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The Four Ps of Marketing: Why the Marketing Mix Is Still Relevant

Lisa Manthei
Lisa Manthei

The marketing mix is a tool used to help brands understand what elements must be combined in order to meet their marketing goals and objectives. Ultimately, this includes the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.

The evolution of the digital age has caused the standard methods and practices of nearly every industry to change and grow to work within this new paradigm, and marketing is certainly no exception. In fact, the marketing industry has arguably seen the most benefit from the growth of digital.

Today’s marketers have access to a wealth of information and access through new tools for customer profiling, artificial intelligence, and response analysis to name just a few. Add to that Big Data, or the ability to collect, analyze, and act on enormous amounts of customer and product information, and the idea of providing reliable, predictive one-to-one marketing becomes very real.

The core tenants of marketing have stood the test of time. The Internet age has caused some changes in the way that marketers work, meaning revising old marketing processes, concepts, and priorities, and then reconstructing them into forms that work better and more effectively in this new world of communications. But through it all, those tenants and fundamentals remain the same.

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The 4 Ps of Marketing

The 4 Ps of marketing include product, price, place, and promotion. These are the key elements that must be united to effectively foster and promote a brand’s unique value, and help it stand out from the competition.

Jerome McCarthy first proposed the modern form of the 4 Ps in his 1960 textbook, Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. These elements have since provided a standard method to describing marketing programs for over 50 years.

But, what makes the 4 Ps of marketing so important that they have withstood the test of time, including the growth of the internet age? Below we break down each P, and reexamine the ways that each has remained critical to marketing.

Product

A product refers to any item that intends to satisfy the needs and wants of a target customer. It can be a tangible good, such a clothing item or piece of software, or intangible, like a service or experience (think legal services or a cruise).

Marketers must always have a clear concept of what their products stand for, and what differentiates them from the competition, before they can be marketed successfully. Today, the internet can be considered either the medium for purchase, via e-commerce, or the product itself, such as a social media service. Because of this, it’s vital that marketers fully understand the product they are selling, how it meets the needs of their target customer, and what makes their product stand above the competition.

Price

First comes the product, and immediately after comes a determination of its value among target audiences. Pricing strategy is an art and a science, in that it involves both market data and careful calculations, as well as skillfully balancing between pricing that is too high or too low, and understanding how skewing either way might damage the brand.

Price not only refers to the monetary value of a product, but also the time or effort the customer is willing to expend to acquire it. Determining this will be a critical factor in revenue for the brand as it will impact profit, supply, demand, and how much marketers should spend on a promotion or marketing strategy. This, in and of itself, is why this ‘P’ is one of the most important. If a product is priced too high or too low, the product – and brand – could fail.

Place

The internet age has introduced new challenges when it comes to reaching your customers. Place refers to providing customers access to the product, and it also calls into play convenience for the customer. Marketing, through digital means or otherwise, is about putting the right product, in the right place, at the right price, at the right time, in front of the customer.

Some key questions that marketers need to answer include:

  • Where are target customers shopping?
  • Are they using desktops or mobile devices?
  • Are they shopping for similar products online, or in brick-and-mortar stores?
  • Where are they engaging on social media?

Even though transactions with your company may take place exclusively in-store or online, customers likely interact with your brand or your specific products in a variety of places. It’s important to consider how each of these places influences the overall customer experience.

Promotion

Now, how to make an audience aware of the product? Within the framework of the four Ps, promotion refers primarily to marketing communications.

These communications use channels such as public relations, advertising, direct marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, or sales promotions; think of it as any way marketers disseminate relevant product information to their target customers.

Promotion is the area that has arguably seen the greatest growth and change as a result of the digital age. With the exceptional access offered by B2C marketing solutions, marketers can now promote products easier, more effectively, and with more personalization than ever before, thus leading to greater outcomes and ever-increasing expectations.

Final Thoughts

While today’s marketing environment has changed significantly since the 4 Ps were established in 1960, the foundation of marketing has not. By continuing to focus on the 4 Ps and how to use them within the framework of the digital age, marketers can be successful no matter the circumstances.

There may be new methods made possible with these types of technological advancements, but old concepts still ring true.

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