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113 marketin strategy vs tactics BNBranding

The difference between marketing strategy and tactics.

BNBranding logoI’m appalled. A successful marketing guy asked me a question recently — a real no-brainer — which led me to believe he didn’t know the difference between marketing strategy and tactics.

How can that be? He’s held several high-paying marketing positions. He has an MBA. He’s gotta know this stuff.

So I started doing some research online and I’ve found the problem: The internet! And specifically, LinkedIn.

marketin strategy vs tactics BNBrandingJust about every day there’s another misleading article about marketing strategy and tactics. There’s more misinformation than information out there. More nonsense than common sense.

For instance, I ran across one article that listed “search engines” as a marketing strategy and said “long-term strategies such as giving away freebies will continue to pay off years down the road.”

Freebies are NOT a strategy. Search engines are NOT a strategy. Digital is NOT a strategy.

Just the other day, one of the biggest gurus of digital marketing published a post about “marketing strategy” that was flat-out wrong. It was about media buying — specifically, choosing Facebook over Television advertising.

That’s not Marketing Strategy, that’s tactical media buying.

This isn’t just a matter of semantics, it’s negligence! Advice like that would never get past the editors of a brand-name business magazine, but you can find it on-line. All over the place.

In any case, the easiest way to clarify the difference between marketing strategy and tactics is to go to the source…

I’m sorry if the war analogy doesn’t appeal to you, but that’s where these terms came from, some 3,000 years ago.

Here’s how it breaks down: Goals first. Then strategy. Then tactics.

Goal: Win the war.

Strategy: “Divide and conquer.”

Tactics:

CIA spies gather intelligence.

Navy Seals knock out enemy communications.

Paratroopers secure the airports.

Armored Divisions race in and divide the opposing army’s forces.

Drone attacks take out the enemy leadership.

An overwhelming force of infantry invade.

Hand-to-hand combat.

A marketing strategy is an idea… A conceptualization of how the goal could be achieved.

Like “Divide and Conquer.” Another possible war strategy would be “Nuke ‘Em.” (They call them Strategic Nuclear Weapons because they pretty much eliminate the need for any further battlefield tactics.)

In WWII, the generals spent more than six months mapping out the strategy to win the war in Europe before D-Day. They diagnosed the problem, researched the enemy,  pinpointed weaknesses and literally mapped out a plan of attack. Much of that strategic debate focused on what NOT to do… Where NOT to invade. What battlefields to avoid.

Here’s an example of good marketing strategy – from Under Armour.

A marketing tactic is an action you take to execute the strategy.

Strategic thinking. Tactical acting.

But let’s get off the battlefield and look at a successful brand. In business, great strategies are built on BIG ideas. And BIG ideas usually stem from some little nugget of consumer insight.

Back in the 70’s, executives at Church & Dwight Inc. noticed that sales of their popular Arm & Hammer baking soda were slipping. The loyal moms and grandmas who had been buying the same baking soda all their lives weren’t baking as much as they used to.

classic marketing strategy and tactics on the Brand Insight Blog

Business Goal:  Turn the tide and increase Baking Soda sales.

Strategy: Devise new reasons for their current customers to pick up that yellow box at the supermarket and use more baking soda.

Specifically, sell Arm & Hammer as a deodorizer for the fridge. That’s a big, strategic idea that led Arm & Hammer in a completely different direction.

They’re now marketing a whole line of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Every current Arm & Hammer product, from toothpaste to cat litter, originated from that strategy of finding new ways to use baking soda. And in the process, an old-fashioned brand has managed to stay relevant.

Tactics: All the traditional marketing tactics were employed… TV advertising. Magazine ads. Digital advertising. Search engine marketing. Content marketing. Retail promotions. Website dedicated to all the various uses of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.

All great marketing strategies share these common traits:

• Thorough understanding of the brand’s status and story. Arm & Hammer has a strong heritage that dates back to the 1860’s. That yellow box with the red Arm & Hammer logo is instantly recognizable, and stands for much more than just generic sodium bicarbonate.

 

 

 

 

 

• A realistic assessment of the product’s strengths & weaknesses. Market research proved what Arm & Hammer executives suspected… that people don’t bake as much as they used to. But it also showed that people were using their baking soda for all kinds of things besides baking. That was the insight that drove the strategy.

