Throughout my many years of teaching strategic marketing planning, the bedrock of the planning structure has been a formalised approach encapsulated by SOSTAC® (PR Smith, 1995). This essentially argues that planning of ANY kind (so not just strategic marketing planning) should be a structured approach, based on carrying out the following steps:

  • Situation Analysis (where are we now?)
  • Objectives (where do we want to go?)
  • Strategy (how do we get there i.e. the longer term decisions)
  • Tactics (the details of strategy typically 12 months e.g. the marketing mix)
  • Action (the details of tactics – who does what, when, processes and systems)
  • Control and measurements.

Smith himself is an avid fan of this structured approach and has numerous publications to his name that have developed the approach in order to accommodate contemporary developments. For example, his latest book SOSTAC The Guide to your Perfect Digital Marketing Plan underlines that this is not some archaic concept that has necessarily outlived its useful selling date.


Introducing M3 – A New Strategic Marketing Planning Model

You may well ask where is all this going?  Well, a new model, the Modern Marketing Model (M3) has been put forward by Ashley Friedlein, a leading marketing writer and consultant. He argues that “Organisations need to adopt a new model to blend classic and digital marketing…and that the increase in new channels and technologies has dramatically changed the environment which marketers operate” and as a result, the way marketing is taught, understood and operates needs to change. The major changes put forward by Friedlein in this model are detailed below.

Simplifying Strategic Marketing Planning

The model simplifies the strategic marketing planning process down to 4 stages i.e. strategy, analysis, planning and execution. The argument seems to be those decisions regarding marketing strategy, so how is marketing going to help deliver on the business strategy, is the starting point for marketing planning. This is where I immediately struggle with the model because I don’t understand how you can develop a marketing strategy until you’ve carried out the analysis to understand the context within which that strategy would be delivered. So, I’m off to a sticky start with the model.

Limited Analysis?

The second stage, ‘analysis’ argues that understanding the degree of market orientation, customer insight and brand values should be the constituent parts of the situation analysis, as within the SOSTAC model.  But what I can’t glean from what’s written is whether this is ONLY what should be analysed? McDonald (2016) argues that there are many areas of the organisations environment which should be analysed, depending on circumstance, which he broadly categorises as either part of the external or internal environments. My query here is about the potential limits of the analysis proposed by Friedlin.

Planning Stage

The third stage, ‘planning’, takes us onto more familiar ground discussing segmentation, targeting and positioning, essential elements of any strategic marketing plan. There seems; however, to be no meaningful discussion about competitive advantage, an omission which the likes of Porter (1995) and Davidson (1997) might take issue with. There’s also no overt discussion about competitive strategy, another topic close to Kotler’s (1996) heart.

Moving Away from 7P’s

The final ‘execution’ stage, moves away from the traditional 7P’s (McCarthy 1960) and the 4Cs (Lauterborn 1990), and instead focusing on customer experience, distribution, promotion, data and measurement. I suspect that most marketers would agree that the traditional approach to marketing tactics needs an overhaul. The process of tactical planning frequently feels that content is being “shoehorned” into an obsolete structure.

Clearly the focus on customer experience has to be a good thing and encapsulated within this can be discussions about value (pricing), service levels (people, process and physical evidence) and the product, so this focus on the customer has to be consistent with the wider discussions about the organisation adopting a marketing orientation.

This idea of focusing less on the 7P’s and more on the customer experience also links very nicely into an excellent article by Harvard Business Review The trouble with CMOs . This discusses the troubled relationship between CEOs and CMOs and explores why CMOs have the highest turnover in the C-suite. It argues that CMOs can have a direct effect on the way customers might engage with the firm; however, the role is often limited to marketing communications with no/little responsibility for wider issues such as pricing, product launches and generally building a marketing orientation. Maybe if marketers stopped talking about the 7Ps but instead focused on customer experience, the role of marketing within a typical organisation might be redefined?


In conclusion, while the M3 model represents a timely update of traditional marketing planning; there are queries about its structure and some omissions. However, it does recognise that tactical planning has moved on and, that maybe it’s time we should stop talking about the 7Ps and focus much more on the Customer Experience.

Perhaps my only problem is coming up with a similarly easy to remember mnemonic which captures customer experience, distribution, promotion and measurement. So far all I’ve come up with is CECDPM, which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue!

This article was written by Tim Lane, a Course Level Manager with the Oxford College of Marketing.

If you are interested in Strategic Marketing Planning, then you may want to consider the CIM Diploma in Professional Marketing qualification. It is ideal for professionals who want to develop their practical knowledge in marketing as well as better understand strategic marketing planning. For more information, call one of our course advisors on +44 (0)1865 515255 or email