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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.
REVIEW PAPER
Research in marketing strategy
Neil A. Morgan
1
&Kimberly A. Whitler
2
&Hui Feng
3
&Simos Chari
4
Received: 14 January 2018 /Accepted: 20 July 2018
#Academy of Marketing Science 2018
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 researchnot 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 knowledgethe 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.
Keywords Marketing strategy .Strategic marketing .CMO marketing challenges .Research design .Review
Introduction
Developing and executing marketing strategy is central to the
practice of marketing. Recent reports regarding the top chal-
lenges facing marketers (Table 1) reveal numerous questions
within the domain of marketing strategy including: (1) how to
create organizational structures that better enable development
of marketing strategies that help navigate and adapt to chang-
ing customer and firm needs; (2) how to choose the optimal
set of marketing strategies to drive outcomes given competing
priorities and myriad internal and external stakeholders; and
(3) how to lead enterprise-wide executives in developing and
implementing strategies that create greater customer centricity
and engagement. As a result of its centrality to practice, mar-
keting strategy is also a key area of business school pedagogy,
pivotal in marketing theory explanations of firm performance,
and a focus of inquiry among academic researchers. However,
while there has been a growing research interest in the
general field of strategic marketing (i.e., marketing-related
phenomena and decisions that are important to understanding
the long-term performance of product/brands, SBUs, and
firms), it is unclear how much of this research relates to
marketing strategythe central construct within the field of
strategic marketing.
1
Since developing and executing marketing strategy is cen-
tral to what marketers do in practice, research germane to
understanding these activities is key to establishing the
1
We follow Varadarjans (2010) distinction, using Bstrateg ic marketing^as the
term describing the general field of study and Bmarketing strategy^as the
construct that is central in the field of strategic marketingjust as analogically
Bstrategic management^is a field of study in which Bcorporate strategy^is a
central construct.
Mark Houston served as Area Editor for this article.
*Neil A. Morgan
namorgan@indiana.edu
Kimberly A. Whitler
Whitlerk@darden.virginia.edu
Hui Feng
huifeng@iastate.edu
Simos Chari
Simos.Chari@Manchester.ac.uk
1
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, 1309 E. Tenth St.,
Bloomington, IN 47405-1701, USA
2
Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, 100 Darden
Boulevard, Charlottesville, VA 22903, USA
3
Ivy College of Business, Iowa State University, 3337 Gerdin
Business Building, Ames, IA 50011-1350, USA
4
Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester,
Booth Street West, Manchester M15 6PB, UK
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-018-0598-1
relevance of the academic discipline of marketing. Better un-
derstanding the state of marketing strategy knowledge is also
important for developing theoretical understanding in market-
ing. For example, knowing what theories have been drawn on
in past research and which aspects of marketing strategy have
received little attention is a pre-cursor to any attempt to devel-
op indigenous marketing theory. Systematic analyses of the
use of different research approaches and methods in a partic-
ular domain, and how these have changed over time can also
uncover insights for the development of new approaches and
methods. As a result, periodic reviews of research in a domain
are useful in consolidating knowledge and enabling cumula-
tive knowledge development (e.g., Palmatier et al. 2018).
The last major review of research in marketing strategy was
undertaken by Varadarajan and Jayachandran (1999). Clearly,
much has happened in the worlds of both practice and research
in the past twenty years, making the present study needed and
timely. This study therefore undertakes a comprehensive re-
view of the strategic marketing literature since 1999, with
three specific objectives: (1) to develop a framework through
which to assess the current state of research conducted within
marketing strategy; (2) to illuminate and illustrate the Bstate of
knowledge^in core sub-domains of marketing strategy devel-
opment and execution; and (3) to develop a research agenda
identifying aspects of marketing strategy that require greater.
In addressing these objectives, this study makes a number
of contributions to strategic marketing knowledge. First, we
show that marketing strategy research published in the major
journals over the past 19 years (19992017) has primarily
focused on either marketing tactics or marketing-related in-
puts (resources and capabilities) to marketing strategy and
their performance outcomes (both directly and under different
Table 1 Key marketing strategy challenges identified by CMOs
Strategy formulation
(figuring out what to do)
Strategy implementation
(doing it)
Strategy content
(strategy decisions)
What is (or should be) the impact of shifting from a
consumer-centric to a multi-stakeholder and data-driven
model of marketing on marketings strategic goals? (1, 2, 9)
What is the bestway to evaluateand make decisions about the
trade-off between strategies that deliver short- vs. long-term
marketing impact? (6)
What does the changing nature of CMO/marketingsrole
(e.g., digital, analytics, omni-channel) mean for what
marketing strategy decisions are viable? (1, 7)
What should we insource vs. outsource (e.g., digital,
analytics, CRM, creative content development, etc.) to
best accomplish different marketing strategy goals? (6)
What is the right allocation of resources (budgets and
people) across traditional vs. new channels? (6)
What new marketing communication options open up as
communication shifts from a 30-second ad world to a
limitless content world (1, 6)
Strategy process
(strategymakingand
strategy realization)
How should marketing work with other functions and C-suite
leaders (especially COO, CFO, CIO, Chief Digital Officer)
to figure out what marketing strategy options are possible?
(1,4,8,9)
What new approaches to developing brand strategy are
required in a multi-stakeholder (vs. consumer centric)
world? (9)
When and how should marketing Bmanage upwards^(the
CEO) to drive alignment to marketing strategy goals and
strategy choices? (1, 4, 7)
How can multi-touch attribution modeling be used to assess
the ROI outcomes of past marketing strategy
implementations to make better future marketing strategy
decisions? (1, 3)
How can CMOs identify required talent for new
marketing responsibility areas to enable strategy
implementation (e.g., digital, analytics, technology,
etc.)? (4,5, 9)
How can marketing effectively lead culture change to
force company adaptation to new consumer realities
and technology? (1, 9)
What are the most effective mechanisms to monitor and
communicate implementation results to drive
cross-functional alignment, support, influence, and
credibility? (7)
How should CMOs measure, review, and hold
accountable managers in new areas of marketing
responsibility to drive effective strategy
implementation? (5)
Numbers in table refer to the following references: (1) Argyle Executive Forum (2014). The data-driven CMO. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from http://www.
argylejournal.com/chief-marketing-officer/survey-reveals-the-data-driven-cmos-top-challenges-and-pain-points/; (2) CMG Partners (2016). CMOs
agenda: The CMO has arrived. Retrieved January 5, 2017 from; (3) Kador, J. (2011). CMOs: Good to great. Retrieved August 1, 2011 from http://
chiefexecutive.net/cmos-good-to-great; (4) Korn Ferry (2017). CMO pulse survey. Retrieved July 19, 2016 from htttp://infokf.kornferry.com; (5)
MacDonald, J. (2016). The top challenges of todays CMO. Retrieved July 29, 2017 from https://thegood.com/insights/top-challenges-cmo/; (6)
Nanji, A. (2015). CMOstop goals and challenges. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from http://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2015/28066/cmos-top-
goals-and-challenges; (7) Whitler and Morgan (2017). Why CMOs never last. Harvard Business Review, JulyAugust, 4554; (8) Whitler, K. A.,
Boyd, D. E., & Morgan, N. A. (2017). The power partnership: CMO & CIO. Harvard Business Review, JulyAugust, 55; (9) Yosie, T. F., Simmons, P. J.,
& Ashken, S. (2016). Sustainability and the modern CMO: A New ball to juggleor a key to juggling smarter. Retrieved July 30, 2016 from http://www.
corporateecoforum.com/wpcontent/uploads/2017/01/Sustainability-and-the-CMO_FINAL.pdf.Sustainability and the modern CMO: A New ball to
juggleor a key to juggling smarter. Retrieved July 30, 2016 from http://www.corporateecoforum.com/ wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Sustainability-
and-the-CMO_FINAL.pdf
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
external and internal environmental conditions), with relative-
ly little research in the core domain of marketing strategy. If
our understanding of marketing strategy before 1999 had been
completeand no significant changes had occurred since that
timethis may not be a significant problem. However, clearly
neither of these conditions is true. The relative lack of atten-
tion to marketing strategy during this period should be viewed
as a particularly significant gap in marketing knowledge since
marketing strategy is the central construct in the field of stra-
tegic marketing and in practice marketers spend most of their
time engaged in marketing strategyrelated activities.
Second, we develop a new conceptualization of market-
ing strategy, identifying four key sub-domains (i.e., formu-
lationcontent, formulationprocess, implementationcon-
tent, implementationprocess). This provides a new frame-
work that can be used to assess the state of the field, identify
critical knowledge gaps, and direct future research. In this
study, we use it as a lens with which to assess and calibrate
which marketing strategy sub-domainsand issues within
each domainhave received more or less attention. For
example, we show that while marketing strategy implemen-
tation appears to be an area of relatively strong research
coverage, most studies in this sub-domain are marketing-
mix models examining linkages between one or more mar-
keting program elements and performance outcomes while
controlling for the remaining elements of a brand or firms
marketing program. Conversely, we find that very few mar-
keting strategy studies have focused on the processes by
which marketing strategy is developed.
Third, building on such insights we identify a new
research agenda for future marketing strategy research.
Synthesizing existing knowledge within a domain of
inquiry and identifying research gaps is an important
stage of cumulative knowledge development in any field
(e.g., Palmatier et al. 2018). Such cumulative knowledge
building in marketing strategy is essential since its cen-
tralitytomarketingpractice makes research in market-
ing strategy of particular importance in establishing the
relevance of academic research and its utility and legit-
imacy to practicing managers. We therefore use rele-
vance to practice as one of the lenses used to identify
and prioritize a new research agenda for marketing
strategy.
The paper is structured as follows. First, we develop a new
integrated conceptual model of marketing strategy to guide
our review. Next, we describe the journal sample and review
procedure adopted. We then present and discuss the descrip-
tive statistics arising from our review. Within the sub-domains
of marketing strategy identified, we next present exemplar
studies and briefly synthesize existing knowledge. We then
discuss the implications of the review findings for marketing
theory and practice. Finally, we develop a research agenda for
future research in marketing strategy.
Conceptualizing marketing strategy
A necessary first step in reviewing research in any do-
main is to clearly establish its external boundaries and
identify important internal boundaries among sub-domains. In
accomplishing this, we draw initially on Varadarajans(2010)
exploration of the conceptual domain and definition of
marketing strategy:
Marketing strategy is an organizationsintegratedpat-
tern of decisions that specify its crucial choices
concerning products, markets, marketing activities and
marketing resources in the creation, communication
and/or delivery of products that offer value to customers
in exchanges with the organization and thereby enables
the organization to achieve specific objectives.
(Varadarajan 2010, p. 119)
In line with this, the marketing literature broadly indi-
cates that a firms marketing efforts impact its marketplace
and economic performance through the formulation and im-
plementation of specific patterns of resource deployments
designed to achieve marketing objectives in a target market
(e.g., Katsikeas et al. 2016;Morgan2012). This formula-
tionimplementation dichotomy perspective suggests that
goal-setting and marketing strategy development systems
are used as future-oriented decision-making frameworks to
define desired goals and identify and select marketing strat-
egy options that may enable these goals to be accomplished,
followed by a period of enactment in which firms seek to
operationalize the intended marketing strategy decisions to
achieve the desired goals (e.g., Morgan et al. 2012;Noble
and Mokwa 1999;Piercy1998).
