
Recently, WD40 have been running infomercials online showing dozens of uses for it: how to get chewing gum out of hair, stop wasp nests, free a stuck wedding ring, prevent wood splinters, clean leather.
To get us to use the can we have under the sink, so we have to buy a new one to replace it.
One dimensional thinking is simply to approach a problem head on – sell more whatever.
Tactical thinking is to get upstream of that and think beyond one dimension.
You don’t have to lead a horse to water, just make the horse thirsty.