In both integrated marketing communications and traditional marketing, strategy gets a short shrift. Most marketing plans I’ve seen either dive right into tactics after defining their objectives, or they mistake strategies for objectives. It’s always a squishy subject – let’s start with a good definition.
A strategy is the “what” – the overriding method for reaching your goals. Tactics are the “how” – the action items aligned with that strategy. In IMC, strong strategies are a critical success factor to the campaign for several reasons:
Strategies help with alignment. A strong strategy can be implemented across channels.
Integrated marketing communications require constant, iterative testing of IMC tactics. With a good strategy, you can constantly change up your tactics without changing direction. Tactics or linked tactics may fail to produce, but your campaign doesn’t have to fail overall.
Messaging is a strategy in itself. Developing strong messaging that is translatable across channels and targeted toward the chosen personas is the foundation of great IMC campaigns. A core or integrated statement helps to drive alignment throughout the campaign.
Strategy is easier to communicate than specific IMC tactics. And again, if a tactic fails you don’t have to tank the entire campaign.
I often describe strategy as the highway on which you drive your campaign, while the tactics are the vehicles on that highway. Whatever the analogy, I think the lack of defined strategies in marketing campaigns is because it takes guts to commit to a specific strategy.
Not many marketers have the [insert politically correct term] here to do that. They’d rather just keep trying different tactics and dance around the question of whether or not the direction they’re taking is the right one.
You’ve got to know your stuff, do your homework and be willing to say that this is the way to go if you’re going to develop strong strategies.
Here’s a recent presentation I did on strategies and other stuff.
PS: Here an origination of the term “having the balls” – In sports, the person or team literally in possession of the ball—more broadly and metaphorically, the person “with the ball(s)”—is the one in charge. The ball, as the device that is used to win the competition, is the most important item in the game; where the (tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, etc.) ball goes completely determines who wins and who loses. And since the players control the balls, the best/most courageous/capable/skilled players have the balls (literally and metaphorically) and thus win the games.