Marketing Strategy: Are the 4Ps of Marketing Obsolete? Since the dawn of marketing time, the 4 P’s formed the nexus of the marketing strategy we teach students and if you ever took marketing you’ll recall these elements are: product, price, promotion, and place (OK, distribution, but we needed another P). Of course, marketing is only about 75 years old (born of Economics and Psychology which is some really strange inter-species relationship) so there’s a certain fluidity in our theories. And, the 4 P’s, or the marketing mix, have come under attack many times.

The newest competitor is a different kind of 4 P’s — the 4 P’s of a Fully Lively Business, introduced by John Janetsch of Duct Tape Marketing. While I hate the name, I think there’s a lot to recommend the P’s introduced — Passion, Personality, Positioning and Purpose. However, I don’t think there’s any real threat to the original 4 P’s — not that I think the original 4P’s are all that great.

The 4 P’s of Marketing and Beyond

The concept of a marketing mix was introduced by Neil Borden in 1953 and the 4 P’s construction introduced by Dr. McCarthy in 1960 — and still form the organizational foundation of marketing.

But, have the 4 P’s become obsolete, as proposed by Mr. Janetsch in the following quote?

In fact, the very definition of marketing has changed dramatically enough to render the original Four P’s somewhat useless as a foundational marketing and business strategy concept.

Well, let’s take a look at the new definition of marketing to see if, in fact, the old 4P’s of marketing are obsolete.

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

There’s a lot of similarity in this definition and the 4 P’s of marketing — creating offerings looks a lot like product; communicating offerings looks a lot like promotion; delivering offerings looks a lot like place; and exchanging offerings looks a lot like price.

So, while the 4 P’s still fit the definition, are they obsolete for other reasons?

Other Constructions of the Marketing Mix

Of course, Mr. Janetsch isn’t the first person to come up with an alternative view of the marketing mix. There are the 4 C’s (consumer wants and needs, convenience, cost, and communication), designed to put the consumer in a more central position in the marketing constellation, and the 7 P’s (the original 4 P’s plus people, process and physical evidence), as reflected in the picture above. And, these are but a few of the alternate constructions of the marketing mix.

The 4 P’s and Marketing Strategy

The 4 P’s of marketing were never meant to reflect the whole that is marketing. They form the marketing mix — controllable elements in the organizations marketing quiver. These are the elements we can manipulate to meet customers’ needs and respond to competitive pressures. And, while the existing 4 P’s are not the only way of looking at building marketing strategy, they’re as good as any for organizing our marketing tactics. They’re also very flexible, recognizing that different consumers buy for different reasons and different industries operate in different ways.

Mr. Janetsch claims:

Engagement, connection and story are the new forms of promotional art. Price is a function of value and place has become bytes and ether more often than a shelf or an office.

While this is certainly true for some products and some markets, it’s not true for everyone for every product. As a consumer, I don’t always want to engage with every brand — it’s too exhausting. As a business, I don’t want to use storytelling in every context, as it loses it’s efficacy if everyone is doing it. And, MOST products are still bought from store shelves, not electronically.

Moreover, the original 4 P’s still work in these contexts. Value underscores pricing in the 4 P’s. Promotion includes social media, as well as traditional media — and using the 2 synergistically likely has a greater impact than either one separately. Product revolves around solving consumer problems. And, distribution includes electronic delivery, web design issues, and other online delivery methods, as well as traditional distribution methods.

So, I don’t think the 4 P’s of marketing are perfect, nor are they the sum total of marketing, but they still work as a way to think about competing in today’s marketing places. What do you think?

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