From this perspective, marketing strategy formulation in-
volves managers making explicit Bwhat^decisions regarding
goals and the broad means by which they are to be accom-
plished in terms of target market selection, required value
offerings and desired positioning, timing, etc. (e.g., Kerin et
al. 1990; Slater and Olson 2001). Conversely, marketing strat-
egy implementation concerns Bdoing it^in terms of translat-
ing these broad Bwhat^marketing strategy decisions into a set
of detailed and integrated marketing tactics and accompany-
ing these with appropriate actions and resource deployments
to enact them (e.g., Slater et al. 2010; Varadarajan and
Jayachandran 1999). While the literature has consistently dis-
tinguished between strategy formulation and implementation,
both the marketing and strategic management literature also
suggests that they are interdependent, with implementation
(what a firm is able to do) shaping and constraining marketing
strategy content decisions over time (e.g., Cespedes 1991;
Moorman and Miner 1998).
AsecondBdichotomy^evidenced widely in the strategic
management literature (e.g. Farjoun 2002; Mintzberg and
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Lampel 1999; Van de Ven 1992), and to a lesser extent in the
marketing literature (e.g., Frankwick et al. 1994; Menon et al.
1999; Walker Jr and Ruekert 1987), is between strategy con-
tent and strategy process. From this perspective, marketing
strategy content concerns the specific strategic decisions
(e.g., what and how many segments to target, what the firms
value proposition needs to be to achieve required sales) and
integrated tactical marketing program decisions (e.g., the re-
quired sales-force incentive plan, channel selection and mer-
chandizing platform design, marketing communication media
selection) made. Conversely, strategy process concerns the
organizational mechanisms leading to these marketing strate-
gy decisions (e.g., situation assessment, goal-setting, top-
down vs. bottom up strategic planning process, planning com-
prehensiveness) and those used to make and realize decisions
regarding how they are enacted (e.g., marketing mix planning,
budgeting, internal communication, organization re-design,
performance monitoring and control systems).
We use these two common Bdichotomies^as a framework
(see Fig. 1) for establishing the external boundaries of the
domain of marketing strategy and to identify important sub-
domains within the marketing strategy construct.
2
Identifying
these sub-domains within the broad domain outlined in
Varadarajan (2010) allows us to refine his original definition
of marketing strategy. We therefore define marketing strategy
as encompassing the Bwhat^strategy decisions and actions
and Bhow^strategy-making and realization processes
concerning a firms desired goals
3
over a future time-period,
and the means through which it intends to achieve them by
selecting target markets and customers, identifying required
value propositions, and designing and enacting integrated
marketing programs to develop, deliver, and communicate
the value offerings. We use this definition of marketing strat-
egy and the sub-domains it encompasses in the conceptual
framework developed as a lens through which to identify
and examine recent research in marketing strategy (see Fig. 1).
Our new definition of marketing strategy also allows us to
identify and capture studies examining strategic marketing
phenomena related tobut not directly encompassingmar-
keting strategy. As shown in Fig. 1, the most important cate-
gories of these related phenomena deal with: (1) inputs to
marketing strategy including resources such as market knowl-
edge, brand portfolios, financial resources, etc. and capabili-
ties such as NPD, CRM, etc.; (2) outputs of marketing strategy
including customer Bmind-set^and behavior outcomes and
marketplace and economic performance; and (3) environmen-
tal factors distinct from marketing strategy but that may im-
pact marketing strategy phenomena and their relationships
with other phenomena including internal factors such as
organizational culture, size, etc. and external factors
such as market characteristics, technology turbulence,
competitive intensity, etc.
Review of marketing strategy research
Method
Journal selection To ensure the representativeness and high
quality of studies included in our review, we examined the
ten most influential marketing journals in Baumgartner and
Pieterss(2003) study of journal influence, and identified the
six of these that publish research in the field of strategic
Fig. 1 Review framework
2
Following the strategic management literature(e.g., Mintzberg 1994; Pascale
1984), marketing strategy has also been viewed from an Bemergent^strategy
perspective (e.g. Hu tt et al. 1988; Menon et al. 1999). Conceptually this is
captured as realized (but not pre-planned) tactics and actions in Figure 1.
3
These may be at the product/brand, SBU, or firm level.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
marketing: Journal of Marketing (JM), Journal of Marketing
Research (JMR), Marketing Science (MKS), Journal of the
Academy of Marketing Science (JAMS), Journal of Retailing
(JR), and Industrial Marketing Management (IMM). The re-
maining four Btop ten^journals are either not typical outlets
for strategic marketing research (Journal of Consumer
Research, Management Science, and Advances in Consumer
Research) or are managerial and provide little detail regarding
theory or research method (Harvard Business Review).
We replaced the lowest ranked (10th) journal on this
list, Industrial Marketing Management (IMM),with
International Journal of Research in Marketing (IJRM)asthis
journal has grown significantly in stature over the past 15years
and is now considered the top non-U.S. based marketing jour-
nal (Kumar et al. 2017; Roberts et al. 2014).
Thus, we include six journals in this review: JM, JMR,
MKS, JAMS, JR, and IJRM. We first obtained digital copies
of every article published in these six journals from their offi-
cial websites during the 1999 thru 2017 period. Each article
was examined (title, abstract, keywords, hypotheses/
conceptual framework, etc.) and initially coded where appro-
priate into one or more of the four broad categories shown in
Fig. 1(i.e., marketing strategy, inputs, outputs, and environ-
ment). Articles with Bmarketing strategy,^Bstrategy,^or any
other keywords or similar concepts listed in Fig. 1smarketing
strategy conceptualization such as Bgoals,^Bstrategic/market-
ing planning,^Bmarketing mix,^Bintegrated marketing
program,^and Bsegmentation/targeting/positioning^were
retained for further additional analysis.
Article selection criteria Four primary criteria were then used
to screen studies for inclusion in our analysis: (1) the focus of
the study must be on strategy (vs. individual tactics) as spec-
ified in Fig. 1, either as a primary objective or as part of a
wider research design; (2) the study should be of marketing
(vs. purely management) phenomena; (3) the unit of analysis
is at firm, SBU, brand or product level (or product or brand
portfolios), rather than at individual level (e.g., salesperson or
consumer/customer); (4) the study was published during the
19992017 period, after the last widely-cited review of mar-
keting strategy was undertaken by Varadarajan and
Jayachandran (1999). To avoid Bdouble counting^we exclude
empirical meta-analytic papers in our review sample.
We excluded tactical marketing papers that focus on-
ly on one or two of aspects of the B4Ps^marketing
program (e.g., advertising or pricing) without at least
controlling for the other aspects of the marketing pro-
gram. This is because, per our marketing strategy con-
ceptualization, only studies dealing with (or at least
controlling for) all aspects of the marketing program
can provide useful strategic (vs. purely tactical) insights.
We also excluded purely methodological papers such as
studies of new segment identification methods and
studies focusing on individual employee or consumer
perceptions and purchase intentions. Finally, studies ex-
amining industry-level development and strategy were
not included in our review.
Three experienced researchers independently examined all
of the published articles to determine if it should be coded as a
marketing strategy paper, with an accompanying rationale for
each papers inclusion or exclusion following the above four
criteria. Average interrater agreement was 96%, and all
remaining discrepancies were discussed to reach consen-
sus. A total of 257 marketing strategy articles remained
in the review sample after this filtering process. Each of
these papers was then further examined and coded ac-
cording to the specific aspects of marketing strategy
covered and the theory and methodological characteristics
of each study.
Coding procedure Following procedures recommended for
literature review papers (e.g., Katsikeas et al. 2016;Lipsey
and Wilson 2001), we developed a protocol for coding each
of the key aspects of marketing strategy (i.e., first coding
single aspects such as Bformulation^vs. Bimplementation^
and Bcontent^vs. Bprocess^; then composite aspects such as
Bformulationcontent,^Bformulationprocess,^
Bimplementationcontent,^Bimplementationprocess^, and
Bhybrid^). We first, created a document specifying the defini-
tions, keywords, and examples for each aspect of market-
ing strategy. Second, two experienced marketing strate-
gy researchers independently coded a randomly selected
set of 60 articles (10 from each journal) using this draft
protocol to assess the accuracy and thoroughness of the
evaluative criteria and made revisions and improvement.
Third, we pretested the revised protocol using two ad-
ditional expert judges, who independently evaluated an-
other 10 randomly selected articles from each journal.
Full agreement was attained, ensuring the accuracy and
reliability of our coding scheme.
Three experienced researchers then coded each of the 257
eligible articles, under the supervision of the lead investigator,
who had extensive knowledge of marketing strategy and coding
procedures. Interrater agreement ranged from 86%100%, and
all discrepancies were discussed to reach consensus. Finally, the
lead investigator also coded another 10 randomly selected arti-
cles from each journal, and the results were fully consistent with
those of the three coders, enhancing confidence in the reliability
of the evaluation procedure in this study.
Following this, two experienced researchers also coded the
key theory and methodological characteristics of each study in
terms of: (1) the primary research approach of paper (i.e.,
conceptual/qualitative/empirical/analytical); (2) data type
(i.e., primary, secondary or both) for empirical papers; (3) data
analysis approach (analytical, regression, time series, structur-
al equation modelling-SEM etc.); and, (4) argumentation
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
approach (e.g., single theory, multiple theories, concep-
tual development/grounded theory, and logic or data-
driven approaches) following a coding scheme.
Interrater agreement on this coding was high (97%).
Descriptive analysis of marketing strategy papers
As defined in Varadarajan (2010), Bstrategic marketing^
refers to the general field of study, while Bmarketing
strategy^refers to the organizational strategy construct that
is the principal focus of the field. Thus, while all marketing
strategyfocused papers are within the field of strategic
marketing, not all strategic marketing research concerns
marketing strategy. We follow this distinction. For example,
in their study examining the influence of research in the
field of strategic marketing Kumar et al. (2017) focus on
papers that examine all strategic marketing issues, deci-
sions, and problems, which include but is not limited to
marketing strategy. Conversely, our study focuses on re-
search examining issues that fall within the more specific
domain of marketing strategy (Fig. 1), which is the con-
struct at the heart of the conceptual domain of the field of
strategic marketing (Varadarajan 2010), and is where most
CMOs and marketers spend most of their time and effort in
practice.
To provide insight into the relative frequency of different
types of marketing strategyrelated research we also identified
and coded papers that do not focus directly on marketing
strategy but do focus on the related areas of (1) inputs to
marketing strategy, (2) outputs of marketing strategy, and (3)
environmental factors (internal and external to the firm) that
may affect marketing strategy and its relationship with other
phenomena. These include studies focusing, for example, on
the impact of possession of marketing-related resources/
capabilities on performance, the value of internal environmen-
tal factors such as organizational culture, or the role of external
factors such as market dynamism on the marketing capability-
performance relationship. We also coded studies focusing on
relationships involving individual tactical actions covering
specific marketing mix elements (without directly controlling
for the remaining marketing mix areas). For example, Bruce et
al. (2012) examined the impact of word of mouth and adver-
tising on demand. Following Fig. 1, this was therefore coded
as a study of a specific marketing tactic rather than within the
domain of marketing strategy.
As summarized in Table 2, almost 95% of the papers
published in the six most influential journals publishing
strategic marketing research during the 19992017 period
are Bnon-strategy^papers (i.e., they do not examine phe-
nomena within the marketing strategy domain delineated
in our review frameworkeven though some of these
examine phenomena that are within the general field of
strategic marketing). In fact, the largest category of papers
published in these journals (36%) contains studies of mar-
keting tactics that examine one or two individual market-
ing program elements such as advertising (e.g., Fang et al.
