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Research in marketing strategy

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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.

  3. 3.

    These may be at the product/brand, SBU, or firm level.

  4. 4.

    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).

  5. 5.

    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.

  6. 6.

    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.

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Correspondence to Neil A. Morgan.

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Mark Houston served as Area Editor for this article.

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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

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Keywords

  • Marketing strategy
  • Strategic marketing
  • CMO marketing challenges
  • Research design
  • Review