• A clear picture of the competition. Arm & Hammer has always been the undisputed market leader in the category. However, when they decided to introduce toothpaste and laundry detergent, the competition became

balance your marketing strategy and tactics with BNBranding

fierce. Arm & Hammer’s long-standing leadership position in one vertical market gave them a fighting chance against Procter & Gamble.

• Intimate knowledge of the consumer and the market. The shift away from the traditional American homemaker directly affected baking soda sales. Church & Dwight kept up with the trends, and even led the charge on environmental issues.

• A grasp of the big-picture business implications. Good brand strategies reach way beyond the marketing department. When you have a big idea, execution of the strategy will inevitably involve operations, R&D, HR, finance and every other business discipline.

A great strategy does not depend on brilliant tactics for success. If the idea is strong enough, you can get by with mediocre tactical execution. (Although I wouldn’t recommend tactical short cuts.)

However, even the best tactics can’t compensate for a lousy strategy. You can waste a lot of money on marketing tactics if there’s no cohesive strategy involved. Some people confuse marketing strategy with marketing objectives. They are not synonymous. Here are a few examples of “marketing strategies” from seemingly credible on-line sources:

Marketing strategy and tactics - the branding process at BNBranding

The top three circles represent strategy. All the activities in the blue circles are tactics. You can’t do it all yourself. BNBranding can help.

“Create awareness.” “Overcome objections.” “Boost consumer confidence.” “Refresh the brand.” “Turnkey a multiplatform communications program.”

That’s just marketing industry jargon.

Those are NOT strategies, they’re goals. (And not even very good goals.) Remember, it’s not a strategy unless there’s an idea behind it.

Any number of strategies can be used to achieve a business goal. In fact, it often takes more than one strategy to achieve a lofty goal, and each strategy involves its own unique tactical plan.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketing managers simply throw together a list of the tactics they’ve always used, and call it a strategy.

If you’re still wondering about the difference between marketing strategy and tactics, try the “what-if” test…

At Dominoes, someone said, “Hey, what if we guaranteed 30-minute delivery?” Dominoes couldn’t compete on product quality or price, but they could compete on speedy delivery.

So a strategy was born.

After that, their entire operation revolved around the promise of 30-minute delivery. They built a hell of a strategy around a simple, tactical idea.  That strategy worked well for more than 20 years until a lawsuit forced them to abandon it.  Now Jimmy John’s owns the “Super fast delivery” niche in the fast food industry.

At Arm & Hammer someone asked, “What if we could come up with a bunch of new uses for baking soda?”  That’s a strategy.

On the other hand, “What if we do search engines?” doesn’t make sense. Must be a tactic.

“What if we increase market share?”  There’s no idea in that, so it must be a goal.

What if we could screen all web content for factual errors and eliminate some of this confusion? Wouldn’t that be nice?

The fact is, even the sharpest marketing people need help sometimes. BNBranding can help take your business to the next level by devising a unique new strategy and executing it in creative ways.

We can help you align your marketing strategy with your tactics. It starts with an affordable, unbiased, yin-yang assessment of your current marketing efforts.

 

by John Furgurson. Copyright 2017 BNBranding.

6 Consumer behavior

Predicting consumer behavior: Or the whacky, random ways people buy.

BNBranding logoCorporations spend billions every year trying to predict consumer behavior.  Market research firms have sophisticated modeling protocols, ivy league PHDs and multivariate analysis to help them make sense of what is, inherently, nonsensical behavior.

Take, for example, the time my dad decided to replace his rusting Ford pick-up truck.

He drove two hours to the Big City so he’d have plenty of truck dealers to choose from. He went online to do some research, then he spent the weekend kicking tires, braving the onslaught of salesmen and test driving every make and model.

He came home in a Toyota Matrix. He was 75 at the time.

Consumer behaviorGod only knows what possessed him to switch from a Ford pick-up truck to a little urban pocket-rocket. The Matrix is more suited to base-thumping car stereo blast-a-thons than my dad’s easy-listening coastal lifestyle.

