Marketing Strategies vs. Tactics – What’s the Difference?

Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of people (marketing folks included), struggle in understanding the difference between “marketing tactics” and “marketing strategies.” For me, the difference goes well beyond the understanding that the strategy is the “path” to get you to your goals, and the tactics are the “tools” that get you there.

One core principal that I keep going back to, project after project, is that great marketing strategies are built on a deep understanding of a company’s business model, target audience and the market dynamics in play. This is why great marketing strategies scale, while tactics often do not.

Here is an example that helps illustrate this difference…

Goal:

Drive a 10% increase in our awareness in the marketplace.

Tactic:

We’re going to create a pinterest board that is interesting to our target audience to get their attention and drive awareness.

VS. Strategy:

Our products are highly customized to a set of individual/specific needs of women; we want to align ourselves with the idea of “individuality” in order to gain a market advantage against our monolithic competitors. We can create value-added content and tools that help women express their individuality by activating influencers online and measuring the impact this has against our awareness goals (vs. other channels such as TV, etc).

Example – Kotex campaign:

 

 

As you can see in the example above, while the end-use case was the same (using pinterest to engage with prospects), the strategy created a much more scalable platform from which the brand could pivot in a number of directions. The strategic idea of using “individuality” as a key differentiator came from a combination of the:

  1. Core value of the product
  2. White space created by the competition
  3. Understanding that the target audience was expressive of their lifestyle online

So the next time someone tells you that your brand should be on pinterest, or that you should be tweeting, ask them about the marketing strategy behind that recommendation. Their answer will tell you everything you need to know about their understanding of the difference between marketing strategies vs. marketing tactics.

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