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What Is Tactical Marketing?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tactical marketing refers to the medium or context in which marketing takes place, rather than the actual content of a marketing message. Print advertisements, online interactive advertising campaigns, and product placement in film or television are all examples of the tactical aspect of marketing, rather than the strategic side of marketing, which governs the content of a message. Tactical advertising often takes place once a strategy is formed and in place, since it deals with the actual execution of an overall marketing plan.

It is often easiest to explain tactical marketing by contrasting it with strategic marketing. Strategic marketing essentially involves the content of a marketing strategy and message. “What” is being said in a marketing campaign, “who” it is targeting, and “how” it has been constructed to effectively appeal to that segment are all aspects of strategic marketing. Tactical marketing, on the other hand, involves the context of the message. When advertisements are placed in magazines, on Internet websites, or within a film, then the magazines, websites, and film are all considered aspects of the tactical nature of the marketing plan.

Tactical marketing is often approached as the means by which a marketing strategy is executed. If marketing research indicates that teenagers may be more likely to be interested in a particular product, for example, then the tactical aspect of marketing involves finding contexts that would reach that audience. An advertising campaign may be designed around strategic considerations, with print layouts and language that appeals to a certain market segment, but such considerations may be useless without effective tactical approaches. Since tactical advertising involves the way in which a message is ultimately relayed, a lack of tactical considerations may render a well-crafted message obsolete since it never effectively reaches the target audience.

There are a number of ways in which tactical marketing can be considered and executed during an advertising or marketing campaign. Letters may be sent in the mail to local businesses or residents to notify them about a new business or service that is becoming available in their area. The use of letters and mailers themselves make up the tactical side of such a marketing campaign, while the content on the letters is the strategic side of the campaign. Proper execution of both strategic and tactical marketing is essential to a strong campaign, since the message of the campaign must be well-crafted and delivered in a way that reaches the target consumer base.

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Discussion Comments
By starrynight — On Mar 18, 2012

Tactical marketing is a good brand marketing strategy, to a point. I think there's definitely something to be said for just advertising to everyone. Yes, you can be reliably sure that certain demographics might be interested in certain products.

Most people are full of surprises. It's easy to assume that certain people will like or not like certain things, but it's not always true. People always think that older people aren't very tech savvy, but I know quite a few people in their 60's that are big fans of tablets! So it's a good thing tablet companies did some broad marketing rather than just targeted the people they thought might be interested.

By Azuza — On Mar 17, 2012

@Monika - Some knitters might be sports fans, and vice versa. But you really never know, so I agree that targeted marketing works much better. You definitely need to get your ads in front of people who are actually interested in your product.

This is pretty much how Google operates its ad program. They place advertisements on websites that are related to the website content. So a website with reviews of gadgets will have ads for gadgets, and of course a knitting website would features ads for knitting related products.

By Monika — On Mar 16, 2012

@Oceana - I'm the complete opposite. I throw away all the mailers I receive without even looking at them. However, I do look at advertisements in print and online. I wonder if we are part of two different demographic segments?

Anyway, I think tactical marketing is the most sensible of all the marketing strategies and tactics. What's the point of having a really great ad campaign if you put it somewhere your target audience never looks?

For example, I'm a knitter. There are a ton of ads in knitting magazines for knitting related stuff, which makes sense. However, it wouldn't make as much sense to run these ads in a sports magazine!

By Oceana — On Mar 15, 2012

As a consumer, I tend to respond more to mailers than to ads in publications. If something is sitting in my mailbox, I will always read it before I throw it away, but I skim over ads in the paper and barely even glance at the ones in magazines.

As far as web ads go, I must say I think they are a more effective tactical marketing approach than print ads. Many times, you have to sit and wait for a page to fully load, and in the meantime, all you can see are the ads, so you read them to keep your mind busy until the content has loaded.

Also, web ads can be animated, which is definitely an attention-grabber. Whether or not you like the content, your eyes go to them right away.

By shell4life — On Mar 15, 2012

I am a graphic designer for an ad agency, and we do entire campaigns for clients that end up in everything from magazines to websites. The sales reps at our company help the clients determine which tactical approach is best.

We have one client whose products are aimed at teens. He chooses to run his ads in magazines for teenagers, as well as the websites for those magazines, since some people have online subscriptions instead of physical ones.

We also have a client who sells products for the elderly, and he runs more ads in newspapers and home and garden magazines, understandably. I think it’s good that our sales reps help clients choose which tactical avenues to take, but a lot of it is just common sense.

By cloudel — On Mar 14, 2012

@lighth0se33 - It’s good that the flyers worked. I would be scared to try it, though, because too many of my friends despise having flyers put under their wipers, and they boycott the businesses that do this.

I didn’t have a whole lot of money for advertising when I opened my business, either, but I used what I did have to run a small ad in the paper on the days with the most readership, which were typically Wednesday and Friday. The ad was basic, and it included the logo, address, website, and phone number, along with a one-line description of the store.

I felt that advertising on the days when the paper ran its most popular sections, like the Food section on Wednesday and the Entertainment section on Friday, would give me the best advantage. Tactically speaking, I knew that more people would have a paper in their hands on these days, and they couldn’t help but notice my ad.

By lighth0se33 — On Mar 14, 2012

My friend and I opened up a small gift shop in a shopping center. We didn’t have a big budget for advertising, so we figured the best tactical marketing option would be flyers.

We printed up hundreds of them. We placed them under people’s windshield wipers in the parking lot that we shared with other stores, and we posted them on every bulletin board and street lamp we could find.

I believe that it worked, because we saw many new customers after that, and we never even took out an ad in the local newspaper. No one from the paper or the TV station even did a story on our new business, so it must have been the flyers.

By tigers88 — On Mar 14, 2012

Can someone give me some examples of some tactical marketing campaigns? I think I understand the concept, but it would be a lot easier if I could see it applied to a specific campaign. Take for instance the "Wassssup" guys who were used to sell bud light products about five years ago. What was the tactical strategy behind this campaign?

By Ivan83 — On Mar 13, 2012

One of the most widespread tactical goals of marketing is to appeal to men age 18 to 35. This is the dream demographic for marketers because they spend a lot of money and often spend it impulsively. This segment of the market is a lot more likely to buy X-Box games than take out mortgages so they have a large amount of discretionary income that marketers are eager to get a piece of.

By summing — On Mar 12, 2012

Tactical marketing is really the only smart way to go about a sales and marketing strategy. If you do not have a distinct goal and a specific plan for meeting that goal your marketing campaign is sure to fail.

Think about it like this. The world is filled with advertising. Every where you turn there is something trying to sell you something. This is a lot of messages bombarding customers and retailers have to make a concerted effort to get their brand or product or message to stand out above the others.

You can only do this in a tactical way. You have to analyze the marketplace and your company within that marketplace. You have to look at what other marketing messages you are competing against. You have to make a careful assessment of your customer base and who they are. And finally you have to craft a tactical marketing message that responds to all this analysis.

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