“Strategy without tactics is slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is noise before the defeat.”

This Sun Tzu quote, borrowed from the Art of War is thousands of years old  is still relevant today. Marketing is divided into two parts: (1) marketing strategy and (2) marketing tactics. But most people think it is all about tactics.

In my experience when I hear someone tell me that they don’t have enough funds to do a great marketing job , I tell them it is not more money that you need but more strategy. But strategy takes time and skill and marketers are looking for quick fixes. That’s why social media has become the new God … the new messiah.

Marketers and Communicators are out there thinking if only they can sharpen their skills in social media they will have the tools to be successful in marketing and communications but they are dead wrong. Marketing is not about tactics and social media, as important as it has become, is not the messiah.  Marketing is about strategy. Go to any conference and see what people want to learn about. Not strategy… I actually attended a conference in the USA  a few years ago to give a workshop on marketing strategy and some people were a bit disappointed that I did not spend much more time on tactics. Well the truth is you can have all the tactics in the world, but if you don’t spend the time to build a strong marketing strategy all the great tactics in the world are worthless. How many times have we seen at our Centre clients who have hired ad agencies to produce award-winning ads which fall flat on their face because there is no strategy?

Yes I understand that creating a marketing  strategy  takes time and hard work but today marketers and communicators are looking for quick fixes. But there are no quick fixes and don’t let web 2.0 folks or ad agencies sell you a bill of goods. Strategies before tactics is the only solution to being successful in marketing

In his article  The TGIF Revolution is only half the story Al Ries demonstrates that Strategy is the key to success in marketing but most people think it is about tactics which is usually a fatal error. With the new ways of doing things through social media…  or as Ries calls it TGIF (That’s Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook.) marketers have lost sight on the importance of strategy. There is no question that these four revolutionary developments have forever changed the marketing function. But will the skilful use of social media i.e.  TGIF make you a great marketer?
Well obviously not.

As Reis points out

Linens ‘N Things didn’t go bankrupt because they didn’t make effective use of Twitter. They went bankrupt because they were a knockoff of Bed Bath & Beyond without a unique identity.

DHL didn’t pull out of the U.S. market because they didn’t buy enough AdWords from Google. They pulled out of the U.S. market because they violated a basic law of marketing, the law of duality. DHL was the No.3 brand in a category dominated by UPS and FedEx.

Kmart didn’t go bankrupt because they couldn’t figure out how to use the Internet to promote the brand. They went bankrupt because they were squeezed between Walmart at the low-end of the mass merchandiser category and Target at the high-end.

Coca-Cola didn’t fail to build a leading energy-drink brand in three tries (KMX, Full Throttle and TAB) because they forgot to use Facebook to ignite the brands. They failed to build a leading energy-drink brand because they waited too long after the launch of Red Bull.

According to Ries,  Marketing can be divided into two parts: (1) marketing strategy and (2) marketing tactics. And to him there is no question that strategy is by far the most important half of a marketing program.

It’s like warfare, also a mixture of strategy and tactics. The weapons of war are equivalent to the media used in a marketing campaign. How often has an army won a war with better soldiers, better guns, better tanks, and better aircraft?


What wins wars are better strategies? In World War II, the Germans had the advantage of the better weapons, the better discipline, and the most experience. Yet their leader, Adolph Hitler, was a rank amateur when it came to military strategy.

I finally got a chance to read Al and Laura Ries book WAR IN THE BOARDROOM… why left –brain management and right-brain marketing don’t see eye –to eye-and what to do about it

According to the Rieses the problem with management is that managers don’t have the brains for marketing.

This reflects a difference in brain dominance. Managers tend to be left-brain dominant, focusing on logical and analytical ways of dealing with the world.

Marketers tend to be right-brain dominant, getting their ideas more intuitively and holistically.

While the marketing department may have a better grasp of how marketing works, say the Rieses, management always makes the final decisions. And that can lead to companies basing marketing strategies on management thinking.

Where the two differ:

•Management deals in reality; marketing, in perception. Most managers believe that producing a better product is the key to success. Yet, time and again, new products with perfect benchmarks fail, such as Volkswagen’s Phaeton (a luxury car with top ratings) and beverage Miller Clear. Miller Clear tasted like regular beer, if you closed your eyes. “(But) when you drank Miller Clear with your eyes wide open,” the Rieses write, “it tasted like watery beer. Perception always trumps reality.”

•Management focuses on the product; marketing, on the brand.

•Management wants a diversified market strategy; marketers prefer to focus in one area.

•Management targets the center of the market, while marketing targets the ends•

Management wants better products, while marketing wants different products.

Management’s response to a rival is often to try to do the same thing better. The marketing response is to do something different and create a new mental category.

•Management wants a single brand; marketing wants many brands. Management wants the big brand name on everything to justify the money spent on brand recognition. Marketing wants to launch new brands, because often the new product isn’t a good match for the old brand name.

In short, the Rieses believe that management wants good products that appeal to everyone, while marketing wants a powerful brand that dominates a mental category.

Because management makes the decisions, marketing folks should learn to speak in left-brain terminology. The book is a good place to start lessons. Examples are well-explained and down-to-earth. As for managers, even the most logical and analytical types should be able to see the reasoning behind “marketing sense.”

Don’t for get to register for MARCOM The premiere educational forum for public and not-for-profit marketers and communicators. This year’s line-up is the best ever.

Also join me for Branding for Associations –

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn about the importance of taking a strategic marketing approach within your association. You will learn how adopting a marketing mindset ensures that you are driven by what your members, clients and stakeholders need and want versus what you think they need and want. This series is designed to coach you all year-long.  The first in the series “Branding for Associations – why it has become invaluable” is happening February 8 with Jim Mintz.

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