The “5th P” in the Marketing Mix: People

Developing and maintaining a strong brand for a service is significantly more challenging than developing and maintaining a strong brand for a product. Why? Because a service is less tangible, more ephemeral—and often involves multiple “touchpoints” that really determine the “brand experience.”

What makes a strong brand? Recognizability. Performance. Consistency.

When we’re talking about a product—a carbonated beverage, for example – recognizability can come through a logo and design, performance comes through the taste of the beverage, and consistency is an element of the manufacturing process.

But, when we’re talking about a service, the process of brand management becomes much more complex. Consider a healthcare system brand, for instance.

  • While recognizability is impacted by logos and design elements, there are other factors to consider. If you practice out of an office or a clinic, your physical location and how it looks, how it’s furnished, etc., will impact your recognizability and your brand. Call center representatives, retail clerks, service counter staff are all key components of the brand—including how they dress, what they say, and how effectively they interact with the customer.
  • How is a healthcare organization’s performance defined? By the physician? The registration clerk? The distance from the parking lot to the front door? The cleanliness of the facility? The magazines in the waiting room? The delivery of care (and how do we, as non-clinical consumers, measure that?)? Yes—all of these things, and more! For healthcare and other service organizations (which would include restaurants, retail stores, etc.), performance is a multi-faceted process with multiple touchpoints and multiple opportunities to either strengthen or weaken the brand.
  • And, finally, consistency. The greatest challenge of all. While product consistency can certainly be challenging, there are more tangibles to deal with in the product arena. The challenge for service marketers in managing a brand involves managing human inputs and human actions. Significantly more challenging than ensuring that the right physical ingredients are combined in the right proportions in the right environmental conditions to produce a consistent result.

These same principles apply to any type of service business that relies on people to deliver the “product”—and the experience.

It often comes as a surprise to those in service businesses that managing the marketing process—and, specifically, the branding process, involves a significant amount of focus on managing people—which could well represent the “5th P” in the marketing mix. Developing standards and processes, communicating those standards and processes, ensuring consistency in such things, for example, how the phone is answered, “uniforms,” service standards, hand-offs between departments, how employees talk about each other, etc.

Too often as we focus on other important elements of the brand—like the logo, the name, the “company colors,” the design templates, etc., etc., in the service arena we have a tendency to forget about what is most important about the brand (recognizability, performance and consistency)—the people.

What steps are you taking to ensure your focus is as specifically on the “people” element of the 5 P’s as it is on product/service, price, place, and promotion?


About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results at reasonable rates.

In addition to content creation we specialize in helping B2B clients raise awareness and drive website traffic through a strong LinkedIn and Twitter presence.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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