2016), product and price (e.g., Slotegraaf and Atuahene-
Gima 2011; Steiner et al. 2016), channel (e.g., Gooner et
al. 2011; Samaha et al. 2011), and selling (e.g., Gonzalez
et al. 2014; Harmeling et al. 2015) without examining or
explicitly controlling for the remaining marketing mix
elements.
The second largest category of papers published in these
journals during this period (15%) deal with marketing strat-
egyrelated inputs (6%) (e.g., marketing resources and ca-
pabilities) (e.g., Grewal et al. 2013; Luo and Homburg
2008), outputs (9%) (positional advantages and perfor-
mance outcomes) (e.g., Katsikeas et al. 2016;M
organand
Rego 2006;Regoetal.2013), or both (e.g., Gonzalez et al.
2014; Homburg et al. 2011;Regoetal.2009). A further 6%
of all papers published in these journals focus on internal
(i.e., organizational) (e.g., Samaha et al. 2014) or external
(e.g., market, technology) environmental phenomena (e.g.,
Song et al. 2008: Varadarajan et al. 2008)with the major-
ity focusing on external versus internal environmental fac-
tors (262 vs. 40 papers).
4
While not by a large margin, research on marketing strate-
gy (as delineated in Fig. 1) comprises the smallest number
(less than 6% of all published papers) of the different types
of strategic marketing papers coded in our review across the
six journals we examine (vs. Tactics, Internal/External
Environment, Inputs, and Outputs). However, we also observe
large variance across the journals covered. Notably, JM
(9.8%) and JAMS (8.6%) are the outlets for a much higher
percentage of marketing strategy papers as a percentage of
all the papers they publish than the remaining four
journalsand jointly published the majority (57%) of the
combined total marketing strategy papers published across
the six journals. More specifically, as shown in Fig. 2,during
this period JM published the greatest number of marketing
strategy studies (n= 81 or 32% of the combined total across
the six journals), followed by JAMS (n= 63 or 25%).
However, the trend lines showing the ratio of marketing strat-
egy versus all other types of papers published in each of the
six journals over the 19992017 period are clearly down-
wards. This trend line is particularly steep for JM,with
4
These strategic marketing but Bnon-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;Zhouetal.2005), or specific tactics, input/output, and
environment (e.g., Bharadwaj et al. 2011; Palmatier et al. 2007;Ruberaand
Kirca 2012).
0
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.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Table 2 Marketing strategy and related strategic marketing papers count summary (19992017)
Journals A: Strategy papers n
(% of total strategy
papers published)
B: Strategy papers
n(%oftotal
papers journal
published)
Marketing
strategy
formulation
Marketing
strategy
implementation
Marketing
strategy
content
Marketing
strategy
process
Inputs Outputs Environment
(external:
internal)
Individual
marketing tactics
(% of total papers
journal published)
JM 81/257
(31.5%)
81/826
(9.8%)
38 57 49 44 90 151 55 (49:9) 347/826 (42.0%)
MKS 31/257
(12.1%)
31/886
(3.5%)
9 22 24 7 20 57 53 (52:1) 420/886 (47.4%)
JMR 41/257
(16.0%)
41/1020
(4.0%)
15 30 36 8 45 65 33 (30:5) 338/1020 (33.1%)
JAMS 63/257
(24.5%)
63/730
(8.6%)
31 47 37 35 85 102 68 (60:17) 251/730 (34.4%)
IJRM 27/257
(10.5%)
27/624
(4.3%)
10 22 17 14 32 42 55 (51:8) 177/624 (28.4%)
JR 14/257
(5.4%)
14/597
(2.3%)
6 10 10 3 14 25 20 (20:0) 159/597 (26.6%)
Total 257
(100%)
109 188 173 111 286 442 284 (262:40) 1692
Relative to all papers
published in these
journals (n= 4683)
257/4683 = 5.5% 2.3% 4.0% 3.7% 2.4% 6.1% 9.4% 6.1% 36.1%
Strategy paper nvalues indicate the number of strategy articles from each journal included in the analysis based on the search terms used. Total number of papers published in each of these journals
(excluding editorials, book reviewers, special issue introductions etc.) during 19992017 period (JM = 826, MKS = 886, JMR = 1020, JAMS = 730, IJRM = 624, JR = 597). Papers coded as Bmarketing
strategy^(formulation, implementation, content, process) are exclusive from all other types of non-strategy coding (input, output, environment, and individual tactics) but can be coded as covering more
than one sub-domain of marketing strategy. Similarly, strategic marketing but non-strategy papers may be coded as covering more than one non-strategy area (e.g., input, output, tactics, etc.)
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
JAMS averaging a higher ratio of marketing strategy versus
other types of papers published than JM over the past eight
years (20102017).
5
Table 2suggests some balance across the individual as-
pects (i.e., formulation vs. implementation and process vs.
content) covered in the marketing strategy research studies
we identify. However, the more granular breakdown in
Tab le 3, categorizing the marketing strategy papers published
by the four sub-domains of marketing strategy (i.e., formula-
tioncontent, formulationprocess, implementationcontent,
implementationprocess; capturing papers covering more
than one sub-domain as Bhybrid^) in our framework, reveals
a clear dearth of research in the formulationprocess sub-do-
main. This may be due to the lack of secondary data on such
difficult-to-observe phenomena. Published papers in this do-
main therefore tend to be conceptual or use qualitative, survey,
or other primary data collection methods.
While Bprocess^papers in the implementation sub-domain
also deal with difficult-to-observe phenomena, there are a
greater number of studies in this sub-domain as researchers
are able to use secondary marketing mix data along with
policy and field experiments to build normative models of
how managers can make and execute marketing program
decisions. For example, Sun and Li (2011)usedcallhistory
from a DSL service to show how firms can learn from
customer-call center interactions to improve resource alloca-
tion decisions, and Petersen and Kumar (2015) conducted a
large-scale field experiment to investigate product return data
Table 3 Primary domain of published marketing strategy research by journal
Journals Total strategy papers
in each journal
Formulation
Content
Formulation
Process
Implementation
Content
Implementation
Process
Hybrid
JM 81 (100%) 17 (21.0%) 6 (7.4%) 17 (21.0%) 22 (27.2%) 19 (23.5%)
MKS 31 (100%) 6 (19.4%) 3 (9.7%) 18 (58.1%) 4 (12.9%) 0 (0.0%)
JMR 41 (100%) 11 (26.8%) 0 (0.0%) 18 (43.9%) 5 (12.2%) 7 (17.1%)
JAMS 63 (100%) 9 (14.3%) 5 (7.9%) 16 (25.4%) 15 (23.8%) 18 (28.6%)
IJRM 27 (100%) 5 (18.5%) 0 (0.0%) 7 (25.9%) 9 (33.3%) 6 (22.2%)
JR 14 (100%) 4 (28.6%) 0 (0.0%) 5 (35.7%) 2 (14.3%) 3 (21.4%)
Total 257 52 (20.6%) 14 (5.5%) 81 (31.5%) 57 (22.2%) 53 (20.6%)
Values indicate the number of strategy articles in each sub-domain from each journal. Percentages indicate the number of strategy papers in each sub-
domain from each journal divided by the total number of strategy papers in each journal
0.00%
5.00%
10.00%
15.00%
20.00%
25.00%
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
JM JAMS JMR IJRM MktgSci J Retailing
Fig. 2 Marketing strategy papers published by journal
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
and develop a process by which managers can make better
marketing resource allocations.
Table 3also suggests that while JM and JAMS tend to
publish studies within and across all four sub-domains of mar-
keting strategy, the other three journals tend to skew toward or
away from certain sub-domains. For example, 58% of the
marketing strategy papers published in MKS and 44% of those
in JMR during this period have been in the implementation
content area. This is mainly a result of marketing mix model-
ing studies being located in this sub-domain of marketing
strategy research. Conversely, MKS published no hybrid pa-
pers, and JMR,IJRM,andJR published no papers in the for-
mulationprocess sub-domain of marketing strategy.
As shown in Table 4, the vast majority (202) of the 257
marketing strategy papers in our sample are empirical in na-
ture, with some balance between primary (109) and secondary
(78) data used, but few (15) using both primary and secondary
data. However, an examination of the numbers by year indi-
cates a recent decrease in the use of primary data and increas-
ing use of secondary data. Table 4further reveals the relatively
small number of conceptual/theoretical (35), qualitative (8),
and analytical (12) marketing strategy studies published in
the six journals since 1999. To the extent that empirical papers
tend to test existing theory, and conceptual and qualitative
approaches are more often used to develop theory, this sug-
gests that theory development in published marketing strategy
research is rare. While the numbers of papers published by
year are small in each of these areas, an examination of the
numbers by year since 1999 generally indicate a growth in the
proportion of papers that are empirical and a drop-off in the
number that are conceptual/theoretical. We also observe some
variation across the six journals in this realm, with JM and
JAMS dominating conceptual/theoretical work in marketing
strategy theory development and publishing a greater number
of qualitative papers (while still very few in number) than
analytical papers in the theory-building domain.
For the non-conceptual/theoretical and qualitative papers
published, we also coded the primary analysis approach used
(Table 5). This shows that regression-based analysis models
dominate, with structural equation modeling (SEM) ap-
proaches a distant second. While time-series models are used
less frequently overall, an examination of the by year numbers
indicate that their use is increasing over time (in line with
growing use of secondary data). We also observe a recent
relative decline in the use of SEM (in line with the recent
relative decrease in the use of primary data noted above).
To provide insight into the nature of the theoretical ap-
proaches adopted in the marketing strategy research in our sam-
ple, we also coded and analyzed the argumentation approach
i.e. rationale used to identify the marketing strategy phenomena
and variables examined and/or develop hypotheses regarding
expected relationships between them, used in each study.
Table 4 Summary of strategy papers types (19992017)
Journals Strategy
papers total
Conceptual /
theoretical
Qualitative Analytical Empirical Empirical:
primary data
Empirical:
secondary data
Empirical: primary
and secondary
JM 81 8 5 2 66 38 21 7
MKS 31 0 0 4 27 4 22 1
JMR 41 0 0 3 38 11 22 5
JAMS 63 24 2 0 37 30 7 0
IJRM 27 0 1 2 24 20 4 0
JR 14 3 0 1 10 6 2 2
Total 257 35 8 12 202 109 78 15
Values indicate the number of strategy articles from each journal included in the analysis based on the search terms used
Table 5 Summary of top four
methods used in marketing
strategy papers (19992017)
Journals Strategy papers total Analytical models Regression models Time series models SEM
JM 81 2 50 9 20
MKS 31 4 16 13 0
JMR 41 3 28 13 7
JAMS 63 0 26 3 14
IJRM 27 2 15 1 9
JR 14 1 8 2 2
Total 257 12 143 41 52
Values indicate the number of strategy articles from each journal included in the analysis based onthe search terms
used. More than one method may be coded per paper
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Specifically, following a review of the papers in our sample we
coded each as: (1) adopting a single theory lens; (2) using
multiple theories (typically in the development of hypotheses);
(3) developing theory through a grounded approach and/or con-
ceptual development; or (4) using atheoretical logical argumen-
tation (usually in primarily data-driven studies).
Tab le 6shows the use of these four approaches overall and
also within the four primary sub-domains of marketing strat-
egy. Overall, the most commonly-used is the logic and data-
driven approach (48%), used disproportionately in the formu-
lationcontent and implementationcontent domains (see
Tab le 6). Collectively, the remaining three approacheseach
of which is more theoreticalare used only slightly more
frequently. Thus, close to half of all published marketing strat-
egy research in our sample is largely atheoretical in nature.
