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Using the O.O.D.A Loop Theory in Content Marketing

Today’s post will discuss how the OODA Loop theory can be applied to content marketing and digital decision making.  O.O.D.A (observe, orient, decide, and act) 

  • Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses
  • Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one’s current mental perspective
  • Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one’s current mental perspective
  • Action: the physical playing-out of decisions

“The key is to obscure your intentions and make them unpredictable to your opponent while you simultaneously clarify his intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness. Thus, a hodgepodge of confusion and disorder occur to cause him to over- or under-react to conditions or activities that appear to be uncertain, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.” – source, Wikipedia

As competion increases and more and more businesses take a passive approach and basically do nothing it becomes easier for smart businesses to apply the O.O.D.A “Loop” theory.

 ”the loop” is actually a set of interacting loops that are to be kept in continuous operation during combat. – John Boyd

This sounds a lot like the digital marketing cycle we apply here at Gabster (Research, Create, Optimize, Publish, Promote, Measure) are all interacting loops. Another loop, is that of your competition chasing their tail — constantly stalking your Twitter feed, reading your Press Releases, all the while fuming at the sight of your success.

This will inevitably lead to a reaction, your competition will be motivated to do something.  However, more than likely, it will be just that, a reaction. An unplanned, uninformed, ready-fire-aim approach to defending their turf.

On the other hand, you will have expected this and will not pay any attention to whatever their next move is. Instead, you stay focused on your plan of attack.

And while they remain reactive – which almost always leads to some loss of quality, their customers will take control of their brand,  while you steer yours to the promised land.

Let’s break the OODA theory down and see where it fits in with our Capture, Engage, Nurture approach to marketing.


This is the stage where decision makers gather information. Relevant data is collected that will inform you of your position; factors will include competition, market share, industry trends, consumer behavior etc.  This observation can be done by consuming information resources such as industry journals, advertisements, consumer surveys, and social media. This content must be looked at honestly and without ego. Look for points of differentiation and take notes.


It’s pretty simple, get to know your competition. By becoming more familiar with your competition you’ll automatically become better oriented with your position in your given marketplace. From marketing to manufacturing, you’ll discover the strengths and weaknesses you have compared to your competition.

In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries–or, better yet, get inside [the] adversary’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop. … Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries–since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns they are competing against. – John Boyd

With a better understanding of how you’re viewed in your industry and what you can do to fix it, you’ll start to take action. It is at this point that a flame is lit, you’ll feel activated and passionate about improving your business. This will lead to a decisiveness in your decision making that will allow you to become faster and more nimble.


Take into consideration everything you have learned in the previous stages of Observe and Orient. Decide how to proceed and with who to get involved with. Make no mistake either, this is a critical stage. The decisions you make will be impacted by the people you team-up with, so choose wisely. More mental than anything, this stage is also about commitment. Making a commitment to solving your problem is critical. Giving-up on something won’t generate anything positive, so decide to see your decision through. Good or bad, if you follow-thru there will always be a lesson to be learned.

The proper mindset is to let go a little, to allow some of the chaos to become part of his mental system, and to use it to his advantage by simply creating more chaos and confusion for the opponent. He funnels the inevitable chaos of the battlefield in the direction of the enemy. – Robert Green


Like Redman said, “It’s time for some action“, filling your big brain with all of this strategy is useless until you apply it. In a digital marketing strategy, this will consist of creating, publishing, and promoting, your content. So, put your thinking cap on start putting the pen-to-paper. Create an outline of credible content and leverage your expertise and industry knowledge to make it as detailed as possible. For example, here at Gabster, we try to create content for 3 basic categories, Digital Marketing StrategyWordPress Consulting and Digital Recruiting.   Those are our buckets. We then map content in the form of planned and fluid content publishing funnels. Planned content consists of blog posts, Press Releases, videos, etc. Fluid content consists of social media conversations, blog commenting, and other media opportunities that consist of spur-of-the-moment dialogue. Keep in mind, you also have a brand to consider. So, make sure that both the planned and fluid content assets you create are beneficial to your brand position. Use a consistent voice, maintain authority, and always, always be proactive when an issue arises.

As the dogfight begins, little time is devoted to orienting unless some new information pertaining to the actual identity or intent of the attacker comes into play. Information cascades in real-time, and the pilot does not have time to process it consciously; the pilot reacts as he is trained to, and conscious thought is directed to supervising the flow of action and reaction, continuously repeating the OODA cycle. – John Boyd

We apply this theory at Gabster Media, in our approach to our business as well as in our approach with clients. That is why we created the capture, engage, nurture process that allows us to execute each phase of the O.O.D.A strategy on a daily basis.

By capturing intelligence and understanding our audience we can also capture people’s attention with relevant content and helpful resources to aid in their decision-making process.

Through our engage phase we can have conversations with potential targets and discuss our ideas while receiving immediate feedback. This phase also allows us to engage industry thought leaders who can help us influence our audience.

That influence is built by nurturing these thought leaders with consistent, relevant, and ego-complimenting content that can be used to persuade the influencer to become an ambassador for our brand and business.

Are you familiar with this theory? Do you think there are ways to apply this theory that I missed (there have to be thousands of applications)?

Let me know in the comments below.

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