What Is Marketing Strategy?

A marketing strategy refers to a business' overall game plan for reaching prospective consumers and turning them into customers of the products or services the business provides. A marketing strategy contains the company’s value proposition, key brand messaging, data on target customer demographics, and other high-level elements.

Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan

The marketing strategy informs the marketing plan, which is a document that details the specific types of marketing activities a company conducts and contains timetables for rolling out various marketing initiatives.

Marketing strategies should ideally have longer lifespans than individual marketing plans because they contain value propositions and other key elements of a company’s brand, which generally hold consistent over the long haul. In other words, marketing strategies cover big-picture messaging, while marketing plans delineate the logistical details of specific campaigns.

Academics continue to debate the precise meaning of marketing strategy, therefore multiple definitions exist. The following quotes help crystallize the nuances of (modern) marketing strategy:

  • "The sole purpose of marketing is to sell more to more people, more often and at higher prices." (Sergio Zyman, marketing executive and former Coca-Cola and JC Penney marketer)
  • "Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell." (Seth Godin, former business executive and entrepreneur)
  • "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself." (Peter Drucker, credited as founding modern management)
  • “Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.” (former vice chair and chief marketing officer, GE)
  • "Take two ideas and put them together to make one new idea. After all, what is a Snuggie but the mutation of a blanket and a robe?" (Jim Kukral, speaker and author of "Attention!")

The Creation of Marketing Strategy

A carefully-cultivated marketing strategy should be fundamentally rooted in a company’s value proposition, which summarizes the competitive advantage a company holds over rival businesses. For example, Walmart is widely known as a discount retailer with “everyday low prices,” whose business operations and marketing efforts revolve around that idea.

Whether it's a print ad design, mass customization, or a social media campaign, a marketing asset can be judged based on how effectively it communicates a company's core value proposition. Market research can be helpful in charting the efficacy of a given campaign and can help identify untapped audiences, in order to achieve bottom-line goals and increase sales.