A "Strategic" Imperative

Marketing plans are admittedly part science and part art.  Direction is (increasingly) data-driven. sprinkled with the right amount of savvy and intuition.  Exactly how much of the latter is left to the discretion of the marketer.  What should not be up for debate, however, is the understanding and application of the terminology used in such plans.  The simple distinction between a “strategy” and an “objective”, for example, is one of the most violated conventions.  For those interested, please consider the following vernacular for your next plan:

  • Goal: When all is said and done, where will your brand or company stand in the minds of your customer
  • Marketing Strategy: What 2-3 statements best “guide” your approach (NOT to be confused with what you might specifically say to differentiate your brand)
  • Objective: How will these efforts be measured, as an objective is ALWAYS measureable
  • Communications Strategy: NOT to be confused with a marketing strategy, this is where you take your target audience’s media consumption patterns into consideration and determine what channels may be best (e.g. a highly scientific message to an established audience is likely better communicated face-to-face, where a reminder message could efficiently utilize digital)
  • Tactic: In what vehicles will your messages be carried

Obvious you say?  Then why do plans rarely include a goal statement? Why are strategy statements typically so long, all-inclusive, and thus diluted?  Why is there little consideration towards how a successful strategy will be measured?  And why are tactics allowed to exist (within increasingly tight budgets) that don’t “ladder up” to a strategy?  Less specific, more vague, less measureable plans are ultimately less effective.

And lastly, a “strategy” by virtue of its inclusion in a marketing plan, is important.  No argument.  But is it really necessary that we remind everyone by calling it a “strategic imperative”?!? Give me a “strategy” straight up please.     


SVP, Account Director

Wants to get from point “A” to point “B” as fast as possible.  Loves dogs, pizza, and college football.