Let’s look at Strategy.

Strategy is a word that generates much confusion because different people use it in different ways. And of course, there are different levels of strategy. For example: Corporate Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Advertising Strategy, Creative Strategy, Media Strategy. Regardless of level, strategy can be defined as the overall direction which summarises how all the detailed tactics achieve a specific objective.

Here is an example of three competitors with three different marketing strategies in the tyre market:

Goodyear chose a strategy of mass volume, low cost market leadership.

Michelin chose a product development strategy and invested in new technology and research and development to develop the radial tyre. This eventually redefined customer needs and made the cross-ply tyre obsolete.

Armstrong Rubber adopted a third strategy: exploiting specialist application by focusing on special tyres for agricultural, aviation and civil engineering market segments.

Strategies are chosen from a range of carefully considered strategic options. American author Michael Porter identified some core generic strategic options: Cost, Differentiation and Focus. This means that you can choose whether to compete on price, or differences in the features and benefits of your product, or you can compete by focusing on specific target markets and serving them better than anyone else.

You can of course have more than one strategy. Here’s Microsoft’s Euaropean Marketing Director.

“If our goal is to achieve a certain level of market share within a product category we could decide that, let’s say we needed to achieve 50% market share. We could determine that our strategy would be to get 25% of that market share by encouraging new people to buy spread sheets. So we would grow the overall market and consequently achieve 25% market share. To secure the other 25% market share our strategy could be to progressively attack one of our competitors customer bases and encourage them to move from their product to our own. So, you can build up therefore two different strategies. One of market expansion and creation of demand and the other of a competitive stand point encouraging brands which are within a competitors’ base.”
John Leftwich, European Marketing Director, Microsoft

There is one important question that influences the choice of strategies: ‘Does it develop and exploit our sustainable competitive advantage?

Which strategy exploits our competitive strengths, or our competitive advantage? Is this advantage sustainable in the future or will competition eat away at this temporary advantage.The key term here is sustainable competitive advantage. Do we know what it is and do we know the strategies to exploit it?

A typical competitive advantage might be better designed products, or perhaps more cost efficient production, or better customer service, or brand imagery.

Perhaps the easiest way of understanding strategy is: it’s a summary of how you are going to achieve the objectives; it drives and summarises the tactics. It’s ‘the big picture’. It often pans over a longer period of time than shorter term tactical activities

The choice of strategy is influenced firstly by objectives, and secondly by the resources available. For example: developing superior products depends on having excellent research and development facilities and people – or at least it depends on having the money to buy the facilitates and also the time to recruit and build a Research and Development team.

So the dimensions of marketing strategy can include: objectives and resources, the scale of operation, a summary of marketing mixes, positioning, target markets and timing – do we want to be ‘first to market’ or come in later with a ‘Me Too’ product?.

Finally, strategy, and tactics, have military meanings. It’s no coincidence that there are several books written on marketing warfare. The ultimate, for me at least, is Tsung Szu’s ancient Chinese ‘Art of War’. Although it was written in 500BC it provides a rich source of reading for any budding marketing strategists – and maybe it has been used extensively by some very successful global companies already.