Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are the 4P's Still Relevant for Today's Marketers

One of the most enduring concepts in marketing is the idea of the marketing mix. The concept became popular in the 1960's after Neil H. Borden published an article in the Journal of Advertising Research. Borden's original marketing mix model contained twelve components. E. Jerome McCarthy later grouped these ingredients into four categories that became universally known as the 4P's of marketing - Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.

In their seminal textbook, Principles of Marketing, Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong define marketing mix as "the set of tactical marketing tools - Product, Price, Promotion, and Place - that the firm blends to produce the response it wants in the target market."

Given the profound changes in marketing over the past few decades, it's legitimate to ask whether a fifty-year-old model of marketing is still relevant and valuable for marketers today. My answer to that question is emphatically yes, provided that marketers keep two important things in mind.

The 4P's Include More Than the Terms Normally Suggest

The terms used in the 4P model are category labels that encompass more than the literal or common meaning of the terms. For example:

  • Product - The Product component encompasses both products and services, as well as complex "solutions" that consist of both products and services. The term Product really refers to whatever a company offers to the market, and several marketing thought leaders and practitioners have suggested that "offering" or "solution" would be a more accurate term for this component of the marketing mix.
  • Promotion - In the 4P model, Promotion has always encompassed all of the ways that a company communicates with potential buyers. Therefore, Promotion has always included advertising, direct response marketing, personal selling, and public relations. Today, Promotion would also encompass content marketing, inbound marketing, and social media marketing even though these tactics emphasize the use of "non-promotional" content.
The 4P's Describe What Marketers Can Control, Not What They Must Achieve

The 4P model speaks from the perspective of the selling company. It has always been designed to describe factors or conditions that the selling company controls. The 4P model has never attempted to describe what is required to be successful from the customer's perspective. To use a food example, the 4P's are like a list of available ingredients that chefs can use to create a variety of dishes in a variety of ways, but the 4P's do not provide the specific recipes for dishes that diners will like.

To understand what is required to achieve success with customers, you need another model or tool. One that I've found to be useful for this purpose is the "4A" model of marketing developed by Jagdish N. Sheth and Rajendra S. Sisodia. The major components of the 4A model are Acceptability, Affordability, Accessibility, and Awareness. Each of these major components has two dimensions. I'll be discussing the 4A model in greater detail in a future post. For now, the diagram below shows the four major components and the two dimensions of each component.

The marketing landscape has changed in dramatic and fundamental ways over the past five decades. However, the core objectives of marketing and the elements of the marketing mix are much the same today as they were fifty years ago. So, as long as the 4P's are defined and used appropriately, they're still relevant and valuable for today's marketers.

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