Marketing strategy is a construct that lies at the conceptual heart of the field of strategic marketing and is central to the practice of marketing. It is also the area within which many of the most pressing current challenges identified by marketers and CMOs arise. We develop a new conceptualization of the domain and sub-domains of marketing strategy and use this lens to assess the current state of marketing strategy research by examining the papers in the six most influential marketing journals over the period 1999 through 2017. We uncover important challenges to marketing strategy research—not least the increasingly limited number and focus of studies, and the declining use of both theory and primary research designs. However, we also uncover numerous opportunities for developing important and highly relevant new marketing strategy knowledge—the number and importance of unanswered marketing strategy questions and opportunities to impact practice has arguably never been greater. To guide such research, we develop a new research agenda that provides opportunities for researchers to develop new theory, establish clear relevance, and contribute to improving practice.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
We follow Varadarjan’s (2010) distinction, using “strategic marketing” as the term describing the general field of study and “marketing strategy” as the construct that is central in the field of strategic marketing—just as analogically “strategic management” is a field of study in which “corporate strategy” is a central construct.
Following the strategic management literature (e.g., Mintzberg 1994; Pascale 1984), marketing strategy has also been viewed from an “emergent” strategy perspective (e.g. Hutt et al. 1988; Menon et al. 1999). Conceptually this is captured as realized (but not pre-planned) tactics and actions in Figure 1.
These may be at the product/brand, SBU, or firm level.
These strategic marketing but “non-strategy” coding areas are not mutually exclusive. For example, many papers in this non-strategy category cover both inputs/outputs and environment (e.g., Kumar et al. 2016; Lee et al. 2014; Palmatier et al. 2013; Zhou et al. 2005), or specific tactics, input/output, and environment (e.g., Bharadwaj et al. 2011; Palmatier et al. 2007; Rubera and Kirca 2012).
The relative drop in marketing strategy studies published in JM may be a function of the recent growth of interest in the shareholder perspective (Katsikeas et al. 2016) and studies linking marketing-related resources and capabilities directly with stock market performance indicators. Such studies typically treat marketing strategy as an unobserved intervening construct.
Since this concerns integrated marketing program design and execution, marketing mix studies contribute to knowledge of strategy implementation–content when all four major marketing program areas are either directly modeled or are controlled for in studies focusing on one or more specific marketing program components.
Alden, D. L., Steenkamp, J. B. E., & Batra, R. (1999). Brand positioning through advertising in Asia, North America, and Europe: The role of global consumer culture. Journal of Marketing, 63(1), 75–87.
Ataman, M. B., Van Heerde, H. J., & Mela, C. F. (2010). The long-term effect of marketing strategy on brand sales. Journal of Marketing Research, 47(5), 866–882.
Atuahene-Gima, K., & Murray, J. Y. (2004). Antecedents and outcomes of marketing strategy comprehensiveness. Journal of Marketing, 68(4), 33–46.
Balducci, B., & Marinova, D. (2018). Unstructured data in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 46(4), 557–590.
Baumgartner, H., & Pieters, R. (2003). The structural influence of marketing journals: A citation analysis of the discipline and its subareas over time. Journal of Marketing, 67(2), 123–139.
Bharadwaj, S. G., Tuli, K. R., & Bonfrer, A. (2011). The impact of brand quality on shareholder wealth. Journal of Marketing, 75(5), 88–104.
Bolton, R. N., Lemon, K. N., & Verhoef, P. C. (2004). The theoretical underpinnings of customer asset management: A framework and propositions for future research. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 32(3), 271–292.
Bruce, N. I., Foutz, N. Z., & Kolsarici, C. (2012). Dynamic effectiveness of advertising and word of mouth in sequential distribution of new products. Journal of Marketing Research, 49(4), 469–486.
Cespedes, F. V. (1991). Organizing and implementing the marketing effort: Text and cases. Boston: Addison-Wesley.
Chandy, R. K., & Tellis, G. J. (2000). The incumbent’s curse? Incumbency, size, and radical product innovation. Journal of Marketing, 64(3), 1–17.
