As a graduate student in foreign affairs in the late 1970s, in the midst of the Cold War, I took a required course, The Balance of Strategic Forces. It was about the strength of the nuclear arsenal of the United States relative to that of the Soviet Union.

I haven't had much occasion to use nuclear-armament knowledge in my marketing career, and much of it is out-of-date... fortunately.

But at least one lesson (about the strategic "nuclear triad") applies to marketing as much as it does to nuclear defense:

Three legs are better than one

During the course, officers from each branch of the military lectured us on the virtues of their particular contribution to mutually assured destruction (MAD).

  1. The Navy explained that it protected us on the seven-eighth's of the world's surface covered by water.
  2. The Army, with responsibility for land forces, reminded us that all the earth's human population lived on land.
  3. And the Air Force's claim rested on the fact that 100% of the earth is surrounded by air.

The main takeaway for me was a good understanding of the "nuclear triad"—the combination of long-range bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines—that composed the US strategic defense arsenal.

Despite its terrifying capabilities, it was colloquially referred to as the "three-legged stool."

Don't build a one-legged stool

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Peter A. Cohen is managing partner of SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors (, an advisory-services firm. He can be reached at