However, examining trends in the by year data (as shown in
Fig. 3) indicates some evidence of (1) a general shift away
from theory development using grounded approaches and/or
Table 6 Argumentation approach in published strategy papers by sub-domain
Single theory Multiple theories Conceptual development /
grounded theory
Logic, data-driven
FormulationContent
(n=52)
11
(20.8%)
1
(1.9%)
10
(19.2%)
30
(57.7%)
FormulationProcess
(n=14)
2
(14.3%)
2
(14.3%)
4
(28.6%)
6
(42.8%)
ImplementationContent (n=81) 11
(13.6%)
9
(11.1%)
9
(11.1%)
52
(64.2%)
ImplementationProcess (n=57) 16
(28.1%)
10
(17.5%)
11
(19.3%)
20
(35.1%)
Hybrid (n=53) 14
(26.4%)
11
(20.8%)
13
(24.5%)
15
(28.3%)
Tot al (n=257) 54
(21.0%)
33
(12.8%)
47
(18.3%)
123
(47.9%)
Percentages indicate the number of strategypapers using each argumentation approach in each sub-domain divided by the total number of strategy papers
in each sub-domain and for overall total, divided by the total number of strategy papers published in this period (n=257)
Fig. 3 Argument approach trends
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
conceptual development to data-driven approaches and (2) a
growing proportion of studies using multi- versus single-
theory lenses. The increasingly small numbers of marketing
strategy papers developing new theory and/or conceptual
frameworks may not be a cause for concern if there was al-
ready a strong base of indigenous marketing strategy theory.
However, this is obviously not the case. In addition, there is
arguably an even greater need for new theory in light of the
dramatic changes in the marketing landscape driven by tech-
nology developments and usage in the recent past.
To provide greater insight into the specific theories being
most often used to identify phenomena on which to focus in
addressing marketing strategy research problems, and to
predict relationships among constructs/variables identified,
we also examined the specific theories used in studies
employing a single-theory lens. This produced a list of almost
60 different theories employed (Table 7). The majority of
these (69%) were used only in a single marketing strategy
study published in this period. Only nine theories were used
in five or more marketing strategy studies: Institutional
Theory, Resource-based View, Agency Theory, Contingency
Theory, Performance Feedback Theory, Organizational
Theory, Configuration Theory, Organizational Learning
Theory, and Structure-Conduct-Performance Theory.
Interestingly, this suggests that while theories from psy-
chology and economics dominate behavioral and model-
ing research in marketing respectively, recent marketing
strategy research draws mainly on strategic management
theories, with some sociological (e.g., Institutional
Theory) and economic (Agency Theory, Structure-
Conduct-Performance) theory influences.
Illustrative research in domains of marketing
strategy
To provide insight into the types of research and knowledge
outputs that have been typical in the different sub-domains of
marketing strategy, we next identify the most commonly stud-
ied topics and discuss exemplar studies in each of the four
marketing sub-domains as well as some Bhybrid^studies that
capture more than one sub-domain. We also provide some
high-level synthesis overview of overall knowledge in each
area. Table 8shows the most frequently studied topics in each
of the four sub-domains of marketing strategy in the 257 pub-
lished marketing strategy papers that we identified, and
Tab les 9,10,11,12 and 13 details illustrative studies within
each sub-domain, as well as some that cross sub-domains.
Formulationcontent research
The strategy formulationcontent sub-domain concerns the
specific goals that a marketing strategy is designed to deliver
and the major broad strategic decisions concerning how these
are to be achieved. The most frequently studied issue in this
sub-domainexamined in more than a quarter of all pub-
lished studiesinvolves the intended (planned) strategy pur-
sued by a SBU or firm. Studies of this issue have primarily
used existing strategy typologies from the management liter-
ature (e.g., Miles & Snows Strategic Archetypes, Porters
Generic Strategies) and primary survey research designs. For
example, Slater et al. (2007)examinedhowthetypeofstrat-
egy pursued by a firm (Prospectors, Analyzers, Low Cost
Defenders, Differentiated Defenders) affects the firmssubse-
quent choice of target market and behaviors and its perfor-
mance outcomes. Among other results, they show that
Table 7 Single-lens theories applied in marketing strategy research
Institutional Theory Entry Deterrence Theory
RBV Equity Based Compensation
Theory
Agency Theory Escalation of Commitment
Theory
Contingency Theory Evolutionary Economics
Feedback Theory Financial Portfolio Theory
Organizational Theory First-Mover Theory
Configuration Theory Game Theory
Organizational Learning Theory /
Learning Theory / Collective
Learning Theory
Growth Theory
Upper Echelons Theory Homophily Theory
Open Systems Theory Industrial Organization /
Economics Theory
Social Identity Theory Inertia Theory
Transaction Cost Economics Information Processing Theory
Control Systems Theory /
Control Theory
Innovation Adoption Theory
Dynamic Capabilities Theory Internal Processing Algorithms
Theory
Information Economics Theory Justice (distributive,
procedural, interactional)
Knowledge Theory Modernization Theory
Organizational Structure / Design Network Externality Theory
Social Exchange Theory Option Theory
Allocation Theory Perception Theory
Attribution Theory Power
Behavioral Theory of the Firm Prospect Theory
Boundary Theory Resource Dependence Theory
Cognitive Approach
(Mental Models)
Structure-Conduct-Performance/IO
Collective Selection Theory Self-Categorization Theory
Complementarity Theory Signaling Theory
Customer Value Theory Social Capital Theory
Diffusion Theory Stakeholder Theory
Endogenous Growth Theory Strategic Contingencies Theory
Strong Culture Theory Strategic Reference Points
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Prospectors perform better when they target innovator and
early adopter customers and exhibit technology-oriented be-
haviors and worse when they target early majority customers.
Meanwhile Analyzers perform better when they target early
adopters and early majority customers and exhibit competitor-
oriented behaviors. Overall, results of this and similar research
show that decisions regarding intended strategy choices gen-
erally only explain performance outcomes to the extent that
firms marketing program choices and behaviors are consis-
tent with the intended strategy.
However, some empirical research on this issue examines
realized (vs. planned) strategy to identify strategy content deci-
sion(s). For example, Chandy and Tellis (2000) observed the
types of innovations (radical or incremental) launched by a firm
to identify the firms marketing strategy content and examine
the relationship between these marketing strategy innovation
content decisions and firm size. In contrast to prior assumptions,
they show that: (1) large firms engage in radical innovation (and
do so more than smaller firms) and (2) the Bincumbentscurse^
(tendency to shift to more incremental innovations as firms
become bigger and more established) varies across countries
and over time. Similarly, Mizik and Jacobson (2003)usethe
proportion of a firms expenditures allocated to R&D versus
Advertising to infer firmsBstrategic emphasis^toward value
creation versus value capture as routes to achieving desired
strategic goals. They find that investors reward resource shifts
toward R&D and away from Advertising.
Our analyses also reveal that in the strategy formulation
content domain, there has been much less focus on studying
the goals that marketing strategies are designed to achieve. In
one recent example of such work, Spyropoulou et al.(2018)
examine the extent to which an SBUs strategic goal to estab-
lish a differentiated and/or cost-based advantage determines
the subsequent achievement of such positional advantages at a
later point in time. They find that while setting differentiation
goals aids their subsequent achievement the same is not true
for cost goals, and that market-based knowledge, marketing
capabilities, and external market characteristics moderate the
marketing strategy goalpositional advantage achieved rela-
tionship. This is consistent with work on strategy decision
content in suggesting that goals are linked to outcomes to
the extent that firm resources, capabilities, and behaviors are
aligned with the strategy content decisions and implementa-
tion requirements of the selected goals.
Formulationprocess research
The marketing strategy formulationprocess sub-domain con-
cerns the mechanisms used to develop marketing strategy
goals and identify and select the broad strategic means (i.e.,
market target(s), required value proposition, desired position-
ing, timing) by which these goals should be accomplished.
With less than 6% of the published marketing strategy studies
in our sample focusing on how managers develop marketing
Table 8 Most frequently studied topics within marketing strategy sub-domains
Strategy formulation
(figuring out what to do)
Strategy implementation
(doing it)
Strategy content (strategy
decisions)
Themes Percentage Themes Percentage
Strategy type 28.6% Marketing mix activities / tactics 49.2%
Value proposition / positioning 23.4% Other marketing actions / behaviors 16.4%
Target market(s) selected 13% Resources deployed / allocated 10.9%
Timing 10.4% Alignment (degree / level / type) 7.8%
Radical / Incremental innovation 6.5% Performance review / monitoring 7.8%
Strategic emphasis 6.5% Other (e.g., responsibilities assigned,
brand portfolio choices)
7.8%
Business model design 5.2%
Other (e.g., strategic goals, market entry) 6.5%
Strategy process (strategy
making and strategy
realization)
Themes Percentage Themes Percentage
Marketing strategy making 41% Organization design / structuring 24.5%
Market analysis 15.4% Process capability design 18.1%
Performance assessment / review 10.2% Resource deployment process 14.9%
Situation analysis 10.2% Performance monitoring / control 13.8%
Target market / customer selection 7.7% Alignment process / mechanisms 10.6%
Other (e.g., strategy selection tools,
gaining alignment in choices)
15.4% Inter-functional interactions 9.6%
Other (e.g., strategy change process,
situation assessment)
8.5%
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Table 9 Representative marketing strategy formulationcontent studies (illustrative examples)
Author(s) (journal) Paper type Theory approach Data / analysis Primary theme Aim / objective Key findings
Alden et al. 1999 (JM) Empirical Single-theory lens Primary survey: scale
development and testing
Value proposition / posi-
tioning
To develop and test a new construct,
global consumer culture
positioning (GCCP) as a posi-
tioning tool.
The authors develop a new constructglobal consumer culture
positioning (GCCP)as a positioning tool, and find that a
meaningful number of advertisements employ GCCP, as
opposed to positioning the brand as a member of a local
consumer culture or a specific foreign consumer culture.
Chandy and Tellis 2000
(JM)
Empirical Data-driven Secondary data: regression
models
Radical / incremental prod-
uct innovation
To reexamine the incumbentscurse
using a historical analysis of a
relatively large number of radical
innovations in the consumer
durables and office products
categories.
Empirically examines the Bincumbentscurse^a belief that
large, incumbent firms rarely introduce radical product
innovations and instead solidify their market positions with
relatively incremental innovations, while small firms are the
ones that primarily create radical innovations. Present
evidence suggesting the incumbents curse is based on
anecdotes and scattered case studies of highly specialized
innovations. Results indicate that small firms and
non-incumbents are slightly more likely to introduce radical
product innovations than large firms/incumbents. However,
the pattern has shifted recently. Large firms and incumbents
are significantly more likely to introduce radical innovations
than their counterparts. Thus, the results indicate that the in-
cumbents curse appliesbut to an older economic period.
Varadarajan and Yadav
2002 (JAMS)
Conceptual Conceptual
development
N/A Strategy type (competitive) To define the domain of marketing
strategy and provide a conceptual
framework that defines the
antecedents and consequences of
marketingstrategyinboththe
electronic and physical markets.
Competitive marketing strategy is uniquely focused on how a
business should deploy marketing resources to achieve positional
advantages in the marketplace. Develops a conceptual
framework delineating the drivers and outcomes of marketing
strategy in the context of competing in both the physical and
electronic marketplaces. The proposed framework provides
insights into changes in the nature and scope of marketing
strategy; specific industry, product, buyer, and buying
environment characteristics; and the unique skills and resources
of the firm that assume added relevance in the context of
competing in the evolving marketplace.