No amount of big data could have could have predicted it.

In hindsight, I suppose you could say it was consistent with his car-buying history, which is even more erratic than his golf game. I challenge anyone to find a pattern in this list:

1968 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe

1970 Chevy Caprice Station Wagon

1972 AMC Hornet (In order to torture his son)

1974 Chevy Vega

1976 Ford LTD 4-door sedan.

1980 Mazada 626 (below)

predicting consumer behavior

1985 Volkswagen Golf Diesel

1991 Ford Taurus

1997 Ford F-150 Pickup

2004 Toyota Matrix

2008 Ford Taurus

2010 Toyota Camry

2017 Toyota Camry.  (Wow, a repeat purchase. He’s getting predictable in his old age.)

I’ve decided he buys cars the same way he buys fruit… Whatever looks good, smells sweet and is on sale at that particular moment.

You might think that’s a little weird, but research published by University of Iowa neurologist Antonio Damasio shows that most purchase decisions are almost as random as my dad’s car buying. Predicting consumer behavior is not easy.

Damasio says marketing messages are processed outside the conscious mind. Emotions push us toward decisions we think are best for us, and we often bypass reason because experience endows us with what he calls “somatic markers in the brain.”

Somatic markers are the most likely biological basis for intuition. These pre-recorded behavior guides are based on inherited behavioral traits and formed by experience. When making decisions, somatic markers are triggered, often making reason irrelevant.

So it’s intuition and emotion that drives real life purchasing decisions. Not logic.

As Dr. Dean Shibata put it, “If you eliminate the emotional guiding factors, it’s impossible for people to make decisions in everyday life.”

On the other hand, when people are asked hypothetical questions about purchases, as in a focus group, the brain works on a much different, analytical level.

predicting consumer behavior“Instead of the real reason for buying, researchers get a rationalization based on the respondent’s idealized self-image. If they don’t account for this bias, researchers are left with a model based on how people think they ought to be motivated, rather than their actual motivations.”

So beware of market research that demands a rational explanation for irrational behavior.

And here’s another thing that makes predicting consumer behavior so difficult… Many times we aren’t “qualitatively conscious” of our motivation.

“Consumers have limited knowledge of their own values, needs and motivations that affect purchase decisions,” says Neurologist Richard Restack.

So my dad probably doesn’t even know why he made that decision to drive home in a Matrix. It wasn’t really because the garbage cans would fit in the hatchback.

The point is, all purchases are emotional purchases.

So the next time you’re throwing together a sales presentation, or putting together a Facebook campaign, you might want to spend more time trying evoke an emotional response, and less time building charts and graphs.

Reason certainly does play a vital role in some stages of many buying decisions. But in the end, the actual purchase is entirely emotional. The rationalization for the purchase is what’s rational.

Here’s an example from my own, personal experience…

I recently purchased a new driver, which was said to guarantee at least 20 more yards off the tee. (Don’t even get me started on those tired golf industry promises.)

Predicting consumer behavior

Here are the reasons why I pulled the trigger, now, on a new driver purchase:

  1. It’s been 8 years since I purchased a new club. I was due. I deserved it.
  2. A client of mine in the golf industry couldn’t shut up about this club. And he gave me a deal.
  3. I couldn’t find any consistency with my current driver.
  4. It was market research for this article.

Not exactly a rational decision, when all was said and done.

It had nothing to do with the features they tout in the golf industry magazines. I wasn’t searching for more distance. “Ten more yards” was not a relevant message for me.

The point is, people are unpredictable. Even old people who are brand loyal are unpredictable.

As marketers, the minute you start thinking you really know your audience’s hot buttons and can predict their behavior, forget about it.

Just when you’re sure you’re going to sell another Ford pickup, they throw you a curveball and go for the Matrix.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

 

 

If you’re wondering what your brand story should be, try this post.  If you want my personal advice, click here.   Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. John Furgurson.

 

1 waste in advertising - BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

Just a little trim around the ears — How to cut your marketing budget without hurting your brand image.

BNBranding logoWhen it comes to belt tightening, most marketing managers have it all wrong. The minute the boss gives them the bad news… “gotta cut your marketing budget”  they go to the list of tactics and start trimming off the bottom of the spread sheet.

