The 4 Ps: Is the traditional marketing mix still relevant?

Are the 4Ps still relevant to today’s digital marketplace? We take a look at how the marketing mix applies today.

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The 4 Ps – collectively known as ‘the Marketing Mix’ – have been taught to marketing and business students as the 4 main focus areas for a effective marketing plan since the 1960s:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Place

But several decades have now passed and advertising has come a long way since the corporate offices of the Mad Men era, so with the growing influence of digitalisation, social media and access to big data, are these 4 pillars of marketing now a thing of the past?

Let’s take a look at each ‘P’ and uncover how they can still be applied to marketing today:

1. Product

This ‘P’ is certainly the most logical place to start, and still should be. Marketers need to have a clear concept of what their product stands for, why their target audience needs it, and what differentiates it from the competition.

However, while the basic principles remain the same, this element of the marketing mix has become far more complex and there are now several factors to consider at this stage, including:

Ethical practice
As a society, we are seeing more and more consumers showing an increasing interest in the ethical practices of the brands they buy from. This is certainly something that companies now have to consider when producing goods, as consumers will now seek information about the origins of a product and the environmental impact of manufacturing processes involved. In a study by Elementar UK, over half of participants claimed they would not buy a product again if they found out it had been mislabelled, so there is a lot at stake for companies who are still keeping unethical practices underwraps.

Experience economy
The rise of the experience economy has meant that, to today’s consumer, the product itself is no longer enough. There are so many comparable alternatives available, creating a brand experience, attractive culture and community associated with your product that will add value beyond the product itself vital to achieve an advantage over your competitors.

2. Price

First comes the product, then it’s time to name your price.

Now, people value their time as much as their cash, therefore beating your competitors on price alone is not enough; price means more than just the RRP of the product itself. Customers will ask themselves:

  • How much is delivery?
  • Do I get a discount on a complementary product with you? (e.g. a laptop with a cheaper case or leather cleaning kit for a new sofa.)
  • Is paying a high delivery cost worth getting the product a couple of days earlier?
  • If I buy from this provider, is there something else I can buy from them too to qualify for free delivery? Or should I pick a different brand that I know I’ll buy more from?
  • What is the refund/returns policy? Is it going to end up costing me money to return it if I change my mind?

The price is right… or is it?
Pricing strategy is an art and a science, particularly in today’s global market where there are often several similar or cheaper alternatives at consumers’ fingertips. It’s balancing act – If a product is mispriced, the brand could suffer serious losses; price your goods too low and you’ll be hampering your profits, too high and customers will just buy elsewhere.

It’s also important to remember that getting the selling price right is not just critical for revenue, it will also directly impact how much should be spent on promotion.

Price increases
Transparency is becoming increasingly important to consumers, and with so much live data from IoT devices like smartphones and tablets, consumers can and will quickly spot if there are any price inconsistencies across a brand’s channels. Therefore, if you do have to increase prices (perhaps your raw material costs have increased, for example) then in fact, alerting your audience can be a good thing. Being honest and offering up information about price increases to your customers will be far better received. In fact, you may even gain customers on the basis of your honest, customer-centric approach.

3. Promotion

So you’ve got your awesome product, the price is right, the next step is to get out there and spread the word.

Many would argue that promotion is the ‘P’ that has advanced the most, largely as a result of digitalisation and the wonderful world wide web. Promotion has always been about how you communicate to your target audience – and it still is – but quick and easy access to a global catalogue of providers has led to an increasingly saturated marketplace; people are now faced with a constant barrage of choices and information, prompting a revolution in promotional strategy for marketers.

Marketing is more accessible
Traditional marketing campaigns would have consisted of lots of expensive advertising techniques such as printing, billboards, TV advertising etc. Now, powerful online campaigns can be created at a fraction of the cost, for example through skillful social media activity or an emotive video series, offering smaller players with smaller budgets more leverage in the marketplace.

A recent example of this is the £50 ‘Love is a Gift’ Christmas advert created by filmmaker Phil Beastall. With the right promotion on the right channels, the tear-jerking video has gone viral this year, with many viewers comparing it (and in many cases, preferring it) to John Lewis’ Elton John creation, which is believed to have cost around £7m.

Just in case you missed it…

LOVE IS A GIFT - Christmas Short Film

Since Bill Gates announced that ‘content is king’, the internet has become overgrown with bloggers, vloggers, and ‘experts’ alike, all hoping to enlighten users with their words of wisdom and original insights. Good, quality, well-optimised content is incredibly useful for promoting your company as an authority to both users and search engines, however, in a global study by media agency, Havas, they found 60% of participants said the content brands currently create is “poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver”.

The best way for a company to operate an effective content strategy is simply to provide content that is useful to your audience. This could be through educating them, informing them, or entertaining them, but could mean the difference between a passing engagement and a conversion.

Shareable content
We now live in a culture of sharing our story with others, a byproduct of social media and a mobile-first attitude. However, this is great for marketers who can essentially hit thousands of birds with one stone; think of it as the age-old word-of-mouth strategy, just on an epic scale.

If you’ve nailed your first two ‘Ps’ and your product is on the money, consumers may well rave about it on social media. Making shareable content – maybe through product hashtags, or with taggable posts – you’ll be able to use analytics to track engagements and gain further valuable insight into the behaviours of your target audience, or perhaps market segments you never realised your brand appealed to.

4. Place

Ultimately, placing your product comes down to ticking two big boxes for your intended buyers: accessibility and convenience.

The birth of e-commerce has given this ‘P’ a whole new set of possibilities. Today’s customers are likely to interact with your brand across a range of platforms and spaces; for example, a customer may try on an outfit in your high street shop and then make their purchase later online where there could be discounts available. On the other hand, when purchasing something larger such as a mortgage or a new car, the transaction itself is more likely to take place in person after researching suitable options online.

It’s important to really understand how your customers’ journeys unfold and how each of the places they visit along the way influence the overall customer experience.

So, I think it’s fair to say that I can certainly see a place for all 4 Ps in today’s modern marketing world.

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