The 4 Ps have been the axioms of marketing for decades, but are they still relevant in the digital age? Sort of.
Product, price, promotion and place provide a framework for marketing plans – what are you selling, at what price, with what kind of promotion and through what channels. It is hard to get more basic than that.
However, the explosion of communication channels and the erosion of traditional media channels has made marketing these days anything but basic.
Jonathan Bacon, writing for Marketing Week, suggests the 4Ps have become more like guideposts than roadways to marketing success. He quotes one marketer as saying, “Marketing is no longer about what businesses want to tell their customers, it is about businesses listening to their customers and responding in a way that offers a meaningful solution to them.” Customer relationship management doesn’t exactly fit into the 4Ps as “promotion.”
Bacon notes that while “price” continues to play a role in customer decision-making, marketers must demonstrate why a product offers “value.”
Matt Barwell, consumer management officer for a beverage company, tells Bacon he has added two of his own Ps – purpose and penetration. Brands need purpose to exhibit consistency in product quality and their brand promise, which is emerging as a critical differentiator. Penetration is essential to the success of any marketing strategy, which translates into putting marketing messages in channels where intended customers are watching.
Ignoring the 4Ps can be risky, Bacon says, as many brands have discovered by chasing, but not catching fast-moving digital crowds. It’s like driving in a strange land without a roadmap.
The solution lies in adapting the 4Ps to the contours of a specific product’s shape or a brand personality. Offering free samples in a grocery store is different, but not that much different than providing samples to an influential blogger who will write a review. Both are promotions, and both seek to build a relationship.
New technology, including artificial intelligence and virtual reality, will profoundly alter the marketing landscape of the future. And that doesn’t take into account disruptive products and services. Who would have imagined Amazon in the food space or SpaceX in the colonization of Mars business? It will definitely make marketing even more challenging.
The 4Ps represent the established wisdom of marketing. Success these days doesn’t require rejecting 4P-principles. Instead, the 4Ps can be a compass of what to watch for in the marketplace so you don’t convince yourself that a low price, a clever ad or lots of followers on Facebook will take you to the promised land.
Marketing principles still apply. They simply have become a whole lot more complicated to apply.