What Is the Difference Between a Marketing Strategy & a Marketing Mix?

by Cheryl Munson; Updated September 26, 2017
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The differences between a marketing strategy and a marketing mix can be confusing, but they each play distinctive roles in governing the marketing of products. The marketing strategy is structured to develop a cost-effective way to generate sales and carve a sustainable competitive position for the company’s brands and products wherever they are sold. The marketing mix becomes the strategic tool to focus on developing best practices and tactics to achieve marketplace success based on goals to offset competition, launch a new product, increase sales or open new channels for product distribution.

The Marketing Strategy Sets Overarching Objectives and Goals

The marketing strategy defines goals for the entire scope of products or services that a company provides to consumers and clients. The strategy established how brands and services will be positioned in the marketplace, and identifies target consumers, clients and distribution channels to achieve sales.

The Marketing Strategy Defines the Communications Platform

The marketing strategy establishes the communications platform used for advertising and promotions. For example, a marketing strategy for a laundry detergent company might use research findings to claim that their brand gets out tough grease stains better than other brands. The company could then use the claim to develop the advertising messaging strategy for commercials to generate preference for the company’s brands versus competitors.

The Marketing Strategy Dictates the Marketing Mix

If you consider one component to be the boss and the other the employee, the marketing strategy would be the boss and the marketing mix would be the employee. The objectives and goals in the marketing strategy define and set measurable results that the company wishes to achieve for the entire range of brands and services that it provides. This information is then used to develop a focused, strategic marketing mix to deliver the desired results.

The Marketing Mix Focuses on Product, Price, Place and Promotion

There are four fundamentals that comprise the marketing mix: product, price, place and promotion. Each element in the mix is analyzed to develop tactics to implement in the marketplace. The product is assessed in terms of its ability to deliver on a claim better than competitive brands. The price is reviewed to find the right pricing levels to make it appealing to target customers or clients. The right places to distribute the product or service to reach the target audience are identified (grocery stores, online, direct mail, infomercials, etc.). Lastly, the right promotion vehicles are developed in order to achieve sales, volume and revenue goals (coupons, discounts, free trial periods, buy-one-get-one-free, etc.).

The Marketing Mix Can Be Tailored for Specific Products and Markets

While the marketing strategy takes a holistic approach in setting goals, the marketing mix can be customized to implement strategies based on individual products and marketplace conditions. For example, the marketing strategy for a suntan lotion company might set a 20-percent increase in sales during the month of April. The marketing mix can use the four P’s to target drugstores near beaches in Florida with a discount on wholesale prices and install special in-store displays that give consumers 20 percent off on their purchase. That marketing mix approach uses all of the four P’s: product (suntan lotion), price (discount for retailers and consumers), place (Florida pharmacies) and promotion (special in-store promotional display).

About the Author

Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

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