Choi, S. C., & Coughlan, A. T. (2006). Private label positioning: Quality versus feature differentiation from the national brand. Journal of Retailing, 82(2), 79–93.
Dickson, P. R., Farris, P. W., & Verbeke, W. J. (2001). Dynamic strategic thinking. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 29(3), 216–237.
Esper, T. L., Ellinger, A. E., Stank, T. P., Flint, D. J., & Moon, M. (2010). Demand and supply integration: A conceptual framework of value creation through knowledge management. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 38(1), 5–18.
Fang, E. E., Lee, J., Palmatier, R., & Han, S. (2016). If it takes a village to Foster innovation, success depends on the neighbors: The effects of global and Ego networks on new product launches. Journal of Marketing Research, 53(3), 319–337.
Farjoun, M. (2002). Towards an organic perspective on strategy. Strategic Management Journal, 23(7), 561–594.
Feldman, M. S., & Orlikowski, W. J. (2011). Theorizing practice and practicing theory. Organization Science, 22(5), 1240–1253.
Frambach, R. T., Prabhu, J., & Verhallen, T. M. (2003). The influence of business strategy on new product activity: The role of market orientation. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 20(4), 377–397.
Frankwick, G. L., Ward, J. C., Hutt, M. D., & Reingen, P. H. (1994). Evolving patterns of organizational beliefs in the formation of strategy. Journal of Marketing, 58(2), 96–110.
Ghosh, M., & John, G. (1999). Governance value analysis and marketing strategy. Journal of Marketing, 63(4), 131–145.
Gonzalez, G. R., Claro, D. P., & Palmatier, R. W. (2014). Synergistic effects of relationship Managers' social networks on sales performance. Journal of Marketing, 78(1), 76–94.
Gooner, R. A., Morgan, N. A., & Perreault Jr., W. D. (2011). Is retail category management worth the effort (and does a category captain help or hinder). Journal of Marketing, 75(5), 18–33.
Grewal, R., Chandrashekaran, M., Johnson, J. L., & Mallapragada, G. (2013). Environments, unobserved heterogeneity, and the effect of market orientation on outcomes for high-tech firms. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41(2), 206–233.
Harmeling, C. M., Palmatier, R. W., Houston, M. B., Arnold, M. J., & Samaha, S. A. (2015). Transformational relationship events. Journal of Marketing, 79(5), 39–62.
Hauser, J. R., & Shugan, S. M. (2008). Defensive marketing strategies. Marketing Science, 27(1), 88–110.
Homburg, C., Workman Jr., J. P., & Jensen, O. (2000). Fundamental changes in marketing organization: The movement toward a customer-focused organizational structure. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 28(4), 459–478.
Homburg, C., Müller, M., & Klarmann, M. (2011). When should the customer really be king? On the optimum level of salesperson customer orientation in sales encounters. Journal of Marketing, 75(2), 55–74.
Homburg, C., Artz, M., & Wieseke, J. (2012). Marketing performance measurement systems: Does comprehensiveness really improve performance? Journal of Marketing, 76(3), 56–77.
Hutt, M. D., Reingen, P. H., & Ronchetto Jr., J. R. (1988). Tracing emergent processes in marketing strategy formation. Journal of Marketing, 52(1), 4–19.
Katsikeas, C. S., Morgan, N. A., Leonidou, L. C., & Hult, G. T. M. (2016). Assessing performance outcomes in marketing. Journal of Marketing, 80(2), 1–20.
Kerin, R. A., Mahajan, V., & Varadarajan, P. (1990). Contemporary perspectives on strategic market planning. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Krush, M. T., Sohi, R. S., & Saini, A. (2015). Dispersion of marketing capabilities: Impact on marketing’s influence and business unit outcomes. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 43(1), 32–51.
Kumar, V., Dixit, A., Javalgi, R. R. G., & Dass, M. (2016). Research framework, strategies, and applications of intelligent agent technologies (IATs) in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44(1), 24–45.
Kumar, V., Sharma, A., & Gupta, S. (2017). Accessing the influence of strategic marketing research on generating impact: Moderating roles of models, journals, and estimation approaches. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 45(2), 164–185.