Frambach et al. 2003
(IJRM)
Empirical Conceptual
development
Primary survey: regression
models
Strategy type (cost,
differentiation, focus)
To understand the interaction
between business strategy and
market orientation on new
product activity.
Develops a framework linking firmsrelative emphasis on cost
leadership, product differentiation, and focus strategies to
firmscustomer and competitor orientation as well as their
new product development and introduction activity. Findings
indicate that a greater emphasis on a focus strategy results in a
decreased emphasis on customer orientation and that
competitor orientation has a negative direct influence on new
product activity and an indirect positive effect via customer
orientation.
Choi and Coughlan
2006 (JR)
Analytical Data-driven Analytical economic
models
Value proposition / posi-
tioning
To determine how a retailer
can best position their private
label products in terms of quality
and features when competing
against two national brands.
A private labels best positioning strategy depends on the nature
of the national brandscompetition and its own quality. When
the national brands are differentiated, a high quality private
label should be positioned closer to a stronger national brand,
and a low quality private label should be positioned closer to a
weaker national brand. When the national brands are
undifferentiated, the private label differentiates from both
national brands.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
strategies, this is the least investigated of the four major sub-
domains of marketing strategyand by a big margin. As seen
in Table 8, by far the most frequently studied aspect of mar-
keting strategy formulationcontent in the relatively few pub-
lished studies has been the marketing strategy making (MSM)
process. For example, Menon et al. (1999) used a discovery-
based approach including qualitative and survey-based
methods to conceptualize and develop measures of the
MSM process, and primary data to empirically examine its
antecedents and consequences. They find that innovative cul-
ture is an antecedent of MSM and that different elements of
MSM have differing impact on outcomes.
More broadly within the MSM area of this sub-domain,
much of the research that has been published is conceptual
in nature. This may be because disentangling and assessing
different aspects of the MSM process requires data beyond
secondary sources, using primary collection approaches such
as interviews, surveys, observation, and other mechanisms.
One conceptual marketing strategy formulationprocess pa-
per, is the study by Dickson et al. (2001). This study identifies
and develops dynamic, mental model mapping techniques for
marketing strategy development. The authors contend that in
the MSM process, executives should view the market as a
moving video rather than the common practice of viewing it
as a static snapshot. The study provides a normative process to
help marketing executives improve their marketing strategy
decision-making in this way.
While many papers in this domain are conceptual in nature,
in an example of a novel empirical approach to understanding
marketing strategy decision-making process, Montgomery et
al. (2005) conduct three studies to assess the degree to which
managers attempt to predict competitive reactions (strategic
competitive reasoning) in making marketing strategy deci-
sions. In the first, students interviewed managers involved in
a strategic decision to understand the degree to which they
employed strategic competitive reasoning in their delibera-
tion. In a second study, they assess whether the results gener-
alize by asking executives to make decisions in a simulated
context. In study three, executives were asked to review and
assess the accuracy of the results observed in the first two
studies. The authors find that there is a relatively low use of
strategic competitive reasoning in the MSM process due to
several factors including: low perceived returns from antici-
pating competitive reactions, difficulty in accessing competi-
tive information, and uncertainty in being able to accurately
predict competitive behavior. With little empirical research
conducted in the strategyprocess domain, this type of novel
approach to data collection provides an interesting roadmap.
Implementationcontent research
In contrast to strategy formulationcontent, which focuses on
the direction and broad strategic choices leaders select to
achieve desired outcomes, the strategy implementationcon-
tent sub-domain concerns the detailed integrated marketing
program tactics decisions taken, and actions and resource de-
ployments to convert these into a concrete set of realized ac-
tions. As shown in Table 8, almost half of the published work
in this sub-domain has focused either on developing analytical
models or using secondary data and marketing mix modeling
to understand the performance impact of marketing program
decisions.
6
Given the nature of the types of research most commonly
conducted in this domain, it is difficult to synthesize as it tends
to be contingent. For example, Hauser and Shugan (2008)
develop models to identify a firms optimal profit maximizing
decisions in response to a rivals new product launch. They
find that under specific conditions and assumptions, it is
optimal to decrease investment in driving awareness,
decrease distribution expenditures, and to potentially
increase price. In another example, Bruce et al. (2012)con-
struct a dynamic linear model to study the effects of two mar-
keting program tactics (word of mouth and advertising) on
demand for different products across different launch stages.
Controlling for other marketing program elements, they find
that word of mouth and advertising both influence demand for
new products but do so at different stages of the relationship
between the company and consumer.
Most published research on this issue is empirical and fo-
cuses on the direct and interactive effects of marketing tactics
and actionsoften using expenditures in different tactical
areas as indicatorsacross multiple marketing program com-
ponents. However, research that examines all 4 Pssimulta-
neously and dynamically to ensure relevant managerial insight
is rare (12% of all marketing mix studies included in our
sample). In one such study, Ataman et al. (2010) simulta-
neously examine the effect of all 4 Ps on the performance
of mature brands. This study broadens integrated marketing
program research beyond previously typical considerations of
advertising and/or price promotions to also include product
and distribution programs and characteristics. The authors
find greater elasticities for product and distribution than for
advertising and price promotion, suggesting that the research
emphasis on investigating price promotions and advertising
typical in earlier studies should be expanded.
Conceptual and theoretical papers tend to be less common
in the implementationcontent area. However, one example of
such work in the second most frequently studied area of this
sub-domain (marketing actions/behaviors) is Bolton et al.
(2004) development of an integrated conceptual framework
to help service organizations understand how marketing ac-
tions influence their customer assets. The authors create a
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.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Table 10 Representative marketing strategy implementationcontent studies (illustrative examples)
Author(s) Paper type Theory
approach
Data / analysis Primary theme Aim / objective Key related findings
Lewis 2004
(JMR)
Empirical Data-driven Secondary data:
dynamic
programming models
of behavior
Marketing actions
and behaviors
(loyalty
program)
To model customersresponse to a loyalty program
and evaluate a loyalty program using data from
an online grocery and drugstore merchant.
Loyalty programs encourage consumers to shift from single-period deci-
sion making to dynamic or multiple-period decision making. Through
simulation and policy experiments, it is possible to evaluate and com-
pare the long-term effects of the loyalty program and other marketing
instruments (e.g., e-mail coupons, fulfillment rates, shipping fees) on
customer retention. Empirical results and policy experiments suggest
that the grocery/drugstore loyalty program studied is successful in in-
creasing annual purchasing for a substantial proportion of customers.
Bolton et
al. 2004
(JAMS)
Conceptual Conceptual
develop-
ment
N/A Marketing mix
activities / tac-
tics
To propose an integrated CUSAMS framework
(customer asset management of services).
Develops the CUSAMS framework, which specifies the customer
behaviors that reflect the breadth of the customer-service organization
relationship. This framework establishes a set of propositions regarding
how marketing instruments influence customer behavior within the
relationship, thereby influencing the value of the customer asset. The
paper further defines a research agenda that identifies critical issues in
customer asset management.
Hauser and
Shugan
2008
(MKS)
Analytical Data-driven Analytical economic
models
Marketing mix
activities / tac-
tics (integrated
program)
To provide recommendations on the strategy of
response, enabling firms to better defend their
position from attack by a new product.
Shows that for the profit maximizing firm in the face of a competitive new
product entrant it is optimal to: 1) decrease awareness advertising; 2)
decrease the distribution budget unless the new product can be kept out
of the market; and 3) consider a price increase. However, even under
the optimal strategy, profits decrease as a result of the competitive new
product. Provides practical guidance to estimate the distribution of
consumer tastes, the position of the new product in perceptual space,
and develop competitive diagnostics to help the manager defending
against the competitive attack.
Ataman et
al. 2010
(JMR)
Empirical Data-driven Secondary data:
multivariate dynamic
linear transfer
function model
Marketing mix
activities / tac-
tics (integrated
program)
To consider the role of the integrated marketing
mix (i.e., advertising, price, product, place) on
the performance of mature brands.
The total (short-term plus long-term) sales elasticity is 1.37 for product
and .74 for distribution. Conversely, the total elasticities for advertising
and discounting are only .13 and .04, respectively. These results
contrast with the previous literatures emphasis on price promotions and
advertising. Further, the long-term effects of discounting are one-third
the magnitude of the short-term effects. The ratio is reversed from other
aspects of the mix (in which long-term effects exceed four times the
short-term effects), underscoring the strategic role of these tools in
brand sales.
Pauwels et
al. 2011
(JR)
Empirical Data-driven Primary survey: SEM Marketing mix
activities / tac-
tics
To investigate whether retailer investment in
ancillary services insulates incumbents from
new entrants.
Introduces the notion of Bcompetitive service overlap^(CSO) that
operationalizes service similarity. Shows that retailers are best served
by offering many services and that particularly successful retailers have
more unique service portfolios. Furthermore, the impact of uniqueness
is most prominent when a grocery incumbent faces a discounter entrant
(e.g., Kroger facing a Wal-Mart entry).
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Table 11 Representative marketing strategy formulationprocess studies (illustrative examples)
Author(s) Paper type Theory
approach
Data / analysis Primary
theme
Aim / objective Key related findings
Rust et al.
2004 (JM)
Empirical Data-driven Primary survey
and secondary
data: regression
model
Strategy
selection
tools
To develop a framework that enables marketers to
make Bwhat if^assessments of marketing ROI.
Develops a broad framework for evaluating return on marketing. Provide a
new model of CLV, incorporating the impact of competitorsofferings
and brand switching, and provide a method for estimating the effects of
individual customer equity drivers. This enables firms to identify which
driver has the greatest impact, compare the driversperformance with
that of competitorsdrivers, and project ROI.
Venkatesan
and
Kumar
2004 (JM)
Empirical Single theory
lens
Secondary data:
Markov models
Market
analysis:
customers
To evaluate the usefulness of CLV for customer
selection and resource allocation.
Marketing contacts across various channels influence CLV nonlinearly.
Customers who are selected based on lifetime value provide higher
profits in future periods than do customers selected based on several
other customer-based metrics. The analyses suggest that there is potential
for improved profits when managers design resource allocation rules that
maximize CLV.
Payne and
Frow 2005
(JM)
Conceptual Conceptual
development,
grounded--
theory
N/A CRM
strategy
develop-
ment
process
Develop a conceptual model to broaden understanding
of CRM and its role in enhancing customer and
shareholder value.
Identifies three alternative perspectives of CRM and emphasize the need for
a cross-functional, process-oriented approach that positions CRM at a
strategic level. Identify five key cross-functional CRM processes and
develop a conceptual framework based on these processes: strategy de-
velopment process, value creation process, multichannel integration
process, information management process, and performance assessment
process. Synthesizing CRM and relationship marketing concepts into a
single, process-based framework provides insight into achieving success
with CRM strategy and implementation.
Montgomery
et al. 2005
(MKS)
Empirical Conceptual
development,
grounded--
theory
Primary survey:
descriptive
analysis
Market
analysis:
competi-
tors
To examine whether managers attempt to predict
competitive reactions.
Find evidence of managersthinking about competitorspast and future
behavior, but little incidence of strategic competitive reasoning. The
relatively low incidence of strategic competitor reasoning is due to
perceptions of low returns from anticipating competitor reactions more
than to the high cost of doing so. Both the difficulty of obtaining
competitive information and the uncertainty associated with predicting
competitor behavior contribute to these perceptions.
Esper et al.
