Are the “4 P’s” Still Relevant? I think so.

The concept of the “4 P’s” was first put forward in the 1960’s and still used in many circles today, although from time to time a new “marketing mix” will be proposed by some marketing expert to replace this classic formula. To me, the basic principles are still sound and still apply despite the massive changes in the marketing landscape that have occurred since the 1960’s, not the least of which is the advent of technology and social media.
    I was interviewed for an article recently on the relevance of the “4 P’s” which caused me to spend some time pondering my beliefs. All in all, I’m still a *big* believer in the relevancy of the traditional 4 P’s of marketing in today’s marketing landscape. I use the concepts in my work consulting with small businesses on their marketing communication needs, in training programs for business professionals and in marketing and communication classes I teach at the local university.
    One reason I like the concept is that it helps us move beyond the common tendency to think that “marketing” = “promotion,” or advertising. Face it. When most people think of marketing what they think about is advertising — using social media to reach prospects, running an ad, putting up a billboard…
    The marketing mix, or “4 P’s,” helps to keep us grounded in the reality that marketing is much more than promotion. It takes the “4 P’s,” operating in unison, to achieve the most significant marketing impact. Specifically:
  • Product – whether tangible or intangible (e.g. professional services), product is clearly an important element of the marketing mix. The product must meet the needs of an identified target market, consistently and represent value in the minds of those targeted consumers.  Importantly, for service organizations (e.g. health care practices, consultants, etc.) the “product” also includes all of the service elements that surround that product experience which can become quite complex. Think about your last trip to a doctor or dentist and how you would define the “product.” It involves a myriad of actions and interactions with a number of people to deliver the experience.
  • Price – when I talk about price I talk about both out-of-pocket cost to the consumer as well as “psychic” cost. For instance, when I worked in health care marketing I encouraged marketing staff and providers to consider the psychic costs of seeking health care services – e.g. fear, waiting time, etc. It’s also important to think of price from the standpoint of the end user. Again, in health care, this can become a very complex consideration as not all consumers pay the same for the health care services they consume depending on whether/not they have insurance and what they pay for that insurance.
  • Place – I generally speak of place in terms of the physical location for bricks and mortar types of operations, as well as “access” – how easy it is to get to your product, which has relevance for online transactions as well. Anything you can do to remove the barriers to accessing your products and services whether  in traditional settings or online, will boost your marketing success. Conversely, everything you do that serves to impact or complicate the buying experience will detract from your marketing success.
  • Promotion – again, this is the focus most people tend to have when they talk about “marketing” – much of my effort with clients involves encouraging them to make sure they’re paying attention to *all* of the 4 P’s before they get to Promotion. Promotion is, of course, important. But before you start telling people about what you have to offer you need to make sure it is something they want (product), at a price point that increases demand (price) and is readily and easily available to them (place).
The best advertising campaign in the world will not move a poor quality product, priced too high for the market and not conveniently available in ample supply when customers want it. Of course, the corollaries of this are also true:
  • The best price in the world will not move a product that is of poor quality, unavailable and not promoted to a target market.
  • A high quality product, at an appropriate price-point and promoted effectively can not sell if it can’t be accessed or is not available.
  • A readily available, poor quality product that everybody knows about will not sell if it does not represent value to the market.
So you see, it is the combination of the elements of the marketing mix that really moves products (and services). And that’s what I like about the model. It’s a simple way to illustrate that marketing is more than running an ad or setting up a Twitter account. Marketing is an organizational function, not the responsibility of a department. It involves every aspect of the product/service experience, working in concert, to provide the ultimate customer experience. And it is that ultimate experience that will not only keep those customers coming back for more, but that will prompt them to “spread the word” about their experiences with others.
    That is what marketing is all about.
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