Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan

Our Senior Account Manager Maz Davis has over 25 years’ experience in brand marketing and shares some valuable insight on the differences between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.

What is marketing?

Marketing is defined by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

Many will mistake ‘marketing’ as only being ‘promotion’ but in reality ’promotion’ only forms a small part of marketing strategies. Marketing should be incorporated in the journey of a business and/or product from start to finish.

It is important to know the difference between your marketing strategy and your marketing plan and why it is important to have both. A strategy without a plan of action is redundant; a plan of action without a strategy lacks focus and consistency.

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy refers to ‘The What’ – a business’s overall game plan for reaching prospective consumers and converting them into customers of their products or services. A marketing strategy defines your brand, contains your company’s goals, value proposition, key brand messaging, and identifies your audience, competitive landscape and long-term framework.

The seven key pillars of your marketing strategy are:


Key elements of your business which form the foundation of your marketing strategy are:

  • Mission statement – it explains why your company exists. It should consist of three things: your target audience, the product / service and what makes you unique.
  • Vision and values – it explains what your company aspires to be and what key pillars your organisation stands for. Heritage? Luxury? Quality?
  • Unique selling point – what sets you apart from the competition.
  • Brand personality – refers to human characteristics associated with a brand. They’re expressed as adjectives that convey how you want people to perceive you (eg daring, glamorous, dependable). Creating a brand personality with clear values that positively resonates with your customers is going to have the edge over your competitors.

There are two useful main frameworks that can help you to define your brand personality:

  • Jennifer Aaker’s brand personality dimension framework – this describes brand traits in five dimensions and facets:
  • Sincerity – down to earth, wholesome, honest
  • Excitement – daring, spirited, imaginative, up to date
  • Competence – reliable, intelligent and successful
  • Sophistication – upper class, charming, glamorous, feminine
  • Ruggedness – outdoorsy, tough, masculine

UK sports apparel brand, Gymshark, one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK, has been able to create a strong sense of community amongst its customers and fits in nicely under Aaker’s ‘Sincerity’ personality.

  • Carl Jung’s brand archetypes framework theorised that humans use symbolism to understand complex concepts more easily. There are twelve brand archetypes: The Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage.

Nike’s famous slogan — Just do it — is the embodiment of the Hero archetype. The brand consistently creates bold and standout products and maintains an inspiring brand voice that empowers its customers to be courageous and daring.

Apple fits perfectly into the Creator brand archetype which is all about innovation and creativity. These brands are non-conformists and are usually the first one to introduce a new technology or unique combination of features.

Knowing your brand archetype is a key step towards crafting a brand identity that your audience can feel a deep connection with.

  • The brand style – is your brand personality reflected in the logo, font, colour palette. Is your brand’s written and visual style consistent across all communication channels?
  • The brand tone of voice – a brand’s tone of voice is the style used to communicate with the audience, considering the choice of words and emotional tone. Brand voice is what you say and brand tone is how you say it.


Setting goals and objectives helps to focus your efforts and prioritise marketing efforts.

Goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

A SMART marketing objective might be: To increase our website traffic by 50% over the next 12 months by publishing 5 high-quality, targeted blog posts per week.


Simply put, a target market is a specific group of people you have decided to target with your products or services. It could be a large market or a niche market.

One of the first steps to identifying a target market for your business should be to take a long, hard look at the people who already buy from you. Even if your current customers seem like a diverse bunch, the chances are pretty good that they will share at least one or two common characteristics. If they don’t, perhaps a shared interest is the common thread.

Ask yourself what problems your products and services solve, and, in turn, to whom they appeal.

You will then segment your target market into more defined categories based on demographics, psychographics, and geographics to identify those segments with the greatest potential for the business.

Why profile your target market and audience segmentation? It helps you get to know your customers better, helps create stronger more targeted marketing messages, helps identify suitable marketing tactics, attracts quality leads, differentiates from competitors, and helps identify opportunities.

Who are your customers? Who is your ideal client? Have you developed a customer persona or identified the different segments you wish to target? It can help to create a buyer persona – these are fictional representations of your ideal customer based on data and research.


A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) helps you to identify areas for improvement and opportunities, build on strengths and mitigate risks – it will help to focus your marketing efforts.


Your direct competitors are targeting the same job-to-be-done with the same solution as you. If you want a burger, McDonald’s and Burger King will both satisfy that job with the same outcome.

Unlike indirect competitors, secondary competitors compete on outcomes. For example, video conferencing and business class flights compete on outcomes as they’re both hired for the same job – business meetings – but solve the problem in a different way.

Indirect Competition: McDonalds and Weight Watchers are selling wildly different products, but they’re competing for the same customers. This is what we call indirect competition.


Once you have identified your target audiences and your company goals and researched your competitors you can start to craft key messages to suit.

A few years ago Carlsberg UK unveiled a 3D, three-metre by 12-metre billboard, complete with a beer tap – bringing to life its famous ‘Probably’ campaign for benefit of workers and shoppers in a bustling part of east London. They commissioned the interactive poster at the Truman Brewery, on the edge of London’s Spitalfields Market, where members of the public could pour themselves a half-pint of beer from an embedded Carlsberg tap.