Kyriakopoulos, K., & Moorman, C. (2004). Tradeoffs in marketing exploitation and exploration strategies: The overlooked role of market orientation. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 21(3), 219–240.
Lee, J. Y., Sridhar, S., Henderson, C. M., & Palmatier, R. W. (2014). Effect of customer-centric structure on long-term financial performance. Marketing Science, 34(2), 250–268.
Lewis, M. (2004). The influence of loyalty programs and short-term promotions on customer retention. Journal of Marketing Research, 41(3), 281–292.
Lipsey, M. W., & Wilson, D. B. (2001). Practical meta-analysis. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Luo, X., & Homburg, C. (2008). Satisfaction, complaint, and the stock value gap. Journal of Marketing, 72(4), 29–43.
Maltz, E., & Kohli, A. K. (2000). Reducing marketing’s conflict with other functions: The differential effects of integrating mechanisms. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 28(4), 479.
Menon, A., Bharadwaj, S. G., Adidam, P. T., & Edison, S. W. (1999). Antecedents and consequences of marketing strategy making: A model and a test. Journal of Marketing, 63(2), 18–40.
Mintzberg, H. (1994). The fall and rise of strategic planning. Harvard Business Review, 72(1), 107–114.
Mintzberg, H., & Lampel, J. (1999). Reflecting on the strategy process. Sloan Management Review, 40(3), 21.
Mizik, N., & Jacobson, R. (2003). Trading off between value creation and value appropriation: The financial implications of shifts in strategic emphasis. Journal of Marketing, 67(1), 63–76.
Montgomery, D. B., Moore, M. C., & Urbany, J. E. (2005). Reasoning about competitive reactions: Evidence from executives. Marketing Science, 24(1), 138–149.
Moorman, C., & Miner, A. S. (1998). The convergence of planning and execution: Improvisation in new product development. Journal of Marketing, 62(3), 1–20.
Morgan, N. A. (2012). Marketing and business performance. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40(1), 102–119.
Morgan, N. A., & Rego, L. L. (2006). The value of different customer satisfaction and loyalty metrics in predicting business performance. Marketing Science, 25(5), 426–439.
Morgan, N. A., Katsikeas, C. S., & Vorhies, D. W. (2012). Export marketing strategy implementation, export marketing capabilities, and export venture performance. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40(2), 271–289.
Noble, C. H., & Mokwa, M. P. (1999). Implementing marketing strategies: Developing and testing a managerial theory. Journal of Marketing, 63(4), 57–73.
O'Sullivan, D., & Abela, A. V. (2007). Marketing performance measurement ability and firm performance. Journal of Marketing, 71(2), 79–93.
Palmatier, R. W., Dant, R. P., & Grewal, D. (2007). A comparative longitudinal analysis of theoretical perspectives of interorganizational relationship performance. Journal of Marketing, 71(4), 172–194.
Palmatier, R. W., Houston, M. B., Dant, R. P., & Grewal, D. (2013). Relationship velocity: Toward a theory of relationship dynamics. Journal of Marketing, 77(1), 13–30.
Palmatier, R. W., Houston, M. B., & Hulland, J. (2018). Review articles: Purpose, process, and structure. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 46(1), 1–5.
Pascale, R. T. (1984). Perspectives on strategy: The real story behind Honda’s success. California Management Reviews, 26(3), 47–72.
Payne, A., & Frow, P. (2005). A strategic framework for customer relationship management. Journal of Marketing, 69(4), 167–176.
Petersen, J. A., & Kumar, V. (2015). Perceived risk, product returns, and optimal resource allocation: Evidence from a field experiment. Journal of Marketing Research, 52(2), 268–285.
Piercy, N. F. (1998). Marketing implementation: The implications of marketing paradigm weakness for the strategy execution process. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 26(3), 222–236.
Rego, L. L., Billett, M. T., & Morgan, N. A. (2009). Consumer-based brand equity and firm risk. Journal of Marketing, 73(6), 47–60.
Rego, L. L., Morgan, N. A., & Fornell, C. (2013). Reexamining the market share–customer satisfaction relationship. Journal of Marketing, 77(5), 1–20.
