The “4 Ps” of marketing laid to rest

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The “4 Ps” of marketing laid to rest

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In 1960, E. Jerome McCarthy conceived the well-known marketing framework – the 4Ps: Product, Place, Price, Promotion. In the era of consumer packaged goods and print-broadcast media the four Ps framework provided an elegantly simple model for building a marketing strategy. Fifty-five years later, however, the 4Ps framework can no longer do the heavy lifting. In its place is a new framework, better suited to the realities of a networked market.

Why the 4P framework worked

The 4P framework (graphic below) worked for three reasons

  1. Its mantra is marketing – Make what you can sell; don’t merely sell what you can make.
  2. It embraced the true notion of the value proposition – not the fifty-words-or-less pithy summary that value proposition workshops focus upon, but the nature of how a buyer perceives value: attributes of an offering; its price and terms; where, when and how it is made available; and the complex – and expensive – methods by which it is made known, its image cemented, and its value conveyed to target buyers.
  3. Memorable frameworks have no more than 7 components – the maximum that humans deal well with.

It’s a simple model for a marketing strategy: five controllable components – a target market(s), and the mix of the 4Ps to address it – and an operating context of six uncontrollable factors.

Why the 4P framework doesn’t work today

The internet and mobile devices are the new normal:

  • Promotion is no longer the purview of big media and salespeople. The task of product communications has shifted from salespeople to online-savvy buyers: specs, competitive alternatives, references and buyer ratings are available for the asking. Seller-buyer interaction is now a given, not an exception. It is real-time and visible to all, having evolved into Interaction, Communication and Engagement.
  • Service and brand reputation are uncompromising table stakes. For service, look no further than Yelp and Amazon ratings. The swift response of Amazon, Wal-mart, EBay and others to remove confederate flag merchandise in response to the church shootings in South Carolina attests to the power of brand.
  • “Place” is no longer bricks-and-mortar, and mail-order. Desktops and mobile devices are where and how we buy, and how we consume value, e.g. Netflix. The reality is Physical and Online distribution.

A new marketing model

A contemporary view of marketing – not just what the marketing department does, but how the firm aligns with buyers – is built on one theme: value.

Whereas fifty years ago marketing strategy could be constructed on a foundation of four tactical components, the work of crafting suitable strategies today demands seven: the “7 Ts” of marketing strategy:

  1. Product: the offering itself, be it shoes or user data from a social site.
  2. Service: the expectation of near-continuous availability of use
  3. Brand: reputation, and the solemn promise of adherence to its values
  4. Interaction, Communication and Engagement (ICE): the means by which buyers become aware, learn, evaluate, contribute and shape the nature – and value – of the offering. (Communication for short)
  5. Physical and Online Distribution (POD): the methods by which the offering reaches buyers and can be consumed. (Distribution for short)
  6. Price: what is exchanged (usually money) in return for value
  7. Incentives: tactics that create a new purchase, increase purchase frequency, or lead to a higher price-value purchase

An illustration

Below are two general examples of combined go-to-market and management frameworks. The “7 Ts” of marketing strategy are shown in green.

This is a go-to-marketing framework developed for a B2B client that relies heavily on the use of personal selling and VARs. Its customers number in the hundreds, with average selling price topping $100K. Note the emphasis on lead generation and physical selling.

This illustration depicts a go-to-market strategy for a B2C firm offering subscription software and devices to tens of thousands of customers, with average selling price under $300. Social media and retail/e-tail merchandising are dominant here.

Bottom Line

Limitations of the “4Ps of marketing” have put the classic framework on the back shelf. An expanded view, which extends the 4Ps to a framework of 7 Ts is better suited to planning strategies for an online, interactive and real-time world.

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Written by Michael

Michael Douglas has held senior positions in sales, marketing and general management since 1980, and spent 20 years at Sun Microsystems, most recently as VP, Global Marketing. His experience includes start-ups, mid-market and enterprises. He's currently VP Enterprise Go-to-Market for NVIDIA.

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Hey Michael!
The 4 Ps of marketing have been used for decades. But for modern B2B companies, they may be an outdated model.