2010
(JAMS)
Conceptual Multi-theory
lens
N/A Situation
assess-
ment
To understand the interaction between two processes
through which the firm creates value for its
customers: demand-focused and supply-focused
processes.
Successfully managing the supply chain to create customer value requires
extensive integration between demand-focused processes and
supply-focused processes that is based on a foundation of value creation
through intra-organizational knowledge management. Integrating de-
mand and supply processes helps firms prioritize and ensure fulfillment
based upon the shared generation, dissemination, interpretation and ap-
plication of real-time customer demand as well as ongoing supply ca-
pacity constraints. Introduce a conceptual framework of demand and
supply integration (DSI) and offer insights for managerial practice and an
agenda for future research.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Table 12 Representative marketing strategy implementationprocess studies (illustrative examples)
Author(s) Paper type Theory
approach
Data / analysis Primary theme Aim / objective Key related findings
Ghosh and
John
1999
(JM)
Conceptual Single theory
lens
N/A Organization
design /
structure
To extend transaction cost analysis to address
marketing strategy decisions closely.
Extends transaction cost analysis into a governance value analysis (GVA)
framework, comprised of a 4-part model. Heterogeneous resources,
positioning, the consequent attributes of exchange, and governance
form all interact to determine success in creating and claiming value.
Considers and illustrates the trade-offs that are made between these
factors.
Homburg
et al.
2000
(JAMS)
Qualitative Conceptual
developme-
nt, grounded
theory
Qualitative Organization
design /
structure
To investigate key changes in marketing
organization.
Changes in marketing organization are part of a more general shift:
changes concerning primary marketing coordinators and an increasing
dispersion of marketing activities. Introduce the concept of a
customer-focused organizational structure that uses groups of cus-
tomers as the primary basis for structuring the organization and identify
typical transitions firms move through as they migrate toward a
customer-focused organizational structure.
Maltz and
Kohli
2000
(JAMS)
Empirical Conceptual
developme-
nt, grounded
theory
Primary survey:
regression
models
Interfunctional
interactions
/alignment
To investigate marketings interactions with
R&D, manufacturing, and finance
Combine insights from previous studies and interviews with managers to
identify six integrating mechanisms proposed to mitigate
interfunctional conflict (behavior that frustrates marketing initiatives).
In addition, investigates the role of internal volatility (turbulence within
an organization) in shaping manifest conflict. Argue and demonstrate
that these mechanisms are differentially effective across the
marketing-finance, marketing-manufacturing, and marketing-R&D
interfaces.
Srinivasan
et al.
2005
(IJRM)
Empirical Conceptual
developme-
nt, grounded
theory
Primary survey:
SEM
Resource
allocations
To investigate why some firms view recessions
as an opportunity and others do not, and the
impact of this view on performance.
Propose a new constructproactive marketing in a recession. Firms that
have a strategic emphasis on marketing, an entrepreneurial culture, and
slack resources are proactive in their marketing activities during a
recession, while the severity of the recession in the industry negatively
affects proactive marketing response. In addition, firms that have a
proactive marketing response in a recession achieve superior business
performance even during the recession.
O'Sullivan
and
Abela
2007
(JM)
Empirical Data-driven Primary survey
and secondary
data:
regression
Performance
monitoring
To examine the effect of ability to measure
marketing performance on firm
performance.
The ability to measure marketing performance has a significant impact on
firm performance, profitability, stock returns, and marketings stature
within the firm.
Sarin et al.
2012
(JMR)
Empirical Data-driven Primary survey:
regression
models
Alignment To investigate the role of supervisors in
implementing changes in marketing
strategy.
Perceived outcome risk containment and outcome reward emphasis
enhance primary appraisals. Perceived process risk containment and
process reward emphasis enhance secondary appraisals. Salespeoples
primary and secondary appraisals influence their change
implementation behaviors, leading to successful change
implementation, which depends on: (a) giving rewards to salespeople
for implementing change; and (b) limiting salespeoplesrisksand
recognizing them for their change-related efforts.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Table 13 Representative marketing strategy hybrid studies (illustrative examples)
Author(s) Paper type Theory
approach
Data / analy-
sis
Primary theme Aim / objective Key related findings
Noble and
Mokwa 1999
(JM)
Empirical Grounded
theory
develop-
ment
Primary
survey:
SEM
Alignment To identify factors that impact the
implementation of marketing
strategies.
Implementation is a vital component of marketing strategy making process;
organizational, strategy, and role commitment are necessary for
implementation success. Strategy and role commitment are positively
related to role performance, which is positively related to implementation
success.
Varadarajan and
Jayachandran
1999 (JAMS)
Conceptual Single-theory
lens
N/A Other- strategy
research
overview
To provide an assessment of the state
of the field of marketing strategy
research.
Opportunity, competitor, and decision-making analyses are activities that
businesses engage in to determine strategy content. How strategies are
initiated in the marketing strategy process could explain if strategy for-
mulation is intertwined with strategy implementation. Type of firm,
structure, and skills affect strategy formulation.
Kyriakopoulos
and Moorman
2004 (IJRM)
Empirical Data-driven Primary
survey:
regression
models
Marketing
action/behavior;
innovativeness of
strategy
To explore how market orientation
impacts exploitation and
exploration marketing strategies.
A strong market orientation facilitates a complementarity of high levels of
marketing exploration and exploitation project-level strategies which re-
sults in improved new product financial performance. Firms with a weak
market orientation engaging in high levels of both strategies display a
significant reduction in new product financial performance.
Atuahene-Gima
and Murray
2004 (JM)
Empirical Multi-theory
lens
Primary
survey:
SEM
MSM - comprehen-
siveness
To examine antecedentsand outcomes
of marketing strategy
comprehensiveness (MSC)
Comprehensiveness is a key feature of marketing strategy. Process rewards
and extra-industry relationships are positively related to MSC; task con-
flict and avoidance hinder the development of MSC. Decision making
embracing MSC is positively associated with performance when imple-
mentation speed is higher. Technological and market uncertainty, enhance
and diminish the effects of MSC on performance, respectively.
Morgan 2012
(JAMS)
Conceptual Conceptual
develop-
ment
N/A Alignment To delineate the role of marketing in
explaining inter-firm performance
differences.
Effectively developing and executing marketing strategy decisions
concerning goals, target markets, value propositions, and timing
(architectural capabilities) requires the acquisition, combination, and
deployment of needed resources from inside and outside the organization,
and monitoring customer and competitor responses to marketplace actions.
These resources are cross-functional and time dependent.
Krush et al. 2015
(JAMS)
Empirical Multi-theory
lens
Primary
survey:
SEM
Performance
monitoring / con-
trol and strategy
types
To evaluate effects on the marketing
functions influence when
marketing capabilities are
dispersed.
Marketings influence may heighten or diminish, depending on the form of
marketing capability dispersion. Different forms of dispersion impact
strategic outcomes; dispersion can lead to strategic and relational
outcomes as well as financial performance. The effects of customer
responsiveness on business unit performance are fully mediated by
marketing strategy implementation success.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
customer asset management of services framework which in-
tegrates and links marketing instruments (promotions, reward
programs, advertising) with customer perceptions of their re-
lationship and subsequent customer behavior with its impact
on the focal firm. By conceptually linking marketing actions
with customer perception and actions, this study shows how
short-term marketing actions may affect the lifetime value of
firmscustomers.
Implementationprocess research
The marketing strategy implementationprocess sub-domain
concerns the mechanisms (e.g., budgeting, communication
systems, performance monitoring, alignment and coordination
processes, organizational structure design, etc.) used to iden-
tify, select, and realize integrated marketing program tactics
designed to deliver marketing strategy content decisions. As
revealed in Table 8, while there is generally a wider distribu-
tion of attention across topics in this sub-domain than in
others, the most commonly studied issue is marketing organi-
zation designthe mechanisms by which required marketing
tasks are accomplished. Research in this area has included
both conceptual and empirical studies. For example,
Homburg et al. (2000) use field interviews to explore market-
ing organization design and the broader shift toward
customer-focused structures. They distinguish a new type of
marketing organization that is more customer-focused and
identify the transitional steps taken as firms migrate toward
this new type of structure in accomplishing required market-
ing execution tasks. In contrast, Vorhies and Morgan (2003)
use primary survey data and secondary performance data in a
single industry to examine the fit between a firmsstrategy
content and its marketing organization design. Drawing on
configuration theory and utilizing a Bfit as profile deviation^
perspective, they find that marketing organization design-
strategy content fit predicts both marketing effectiveness and
efficiency performance outcomes.
Another relatively popular research focus of studies in this
domain concerns marketing performance monitoring. For ex-
ample, O'Sullivan and Abela (2007) use primary data and
secondary performance data to study the impact of firms
marketing performance measurement ability. They find that
this is positively related to subjective measures of marketing
performance outcomes, CEO satisfaction with the marketing
function, and objective stock priceand that the use of mar-
keting dashboards does not affect these relationships.
Likewise, Homburg et al. (2012) use primary data to examine
the comprehensiveness of marketing performance measure-
ment systems (CMPMS) and find that this helps drive market-
ing alignment and market knowledge, which in turn positively
predict performance. They also report that the strategy fit and
Bcause and effect^insight components of CMPMS matter
more than the number and range of different metrics used.
Within the implementationprocess sub-domain there is
also a stream of research investigating how marketingsen-
gagement with other functions impacts implementation ef-
forts. For example, Maltz and Kohli (2000) combine prior
research, interviews with managers, and survey-based evi-
dence to investigate marketings interactions with three func-
tions that impact strategy implementation and the achieve-
ment of marketing goals. The authors identify six integrating
mechanisms that can reduce the interfunctional conflict that
commonly impairs marketing strategy implementation.
Additionally, they demonstrate differential effects across mar-
ketings interactions with finance, manufacturing, and R&D.
Hybrid marketing strategy research
While most published marketing strategy research in the
journals we examined primarily examines only one of the four
sub-domains of marketing strategy identified in Fig. 1,some
studies cover more than one area. Some of these are concep-
tual papers covering a broad domain of marketing strategy.
For example, Morgan (2012) develops a meso-level concep-
tual framework that theoretically links firm resources and mar-
keting capabilities to firmsmarketing strategy decisions and
marketing strategy implementation to positional, market, and
financial performance outcomes. Consequently, the paper cuts
across the formulationcontent and implementationcontent
sub-domains of marketing strategy. Similarly, Varadarajan
(2010) establishes a domain statement for the field of strategic
marketing, distinguishing between key concepts such as the
difference between strategic and tactical decisions (i.e., formu-
lationcontent and implementationcontent) in the marketing
strategy decision process.
Given the scope involved, there are relatively few empir-
ical hybrid studies in our sample. In one such paper, Krush
et al. (2015) investigate the impact of marketingsinfluence
when capabilities are dispersed, rather than centralized,
within the firm. Controlling for business strategy type (for-
mulationcontent), they examine how the type of marketing
capability dispersion (implementationcontent) chosen im-
pacts marketings influence and marketing implementation
outcomes. This study finds that the form of marketing capa-
bility dispersion affects marketings influence within the
firm, which in turn affects customer responsiveness that
drives marketing strategy implementation success and ulti-
mately business unit performance.
Discussion and implications
Our descriptive and sub-domain content exploration of re-
search published in the most influential marketing strategy
journals over the past 19 years reveals a number of new in-
sights for marketing strategy research. First, is the relative
(and increasing) rarity of research focusing on one or more
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
aspects of the core marketing strategy construct at the heart of
the field of strategic marketing. Our coding of research in
these journals reveals that the focus of research attention in
the recent past has been much more on individual marketing
mix elements (i.e., individual tactics) than on the marketing
strategies and integrated marketing programs with which in-
dividual marketing mix elements are associated. While knowl-
edge of the impact of various individual marketing mix ele-
ments under different conditions is obviously useful (more
knowledge regarding any type of marketing phenomena is
generally a good thing), the relative emphasis in current re-
search seems out of balance given the focus of practice on
marketing strategy.