Or worse yet, they go for a military-style buzz cut and just chop it all off.

images4First thing to get the ax  is  ”image” advertising”… anything that doesn’t have a coupon or a response vehicle of some kind is out the window.  Brand building, it seems, can wait for better days.

Next is community support… those feel-good event sponsorships that help non-profit organizations but don’t return any discernable ROI.

Website upgrades are also on the chopping block. As long as the site still comes up when you type in that URL, it’s all good. Right???

Wrong. The website should probably be the most sacred of all cows, but that’s another story.

What’s needed is a more strategic approach to cutting your marketing budget.

You need more than just the bosses’ orders to cut 25% across the board. You need to eliminate dangerous assumptions from the process and work with objective criteria of some sort.

So here’s an idea… why not start with an objective assessment of what you’re currently doing? Get a second opinion on your messaging, your media buy and your overall tactical plan.

waste in advertising - BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

In my experience, it’s often the message, not the medium, that’s the problem…

Print ads say one thing, social media says another and the web site implies something else. Sales presentations go off in one direction, while promotions head somewhere else. Radio commercials, new media, good old-fashioned direct mail… it’s all scattered around with no coherent theme.

So before you do any budget cutting, use the opportunity to think about what you’re saying. Get your message aligned with your strategy. Reevaluate every marketing “touch point” in terms of consistency, clarity and brand worthiness. Then scalp all the wild hairs.

If you can just quit saying the wrong thing, you’ll save a ton of money.

Most marketing managers assume the budget was allocated in a logical manner to begin with. But that’s simply not the case. Most marketing budgets are handed down, year after year, and are based simply on “how we’ve always done it.”  No one ever questions the underlying assumptions.

It’s also easy to neglect the messaging process. In a recent  post I wrote about an ad for Wales. A classic case of saying the wrong thing. As one British reader commented… “Golf Wales is an oxymoron.”  Even if you accept the strategy of selling Wales as a golf destination, the message was all wrong, so cutting that ad is probably the smartest thing they could do.

The fact is, Wales probably needs a lot more than just a quick trim. They need to rethink the entire hairdo. But who’s going to do that?

truth in advertising BNBrandingAny decent marketing person can choose tactics that will drive traffic and buy media that will reach the desired target audience. But revamping the strategy and nailing down that core brand message is something else entirely. Strategy and message development are the hardest parts of the job, and unfortunately, many marketing managers aren’t up to the task. And even if they were, many bosses wouldn’t listen.

A well-crafted, comprehensive brand strategy book eliminates that problem and makes cost cutting a lot more logical. It’s like a brand bible that provides guidance and inspiration on every decision. So when push comes to shove, there’s no doubt about what should stay, and what should go.

That’s what my firm does… We help clients flesh-out their brand story and we put the strategy down on paper. Once it’s sold internally — and all the department heads are on the same page — then we help execute on it.

And by keeping that brand book close at hand, our clients eliminate waste and save money, without sacrificing their hard-earned brand  image.

So if you absolutely have to cut your marketing budget, start by reading this post.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

2

Judge Not. (And make better marketing decisions.)

BNBranding logoMarketing is a very judgemental business. Business owners and CEOs are constantly judging the results of their marketing efforts. Sometimes objectively, sometimes not.

judging your advertising agency's workAd agencies and design firms judge each other in a constant battle of “my work’s cooler than your work.” They also subject themselves to judging in award shows, where a few peers get to judge the work of hundreds of competitors on an entirely subjective basis.

When it comes to television advertising, everyone’s a critic.

TV viewers sit around and judge the advertising they see, based on entertainment value alone. If it’s entertaining enough, they might talk about it over the water cooler. If not, they vote with the remote.

But playing armchair critic is less harmful than being judgemental.

Critical thinking is tremendously important in marketing. If we didn’t look at things critically, we’d never push ourselves to come up with fresh, new ideas. Critical thinking is a key to good judgement.

You can be critical of someone’s ideas without judging the person. But there’s no such thing as constructively judgmental.

For example, “That’s the worst commercial he’s ever done,” is being critical. “That director’s an idiot for making that commercial” is being judgemental. Judgemental of who he is, versus critical of what he does.