Roberts, J. H., Kayande, U., & Stremersch, S. (2014). From academic research to marketing practice: Exploring the marketing science value chain. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 31(2), 127–140.
Rubera, G., & Kirca, A. H. (2012). Firm innovativeness and its performance outcomes: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. Journal of Marketing, 76(3), 130–147.
Samaha, S. A., Palmatier, R. W., & Dant, R. P. (2011). Poisoning relationships: Perceived unfairness in channels of distribution. Journal of Marketing, 75(3), 99–117.
Samaha, S. A., Beck, J. T., & Palmatier, R. W. (2014). The role of culture in international relationship marketing. Journal of Marketing, 78(5), 78–98.
Slater, S. F., & Olson, E. M. (2001). Marketing's contribution to the implementation of business strategy: An empirical analysis. Strategic Management Journal, 22(11), 1055–1067.
Slater, S. F., Hult, G. T. M., & Olson, E. M. (2007). On the importance of matching strategic behavior and target market selection to business strategy in high-tech markets. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 35(1), 5–17.
Slater, S. F., Hult, G. T. M., & Olson, E. M. (2010). Factors influencing the relative importance of marketing strategy creativity and marketing strategy implementation effectiveness. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(4), 551–559.
Slotegraaf, R. J., & Atuahene-Gima, K. (2011). Product development team stability and new product advantage: The role of decision-making processes. Journal of Marketing, 75(1), 96–108.
Song, M., Di Benedetto, C. A., & Zhao, Y. (2008). The antecedents and consequences of manufacturer–distributor cooperation: An empirical test in the US and Japan. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36(2), 215–233.
Spyropoulou, S., Katsikeas, C. S., Skarmeas, D., & Morgan, N. A. (2018). Strategic goal accomplishment in export ventures: the role of capabilities, knowledge, and environment. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 46(1), 109–129.
Steiner, M., Eggert, A., Ulaga, W., & Backhaus, K. (2016). Do customized service packages impede value capture in industrial markets? Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44(2), 151–165.
Sun, B., & Li, S. (2011). Learning and acting on customer information: A simulation-based demonstration on service allocations with offshore centers. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(1), 72–86.
Van de Ven, A. H. (1992). Suggestions for studying strategy process: A research note. Strategic Management Journal, 13(5), 169–188.
Varadarajan, R. (2010). Strategic marketing and marketing strategy: Domain, definition, fundamental issues and foundational premises. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 38(2), 119–140.
Varadarajan, P. R., & Jayachandran, S. (1999). Marketing strategy: An assessment of the state of the field and outlook. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(2), 120–143.
Varadarajan, R., Yadav, M. S., & Shankar, V. (2008). First-mover advantage in an internet-enabled market environment: Conceptual framework and propositions. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36(3), 293–308.
Venkatesan, R., & Kumar, V. (2004). A customer lifetime value framework for customer selection and resource allocation strategy. Journal of Marketing, 68(4), 106–125.
Vorhies, D. W., & Morgan, N. A. (2003). A configuration theory assessment of marketing organization fit with business strategy and its relationship with marketing performance. Journal of Marketing, 67(1), 100–115.
Walker Jr., O. C., & Ruekert, R. W. (1987). Marketing's role in the implementation of business strategies: A critical review and conceptual framework. Journal of Marketing, 51(3), 15–33.
Whitler, K. A., & Morgan, N. (2017). Why CMOs never last and what to do about it. Harvard Business Review, 95(4), 46–54.
Whittington, R. (2006). Completing the practice turn in strategy research. Organization Studies, 27(5), 613–634.
Yadav, M. S. (2010). The decline of conceptual articles and implications for knowledge development. Journal of Marketing, 74(1), 1–19.
Zhou, K. Z., Yim, C. K., & Tse, D. K. (2005). The effects of strategic orientations on technology-and market-based breakthrough innovations. Journal of Marketing, 69(2), 42–60.
Mark Houston served as Area Editor for this article.
About this article
Cite this article
Morgan, N.A., Whitler, K.A., Feng, H. et al. Research in marketing strategy. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 47, 4–29 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-018-0598-1
- Marketing strategy
- Strategic marketing
- CMO marketing challenges
- Research design