For new companies or new brands the general rule is investing 12% to 20% of gross revenue in marketing to drive consumers down the buying funnel.

For established business or brands the suggested marketing : sales ratio is 6% to 12% depending on your growth objectives. 

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan refers to ‘The How’ – a strategic roadmap that businesses use to organise, execute, and track their marketing strategy over a given time-period. 

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is tactical and helps bridge the gap between your marketing strategy and your marketing plan. It is a common tactic in helping to develop an effective marketing plan.

The main elements of the marketing mix are product, promotion, price and place.

People, process and physical evidence were added at a later date – as we entered the ‘relationship phase of marketing’ – but have been the subject of endless debate.


It might seem obvious but developing the particulars of a quality product takes time – Apple products have evolved tremendously since launching in the 1970s but Apple has always positioned itself as a premium brand.

Many businesses get excited about developing a product and then hope to find a market for it afterwards but in reality a product should meet the needs of a target audience.

Apple products are innovative and are developed after thorough customer research – the brand prides itself on knowing what the customer wants

A product does not have to be a completely new product; it could be an update or new feature. It also does not have to be tangible; it could be a service, but the premise remains the same – it needs to provide value for the customer.

Key things to remember:

  • Understand what your customer needs are now and assume that it may change in the future
  • Do you regularly check what it is that your customers want?
  • Do not try to fit a square peg in to a round hole! There is no point selling an à la carte meal to someone who just wants a KFC!
  • It is important to capitalise on key trends when formulating product strategy and iconic toy brands like Bratz and Barbie are continuously reinventing themselves to stay relevant to their audience.


A product is only worth what customers are willing to pay for it; the price needs to be competitive but it doesn’t always need to be cheaper.

For example, Apple always instils premium pricing for its products – the brand positions itself at the forefront of innovation and technology, and the brand personality reflects a certain lifestyle, so their customers are happy to pay the higher price compared to other brands.

Apple typically does not run sales on its products. The price remains the same until a new model is released and the old model price drops slightly. The premium pricing strategy attracts middle to upper class consumers and maintains Apple’s high-end image.

In a real-world example, small businesses might be able to compete on pricing with larger businesses by offering a more personal service, better value for money or offering perks.


The place where customers buy your product / service – this could be either bricks and mortar or online. If your website is your shop window, you must place emphasis on making this platform as effective as it can be. All brands/companies that sell online also need to consider how the product will be delivered to the customer via a third party, because you want the customer to experience the same service you uphold.

The Apple store model is unique – it is a great place to experience the brand with a focus on personalised service. They provide the perfect setting for Apple’s emotional branding to develop: they are temples for people to buy into the Apple experience. Inside the stores, customers can venerate the beauty and technological features of the devices.


Promotion is how you communicate what you do and/or sell to your customers. ‘Promotion’ includes a whole range of activities, from branding through social media activity and advertising to sales management and special offers.

It is designed to show customers why they should buy your product or service, and should therefore focus on benefits, and not just features. Apple has been a master in creating slogans that connect the product with a lifestyle. It is important to look at a variety of channels, including print, online and mobile. Focus on where your customers are, whether that is particular social media sites, TV or newspapers.

Marketing Channels

There are numerous marketing channels. Not all of these will be relevant for your business and not all of these need to be employed at the same time. You can repurpose content where possible and share across multiple platforms, tweaking the content to suit the appropriate channel. For example, Shooting Star might issue a press release, adapt the same release to include on our blog, then adapt again to share on social media channels.

The PESO model, which Dietrich developed, is a strategy that touts the integration of paid, earned, shared, and owned media to deliver integrated marketing programs, extend reach, and establish brands as leaders within their industry.

  • Paid media – TV ads, digital marketing, sponsored content
  • Earned media – public relations, press releases, influencer marketing, experiential
  • Shared media – social media content, partnerships, brand ambassadors
  • Owned media – channels owned including websites, retail stores, blogs

Reporting/Performance measurement

The importance of reporting against KPIs set cannot be understated! It helps you to review what’s working and what isn’t and helps you keep focussed on achieving those SMART objectives.

Digital marketing is easier to report and often shows a direct impact on your efforts – monitor the data month on month and record website traffic, channels of acquisition, social followers, engagement. If you see a spike in traffic make sure you note why this might have been – did you receive good PR coverage? Run a promotion? You can also monitor KPIs such as media reach, impressions, Click Through Rate, Conversion Rate etc.

Analysing the data will help you to create targeted, effective marketing promotions in the future. There are many tools to help including Google Analytics (web data) and Hootsuite (social media scheduling and insights)

In summary, in this blog we have covered all the fundamental elements to help form the foundation for your marketing strategy and provide the brickwork for your marketing plan.

  • Audit – know your business
  • Fundamental marketing elements – clear brand strategy and personality, define your target audience
  • Set goals and objectives
  • Marketing tactics – create and activate your plan
  • Report, review, improve!

If you would like Shooting Star to assist you with formulating and activating your marketing strategies and plans please get in touch with us