The 4Ps… Most marketers have heard of them at some time. It’s almost a cliché – like SWOT and PESTEL, we all know them and some of us teach/train them…
Many students (and even lecturers/trainers) attribute the 4Ps to Philip Kotler or some other modern-day Guru of marketing, but in fact the credit goes to E. Jerome McCarthy; in 1960 he coined the term The Marketing Mix comprising: Product, Price, Place and Promotion
Professor Kotler has been a champion of the 4Ps in his numerous influential marketing books. In 1981, Booms and Bitner proposed a model of 7 Ps, adding Process, People and Physical evidence, to apply specifically to services marketing.
But in the ‘real world’, how often do we marketers really think about the full marketing mix? Indeed, how many marketers actually work across all 4 Ps?
Today most marketing departments (and marketers) are largely restricted to the last P (Promotion), which is not even so much a ‘P’ as an ‘MC’ – Marketing Communications.
It seems that in many cases, modern marketers have surrendered control of Product, Price and Place to their colleagues, e.g. Finance, Sales, Distribution and Manufacturing. With the added complexity and fragmentation which Digital has added and increasing pressure on resources, many senior marketers would no doubt claim that ‘MC’ alone is enough of a job to keep them very busy. And yet as the champions of the customer within the organisation, shouldn’t we marketers also be closely involved with the other 3 Ps: Product, Price and Place?
I would argue for a holistic role for marketing in the digital age, including both offline and digital and encompassing the complete marketing process, not just Marketing Communications. Modern Marketers should own the Marketing Strategy and be the experts at using the web for market research, for product development and also fulfilment/ order processing. Marketers are also best placed to advise the business on the ecommerce sales process and online pricing strategies.
We’re all familiar with the disruptive effects of the Internet on Product, Price and Place and the resulting opportunities and threats. Marketers need to plan and execute building of effective websites and apps, we need to understand digital analytics. Social and mobile present new opportunities – and threats, increasingly impacting everything marketers plan and do.
Product: yes sure. You may turn up for your first day as Marketing Director and be greeted by the CEO – Hi, welcome aboard. Here’s a tube of the toothpaste we make. Please make sure we sell at least X million of these next year. You may need this £ Y Million; please don’t spend it all at once… But doesn’t the organisation really need a true CMO rather than just a Head of Comms? The best marketers will have strong opinions on the product; indeed, in financial services the product may need to be formulated (effectively created) and marketers can certainly help. Marketing’s ideas on making new products which the customer actually wants may not always be sought. But they should be welcomed because Marketing understands the customer.
Price: some of your potential customers don’t buy from you because they believe your prices are too expensive. Others are delighted with your product/ service and would willingly pay more. Hence the need for Pricing Strategy. This should not be left to Finance and/or Sales.

In the above toothpaste example, the CEO and CFO might have had a coffee and agreed the wholesale price (based on ‘cost-plus’ say). The Sales Director might be meeting with Key Accounts to suggest their selling prices. Again, Marketing is asked to generate demand so that the sales targets can be achieved. However, Marketers, with our access to market research data and increasingly insights derived from analytics. understand the benefits which customers derive from the underlying product features. We should have a good idea exactly what customers will pay for. And how much. Professor Kotler rightly preaches about ‘creating ad capturing value’. As marketers, we need to be the champions of value-based-pricing and assertive in sharing our understanding and recommendations with the rest of the organisation; even if vested interests sometimes mean they are not immediately welcomed!
Place: something of a fake P, in that it should really be ‘D’ for Distribution. In the digital age, many products are ordered and some even ‘delivered’ via the Internet: no warehousing, pallets, no trucks, no scheduling of drivers or freight forwarding admin. So, ‘Place’ translates to ease of access; can the product be downloaded and installed seamlessly and efficiently? This is after all not only user experience (UX) but indeed customer experience (CX). Again, Marketing should have a big input into this. Ecommerce is all about ‘Place’
Promotion: yes, indeed we love this bit: as regards marketing communications channels, we still have all the old stuff (TV, newspapers and magazines, radio, cinema, outdoor/posters, POS and direct mail) and also all the new stuff (SEO, PPC, social media, email, online display+++). However: how many companies have truly succeeded in integrating their communications? Work in progress in many cases I would suggest…

I firmly believe that modern marketers deserve a seat at the ‘top table’, after all, every business should be built around customers and we marketers are the customer experts!
However, in order to justify membership of the C-Suite, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) needs to remember McCarthy and actively engage with, and add value to, the organisation’s operations across all the four Ps – not just one.

So why settle for a career as a “Single P marketer”? – we’re too good for that!

By Mike Berry