Stop confusing tactics for brand strategy

Written by Carl West

Brand strategy not tactics

I really don’t want to write this article, but I feel compelled to address the elephant in the room which continually seems to rear its head in the marketing industry.

Through personal experience and passive observation, it is very frustrating to see so many agencies and marketers unable to grasp the concept of what a strategy consists of, or how this sequential process helps brands to mitigate investment risk and provide an evidence-based springboard for future performance.

Casually throwing the ‘strategy’ word around in meetings, or hastily attaching it to a tactical channel e.g., content strategy, creative strategy, or social media strategy, does not constitute ‘strategic’ thinking for clients or brands.

Contrary to common beliefs, strategy can’t be defined in a meeting or zoom call. Having a goal does not constitute a strategy either, or in the absence of behavioural insights, customer personas are also not strategic.

At best this is lazy marketers in action, at worst, it highlights an endemic level of ineptness in our industry, an issue which potentially reflects on all of us as we strive to position our industry as a professional evidence-based service.

Strategy and tactics are sequential, they work together in that order, it’s not a case of either or. If your brand diagnosis is wrong, your category segmentation is wrong, which means your targeting will also likely be wrong. In turn, your brand positioning for each segment will be wrong, and all the tactical media decisions that follow will be poorly executed, wasting time and money.

Strategy is long-term; Tactics are short-term.

Strategy defines a plan; Tactics define the actions.

Strategy is driven by diagnosis; Tactics are driven by strategy.

Strategy is about who and why; Tactics are about what and when

Strategy carries little flexibility; Tactics carries high flexibility.

Strategy carries high risk; Tactics carry low risk.

Strategy is about purpose; Tactics are about tasks.

Strategy takes time to change; Tactics can be changed rapidly.

Strategy is done above the shoulders; Tactics are done below the shoulders.

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” Sun Tzu

Marketing Lab is a brand management and marketing consultancy working with regional, national, and international businesses to mitigate marketing investment risk, ensuring more informed decisions are made with a view to improving sales and profitability, growing market share, and building brand equity. Request a FREE 30-minute brand management consultation.