Being judgemental has negative, disapproving connotations. It’s based on intolerance, stereotypes and prejudice.

I’ve seen a lot of sensible, savvy business owners and high-level managers make hair-brained decisions because they were too judgemental. One client I know believes that all advertising people are evil con-men, preying on well-meaning business owners. Once burned, he lets his past experience cloud his judgement to the point of being obstinately ineffective.

His poor judgement in that one area puts his leadership in question and hurts the morale of his entire team.

Good judgement, on the other hand, is the ability to form sound opinions and make sensible decisions. Great leaders and effective managers continually demonstrate good judgment. They’re open minded, they listen well, and they make good decisions based on balanced insight, rather than conjecture or some ill-conceived notion of what’s worked in the past.

Many people who strive to be less judgmental in their personal lives still fall into the trap in their professional lives. It creeps into their hiring choices, their strategic planning, and their marketing plans.

Here’s a classic example that I’ve heard more than once: “Oh, I tried radio, and it doesn’t work.”

That particular business owner condemned an entire medium based on one lame attempt… he had a crummy story to tell, a poorly-written script, and a media schedule that was thinner than a supermodel on a new year’s resolution. Of course it didn’t work for him — that time.

I’ve even run into CEOs who are completely biased when it comes to color. And I’m not talking about race. I’m talking about favorite colors and pet peeves like red, yellow or any shade of orange.

How rational is that?

Personal preferences and stereotypes creep into this business constantly. And stereotypes, based on judgmental conclusions at best, are not a helpful component of your marketing program.

In fact, poor judgment based on stereotypes or close-mindedness can ruin a small business.

At my firm we go to great lengths to get beyond the usual stereotypes of the target audience. One sentence on a creative brief cannot possibly sum up the feelings, attitudes and behaviors of a group.

On the creative side, we always try to develop intriguing stories with quirky, unexpected characters. (In Hollywood writing circles it’s common knowledge that most memorable heroes and villains are those that defy traditional stereotypes.)

Here are a few stereotypes from the marketing world that I’m familiar with…

  1. CMOs can’t possibly be creative.
  2. Copywriters aren’t analytical enough for strategy work.
  3. Art directors don’t know a thing about business.
  4. Account planners can’t possibly contribute on the creative side.
  5. Anyone over 40 can’t be trusted to manage social media or digital advertising.

Nonsense. Great ideas can come from anywhere. Writers and art directors pick up a lot of business acumen by listening carefully to clients in a wide variety of business categories. And creativity is not something you lose as you get older.

Being judgmental is so common it’s listed as a personality type on Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator tests. And it’s so ingrained in American culture you even hear it in post-game interviews… athletes who come in second openly admit that the winner was a “better person.”

No he isn’t. He just performed a little better that one time.

Unfortunately, we judge the quality of the person according to his or her performance. Ironically, we even judge ourselves for being too judgemental.

Blogs are inherently judgemental. The whole idea of an on-line soapbox lends itself to judgmental rants on just about any subject imaginable. I addressed the soapbox syndrome in my very first post, and I’m working hard to make sure this blog doesn’t digress into a petty critique of the latest marketing blunder.

I urge you to do the same. Use good judgement.

Oregon advertising agency blog post on stereotypes

• Don’t let preconceived notions and stereotypes cloud your judgment when it comes to marketing programs.

• Don’t rush to judge someone based on their performance on one day, in one meeting, or on one project. Just because you didn’t like one idea, or one campaign concept, doesn’t mean the team is a failure.

• Make sure you’ve done your homework — your research — before you dive into something. That’s a prerequisite for good judgement.

• Set aside your personal preferences when making decisions about creative execution. Even though you may not personally like orange doesn’t mean it should be eliminated entirely from the brand design guidelines.

• Remember that your creative team is constantly judging  their own work against the best in the business.  And if they’re any good, they’re probably quite hard on themselves.

• And most of all, be open minded to new ideas. Don’t reinforce stereotypes, break them.

Click here for an unbiased, non-judgemental assessment of all your marketing efforts. 

Try this post if you want good judgement when it comes to website design. 

 

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