Marketing strategy or objective — which comes first?

So why did the chicken cross the road? Legend says it was to get to the other side. But, was there an even bigger objective? And did the bird have a defined strategy in crossing over?  Or, did it just cross over with no objective or strategy in mind?

I had the recent privilege of participating as a judge for the Business Marketing Association’s B2 Awards when the chicken and the road question came to mind. The B2s is an awards program for business-to-business marketers and their agencies.

The agencies and clients who submit the work fill in brief descriptions and statements about the marketing communications objectives, marketing communications strategies, the solution and results for their various submissions. As a judge, it’s my task to read all of this input before reviewing the work.  This background detail helps keep the awards from being strictly a beauty contest.

Chicken as road kill

Reading all these brief write-ups for the entries I was judging gave me greater clarity around the chicken’s apparent lack of an objective and strategy for crossing the road.  It quickly became apparent that many of today’s marketing professionals do not understand the difference between a marketing communications objective and marketing communications strategy.  Is it any wonder the chicken doesn’t always make it to the other side?

Real life example

Marketing communications objective:  Create an integrated campaign that explains our leadership in this category.

Marketing communications strategy:  Increase awareness of our capabilities among the target audience.

In the example above, the problem with the objective is that it is really a strategy.  The problem with the strategy is that it’s really more of an objective.  The fact that so many marketing professionals mix these two up is very disconcerting to me.  No wonder there is such a big problem with measuring B2B ROI when the marketing communications objectives contain nothing measurable and are simply descriptions of the communication strategies.

A simple analogy

A mentor of mine provided a simple analogy many years ago to help me overcome the objectives versus strategies dilemma.  He said, “Think of the marketing objective as where you want to go and marketing strategy as how you will get there.”  This simple advice has served me quite well over the years.

Now that I’m the grey hair guy, I thought it was time that I passed along this advice to others.  My objective is to increase the understanding of what marketing communications objectives and strategies are by 50% among B2B marketing and communications professionals.  My strategy is to use my blog to pass along a simple analogy that helps explain the difference.

I hope this helps.  And by the way, keep up the great creative work.  You know who you are.

For more “light” reading on B2B marketing communications, check out the Mobium eBook entitled Brandwidth.



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