Second, in terms of theory building and theory use, our
analysis suggests that almost half of the papers published in
the last 19 years have been logic- or data-driven in developing
argumentsand this trend is increasing. Of course, data-
driven approaches are not necessarily bad, and managers are
often very interested in observed relationships. In addition,
finding Bwhat^empirical relationships exist can leadto Bwhy^
propositions that can aid theory building. Likewise, logic is
always a useful device for developing arguments that can be
empirically tested. However, both approaches are insufficient
for understanding Bwhy^relationships involving marketing
strategy phenomena exist. This is problematic for researchers
and the academic sub-discipline of strategic marketing since
answering Bwhy^questions is the raison dêtre of any social
science. However, it is also problematic from a relevance per-
spective. Well-crafted research in marketing strategy increas-
ingly controls for many sources of variance in order to isolate
specific relationships of interest and rule out alternative expla-
nations. This is good scientific practice, but also makes it
increasingly difficult for researchers to derive generalizable
and actionable practical implications for managers. This
makes theoretical understanding of Bwhy^relationships in-
volving marketing strategy phenomena exist more valuable
sources of guidance for managers than knowing Bwhat^rela-
tionships exist under strict conditions.
In addition, among the theory-based marketing strategy
studies published we find there are increasingly few theory-
building papers, and a greater proportion of theory-testing
papers. Clearly, theories used in marketing strategy need to
be tested and their boundary conditions established. In do-
ing so, we also observe some shift toward using multi- ver-
sus single-theory lenseswhich may be necessary to deal
with the complexity that is typical (and increasingly so) of
marketing strategy problems in practice. However, the pau-
city of new theory development in marketing strategy over
the past 19 years is alarming given the dramatic changes that
have taken place in the world of marketing strategy practice.
There has been much talk generally of the need for building
indigenous theories in marketing (e.g., Yadav 2010).
Behavioral and modeling researchers, while often
contributing to theories in consumer psychology and eco-
nomics rarely seek to build theory that is specific to market-
ing. Given that marketing is an applied discipline, market-
ing strategy researchers may be the best placed to build such
indigenous marketing theory. Yet it appears they are less and
less likely to do so.
Third, in terms of data sources and analysis methods, our
study shows that the use of qualitative approaches in pub-
lished marketing strategy research is rareand trending down
toward zero. While marketing strategy research is defined by
the domain of inquiry rather than the research method
adopted, this may be problematic for knowledge development
for a number of reasons. First, it is rarely possible to examine
new marketing strategy phenomena empirically without first
being able to deeply understand their nature (you cannot mea-
sure something you cannot define). Yet, casual observation of
the nature, magnitude, and rate of change in marketing prac-
tice suggests that new marketing phenomena are bound to be
emerging. This suggests that marketing strategy research is
increasingly lagging practice. Second, qualitative approaches
are also necessary for observing many existing marketing
strategy phenomena. For example, understanding marketing
strategy implementation failures, influence in goal setting,
participation in marketing strategy decision making, market-
ing strategytactic alignment, etc. will be extremely limited if
only survey- or text-based measures are used.
In terms of quantitative data sources and analyses, we
find a relative balance between primary and secondary (only
andcombinedwithprimary)datausedinpublishedresearch
in marketing strategy. However, the trends are clearly away
from primary-only research and toward studies using sec-
ondary data. We also observe some mirroring of this in the
level and trends of different analysis approaches used, with
increasing use of time series and regression-based models
and a drop in SEM. Again, this raises concerns with respect
to the types and aspects of marketing strategy phenomena
that are studied. For example, while researchers have made
increasingly creative uses of secondary data to infer a num-
ber of marketing strategy phenomena it may be hard to study
marketing strategy processes using such approachesyet
conceptually these comprise half of the marketing strategy
construct. Newer techniques such as text analysis may open
up new ways to study some process phenomena (e.g., min-
ing archival documents concerning a firmsmarketanalyses
and marketing plans). However, there are likely to remain
other process phenomena which may always need to be
explored and empirically examined using primary qualita-
tive, observation, and/or survey data.
In terms of causation, it is unclear whether the trends that
we observe in published marketing strategy papers are a
result of increasing numbers of researchers not engaging
in research designs of this type or that the major journals
are simply less likely to publish marketing strategy research
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
using such approaches. These two things are likely not in-
dependent. Reviewers, Associate Editors and Editors being
less likely to accept qualitative and primary research de-
signs lowers the incentive for researchers to pursue them.
Likewise, the fewer researchers employing such ap-
proaches, the weaker the Btalent pool^of reviewers and
Associate Editors who can assess and constructively im-
prove research using them. Irrespective of the cause, impor-
tant marketing strategy phenomena may become increas-
ingly under-researched unless the trends change.
A marketing strategy research agenda
In practice, not only is the domain of marketing strategy as
delineated in our definition and review framework central to
what marketers and CMOs do, but it is also the domain of
many of the most important challenges facing them. With this
in mind, we first identify areas within the sub-domains of
marketing strategy that our review of research in the most
influential journals over the past 19 years suggest are under-
investigated, managerially relevant, and present opportunities
for theoretically interesting research. Second, drawing on
some Bbigger picture^conceptual questions and practice-
based questions that have been overlooked in extant research
we also identify some Bhybrid^problems and questions that
cross sub-domains. In each area we briefly highlight data
sources and research approaches that may be appropriate.
Finally, we also consider some research design issues for
conducting such marketing strategy research.
Formulationcontent
The historical focus of published research in this sub-
domain has been on strategy type and positioning, with
significantly less research conducted on questions relat-
ed to goals, business model design, timing, and specific
stages of strategy formulation such as market selection.
Interestingly, many of the issues that practicing man-
agers are grappling with concern the dynamic and
changing role of marketing, such as how to lead change
when goals are shifting, how to make trade-offs be-
tween short-term and long-term business needs, and
how the shift in the CMOs role interacts with market-
ing strategy viability. In combination, we identify three
key topic areas for additional research that are both
under-examined in existing marketing strategy research,
and of clear relevance to the challenges facing CMOs:
marketing strategy goals,theroleoftheCMO/
marketing function,andlonger- versus shorter-term em-
phasis in marketing strategy.InTable14A, we develop
exemplar research questions and identify potential
research approaches that may be particularly useful or
appropriate in addressing these questions.
Formulationprocess
Within this sub-domain, the dominant focus of research has
been the process of marketing strategy making generally, and
mechanisms for specific stages of this such as market analysis
and target market/customer selection. Significantly less re-
search has examined questions related to who should take part
in the MSM process, when and how they should take part,
what contingencies may make different approaches more or
less effective, and how communication mechanisms may be
used during the MSM process. Ironically, many of the issues
that practicing managers are grappling with align with these
under-researched topics and questions. In Table 14Bwethere-
fore focus on three areas for additional research in this sub-
domain that are both under-examined in existing marketing
strategy research, and of clear relevance to the challenges
facing CMOs: planning participation,planning process
design,andplanning enablers/inhibitors. Again, we also de-
velop exemplar research questions and identify potential re-
search approaches that may be particularly useful or appropri-
ate in addressing these questions.
Implementationcontent
As previously described, research in this sub-domain has been
dominated by marketing mix studies, with significantly less
research conducted on any other questions such as what re-
source deployments work best and under what conditions,
what degree of alignment is achieved, and what performance
outcomes are monitored. Again, a number of the most press-
ing challenges faced by marketers highlighted in Table 1seem
to fall primarily in such lesser-researched areas. In Table 14C
we therefore focus on three areas for additional research inthis
sub-domain that are under-examined in existing marketing
strategy research, and relevant to addressing these practical
challenges: marketing organization,integrated marketing
programs,andmarketing tactic enactment. Key research
questions in each of these areas and potential research ap-
proaches that may be useful in addressing these questions
are also identified.
Implementationprocess
Prior research in this sub-domain has been more diffuse than
in other domains. Interestingly, a number of the most pressing
challenges faced by marketers highlighted in Table 1fall in
areas that many may consider Bmanagement^versus
Bmarketing.^However, adopting such a perspective runs
two risks: (1) assuming that management researchers are will-
ing and able to answer such CMO questions and (2) assuming
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
Table 14 Future research agenda priorities
Research area Exemplar questions Exemplar data sources
Formulationcontent
Marketing strategy goals 1. Where do marketing strategy goals come from and who
sets/influences the criteria, levels and referents?
2. What vehicles (i.e., written reports, tables, charts, dashboards, etc.)
are used to communicate marketing strategy goals and how
effective are these vehicles under different conditions?
3. How do shifts in organizational emphasis (e.g., from a
consumer-centric to a multi-stakeholder model; from a less to a
more data-driven culture) impact marketing strategy goal choices?
Ethnography/Observation
Interviews and Survey
Text analysis of firm financial reports and analyst
calls
Text analysis of marketing strategy goal vehicles
(i.e., written reports, dashboards, presentations,
etc.)
Role of the
CMO/marketing func-
tion
1. What is/should be the role of the CMO/marketing function in de-
veloping marketing strategy?
2. What different combinations of CMO/marketing role type and
organizational/marketplace characteristics impact marketing strate-
gy options considered and choices made
3. How are marketing strategy choices shared within and beyond the
marketing organization to guide and co-ordinate subsequent ac-
tions?
Comparative Case Studies
Qualitative interview insight and secondary data
(e.g., marketplace, firm, organizational
characteristics)
Interview & Survey
Longer- vs. shorter-term
emphasis in marketing
strategy
1. How do/should CMOs evaluate and make strategic decisions re-
garding activities that have Shorter- vs. Longer-term horizons?
2. When should CMOs prioritize Shorter- vs. Longer-term consider-
ations in marketing strategy choices (and vice versa)?
3. To what degree does CMO compensation structure impact
prioritization of Shorter- vs. Longer-term strategies?
Observation
Interviews
Simulations/Lab experiments
Compensation Data
Analytical models
Formulationprocess
Planning Participation 1. Who is (or should be) involved in the process of developing
marketing strategy?
2. Are there different levels and types of participation across firms and
if so why and with what consequences?
3. What is the impact of cross-functional vs. marketing-only partici-
pation in affecting both strategy decisions and the effectiveness of
the implementation of intended strategy?
Ethnography/Observation
Interviews & Survey
Acquire planning process documents and text
analyze and/or code data
Planning process
design
1. What planning process design characteristics matter most in
affecting different aspects of marketing strategy decisions? Under
what internal and external conditions are different planning process
designs more or less effective and efficient?
2. When and how does multi-touch attribution modeling of past ac-
tions feed into future marketing strategy making processes?
3. When, why, and how are planning processes changed, and with
what consequences?
Interviews & Survey
Multi-method integrating marketplace data, firm
data, marketing department data, and planning
process data
Ethnography/Observation
Planning
enablers/inhibitors
1. What is the impact of spending more vs. less time in developing
marketing strategy content on implementation timing, speed and
effectiveness?
2. What financial and human resource Bbudgets^are typical in
developing marketing strategy and what is their impact on
marketing strategy content and implementation effectiveness?
3. When and how should marketing strategy goals and options/choices
be Bmarketed^internally (upwards, downwards, horizontally)? To
which other functions and under what conditions?
Marketing Budget Analysis and Marketing
Department Headcount Data
Comparative case studies
Interviews & Survey
Implementationcontent
Marketing
Organization
Structure
1. In what ways do contemporary marketing organizations differ, why
and with what consequences for marketing mix options and
choices?
2. What impact does insourcing vs. outsourcing of different marketing
mix activities have and under what conditions?
Interview & Survey
Comparative case studies
CMO responsibilities listed in professional
networking sites
Vendor client lists (e.g. market research, creative
agencies)
Integrated marketing
programs
1. How does traditional vs. digital execution and resource deployment
mix affect marketing mix outcomes and what contingencies affect
this?
2. What combinations of marketing mix tactics produce the best
outcomes under different internal and external conditions?
Primary survey data collection across firms
Within-company study across SBUs
Interviews and Surveys
Simulation studies
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
that the answers to such CMO questions will be the same as
for a general manager. These are important and likely invalid
assumptions. In Table 10D we therefore focus on three areas
for additional research in this sub-domain: marketing strategy
adaptation,strategy realization processes,andmarketing or-
ganization design. Key research questions in these three areas
and allied research approaches are also identified. While mar-
keting strategy researchers will need to be careful in framing
some of these questions, they are marketing (vs. purely man-
agement) strategy questionsand ones to which CMOs need
answers.
Hybrid
In addition to the Bwithin sub-domain^questions, we identify
two hybrid Bacross domain^areas that are either under-
researched to date but theoretically very important, or that
are both under-researched and an area of keen managerial
interest: intended versus realized marketing strategy Bgaps^
and marketingstrategy alignment. While the existence of
intended versus realized strategy gaps is conceptualized in
the management literature, empirical verification of this and
understanding why they may exist is almostcompletely absent
Ta bl e 1 4 (continued)
Research area Exemplar questions Exemplar data sources
3. What trade-offs exist in making marketing mix tactic choices (e.g.,
creativity vs. complementarity, complexity vs. enactment speed)
how do managers make such trade-offs?
Marketing tactic
enactment
1. How long does it typically take for marketing mix resource
deployment/action enactments to occur and what may affect the
time-frames involved?
2. Are gaps between intended marketing tactic decisions and their
realized enactment common?
3. What are the causes and consequences of such implementation
gaps?
Primary survey data collection across firms
Interviews
Comparative case Studies
Implementation-process
Adaptation 1. When and how are marketing program actions adjusted during
implementation? What internal and/or external factors trigger such
adjustments?
2. What is the role of performance monitoring and accountability
processes in such adjustments?
3. What are the consequences of such adjustments on different
performance outcomes and relative to planned goals and what
factors affect the impact of the adjustments made?
Observation of marketing teams across SBUs
Comparative case studies
Interviews and Survey data
Survey and Secondary performance data
Strategy Realization
Processes
1. What the key processes by which CMOs manage the
implementation of marketing strategy?
2. How are different change management processes used and with
what results when new marketing strategies are being implemented?
3. How are marketing strategy implementation tasks allocated and
assigned and how are individuals/teams held accountable for de-
livering on required tasks?
Comparative case studies
Interviews & Survey data
Survey & Secondary performance data
Ethnography/Observation
Marketing
Organization Design
1. How does marketing organization design affect marketing program
design and execution?
2. How do CMOs identify required talent for new marketing
responsibility areas to enable strategy implementation, and are some
methods more effective than others?
Ethnography/Observation
Interviews and Survey
Acquire planning process documents and text
analyze data
Hybrid
Intended-Realized
marketing strategy
gaps
1. How prevalent are intended-realized marketing strategy gaps and
what is their magnitude?
2. What factors affect the size and nature of such gaps and how do they
impact performance?
3. What causes intended-realized strategy gaps and how can any
downside impact on performance be reduced?
Text analysis of marketing strategy goals and
secondary performance data
Cross sectional interviews and surveys
Longitudinal surveys and secondary performance
data
Marketing Strategy
Alignment
1. When, how and from whom should managers seek alignment
during and after the development of marketing strategy decisions
and integrated marketing program designs?
2. What internal and external factors affect the need for and impact of
alignment from others to marketing strategy and integrated
marketing program decisions?
Comparative case studies
Cross-sectional interviews & Surveys
Single company observation of different
marketing teams
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
in marketing strategy. We identify some exemplar questions
and suggest some research approaches that may address this
key knowledge gap. In addition, Balignment^is one of the
most frequently used words in practice when managers talk
about how they seek to implement intended marketing strate-
gy. Yet empirically we have little understanding of these phe-
nomena. Thisis clearly an important gap in marketing strategy
knowledge that is highly relevant to CMOs and other
marketers.
Future research
In addition to the need to address such specific research
questions, there are also broader approaches to studying
marketing strategy research problems and questions that
may offer new opportunities for knowledge development.
For example, drawing on sociological and anthropological
theories and approaches there is a large and growing field of
research in strategic management labelled Bstrategy as
practice^that considers the Bdoing of it^including the ac-
tors involved, the perspectives they hold, and tools that they
use (e.g., Feldman and Orlikowski 2011; Whittington
2006). How might such an approach inform marketing strat-
egy research with respect to better understanding who does
it,whattheydo,howtheydoit,andhowthisshapesstrategy
decisions, their implementation and outcomes? For exam-
ple, how does what CMOs think that marketing strategy is
vary across firms and why? When, why and with what con-
sequences do CMOs use different perspectives and tools in
developing marketing strategy (e.g., complex formal plans
vs. goals and improvisation vs. simple rules)?
While some of the work on Bstrategy as practice^is similar
in nature to process research in terms of some of the process-
related marketing strategy sub-domain and hybrid research
questions highlighted earlier, it also has a stronger focus on
the individuals and groups involved. Such an individual- and
group-level focus also opens up potentially interesting new
avenues for using other theories and research approaches to
study marketing strategy. For example, psychology and be-
havioral economics researchers have shown that people have
systematic (and predictable) biases in thinking and decision-
making. Since humans (individually and collectively) make
and execute marketing strategy decisions, how do such
individual-level biases affect marketing strategy decision
making and with what consequences? For example, do
Bblindspots^exist in managersanalyses of customers and
competitors during marketing strategy making? What are the
implications for designing marketing strategy-making and ex-
ecution processes that recognize and limit such biases? Such
an individual-level decision-maker focus may also allow re-
searchers to begin to explore the Bmicro-foundations^of mar-
keting strategy such as managersstrategic thinking skills.
This research agenda and these new approaches also sug-
gest some important questions and implications for data
sources and research method approaches that can be used to
explore these areas of marketing strategy. For example, qual-
itative tools of observation are widely used in management
research on strategy. Behavioral experiments can also be used
with individual marketing strategy decision-makers.
Simulations and games can provide insights into both
individual-level and group-level marketing strategy
phenomena.
In addition, new technologies are also opening up new data
sources and analysis possibilities. For example, new text anal-
ysis tools and approaches enable new possibilities for data col-
lection of some important strategic marketing phenomena such
as market orientation. New image analysis tools are also emerg-
ing. How can such tools be applied to some of the marketing
strategy questions outlined here? There is also a rapid growth in
tools and approaches for managing and analyzing unstructured
data (Balducci and Marinova 2018). These may offer exciting
opportunities for researchers to work with firms to collate and
analyze previously untouched data sources such as presentation
content topics, calendar appointments, email threads, work-
place collaboration software content, etc. These may provide
exciting new ways to gain insights into some of the problems
and questions we identify in our new research agenda.
Conclusion
Marketing strategy lies at the conceptual heart of the strategic
marketing field. It is also central to marketing practice and the
area within which many of the most pressing challenges for
marketers arise. Using a new conceptualization of the domain
of the marketing strategy construct as a lens, we assess the
current state of marketing strategy research. We uncover im-
portant challenges to marketing strategy research but also nu-
merous opportunities for developing important and highly rel-
evant new marketing strategy knowledge. The research agen-
da we develop provides opportunities for researchers to devel-
op new theory, establish clear relevance, and contribute to
improving practice. Since many of these cannot be adequately
addressed with current publicly available secondary data, re-
searchers need to become more eclectic and creative in their
research designs, including emerging new technologies for
data capture and analysis. Correspondingly, Editors,
Associate Editors, and reviewers will need to become more
open, eclectic, and skilled in evaluating such research designs.
While there may be institutional obstacles in doing so, our
research suggests the payoffs can be enormousthe number
and importance of unanswered marketing strategy questions
and opportunities to impact practice has arguably never been
greater.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.
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... How can we then understand a firm's value-creating marketing activities? Morgan et al. (2019) argue that we can understand everyday marketing activities within firms by drawing on practice theory (Reckwitz, 2002;Schatzki, 1996Schatzki, , 2019, which has become increasingly important perspective across business disciplines for studying everyday activities (Nicolini, 2011). Practice theory suggests that all types of activities may be understood in terms of practices, which are organized activities that people do on a regular basis (Reckwitz, 2002;Schatzki, 1996). ...
... Practice theory suggests that all types of activities may be understood in terms of practices, which are organized activities that people do on a regular basis (Reckwitz, 2002;Schatzki, 1996). While we follow Morgan et al's (2019) suggestion to draw on practice theory, we also note that practice theory has largely neglected value, while marketing works suggest value to be an outcome of marketing practices (Arnould, 2014). Therefore, the general understanding of practices within practice theory needs to be cross-fertilized with the marketing discipline's emphasis on value. ...
... Practice theory in management, markets-as-practice, and consumer research Practice theory has been extensively used to study activity in several business disciplines (Nicolini, 2011), and here we isolate three research fields that are adjacent to marketing. First, we focus on strategy-as-practice (hereafter SAP), which is a vibrant research stream in management (Golsorkhi et al., 2015) that according to Morgan et al. (2019) can provide the basis for articulating a practice theory research agenda for strategic marketing. Second, markets-as-practice research has drawn on practice theory to understand the socio-technical construction of markets and how marketers shape markets through their activities (Kjellberg and Helgesson, 2007a). ...
Article
This paper draws on practice theory and a review of practice theoretical studies in marketing, management, consumer, and markets research to advance our knowledge of marketing as a value-creating activity within firms. Building on previous research, the paper contributes to the literature by advancing a Marketing-as-Practice (MAP) framework based on three key concepts: marketing practices, marketing practitioners, and marketing praxis. The structures and interrelationships between these key concepts are also outlined. The framework can be used to study value-creating marketing activities within firms as well as between firms and their stakeholders which is in line with the American Marketing Association’s definition of marketing. This paper also contributes by presenting a MAP research agenda to guide future research on value-creating marketing activity.
... A marketing strategy is an organizational strategy that involves inputs, outputs, and environmental factors that can affect the planning of an organization's marketing strategy and the relationship between those factors (Morgan, Whitler, Feng, & Chari, 2019). Marketing strategies are also important to running a successful business (Bobalo, 2018;Morgan et al., 2019;Voorveld, Araujo, Bernritter, Rietberg, & Vliegenthart, 2018). ...
... A marketing strategy is an organizational strategy that involves inputs, outputs, and environmental factors that can affect the planning of an organization's marketing strategy and the relationship between those factors (Morgan, Whitler, Feng, & Chari, 2019). Marketing strategies are also important to running a successful business (Bobalo, 2018;Morgan et al., 2019;Voorveld, Araujo, Bernritter, Rietberg, & Vliegenthart, 2018). The marketing strategy process consists of two parts: the strategy formation part and the implementation part of the strategy plan (Morgan et al., 2019). ...