Are The 4P Of Marketing Still Relevant In Today’s Digital World?

The validity of the marketing mix in today’s economy is a widely discussed topic, whether by academics, in companies or in the Internet in general. Doing some research, I came across plenty of articles covering that topic. One thing is for sure there isn’t one common answer and opinions differ, sometimes widely, on how marketing professionals should market their products today.

The categorisation of the marketing mix elements as a set of tools (or activities) called the 4P’s, for ProductPricePlacePromotion, was first proposed by McCarthy in 1960. His classification was later expanded into 7P’s by Boden, who added ProcessPhysical Evidence, and People. The consensus among academics and professionals in the recent past, was that the 4P’s (respectively the 7P’s) were still reliable under new market circumstances. In the last few years, however, technological evolution kept speeding up and with the growing dominance of mobile devices and the rise of the web 2.0 we might ask if that framework is still applicable in 2014? The academic and professional literature distinguishes two opposed school-of-thoughts with respect to this question: the conservatives and the revisionists.

The first ones, the conservatives, consider that the 4P’s are still a valid framework, which just needs to be upgraded to meet the current market specificities. This can be done by adding or removing single elements within the marketing mix. For example, if we take Promotion, by adding Search Engine Marketing or Banner Ads as new communication channels (or elements) companies are yet able to reach their customers despite their new consumption behaviour. This is a straight forward approach which most marketers are applying today. All those new ingredients born in the digital economy have simply been added to the 4P’s framework. So today companies use social media or e-mails to reach out to their customers, e-commerce to sell their products, or crowdsourcing to develop new ones, to only mention a few.

On the other hand, the revisionists believe modifications in the market are so disruptive that companies need a completely new approach to reach out to their customers. An interesting fact, however, is that most of the revisionist-models are essentially based on the current 4P framework, or are some variation of it, hence the raising uncertainty about how companies must adapt their mix to remain competitive. One way that might help gain more clarity is to look at a few examples and try to understand what their added value is.

The 4C model for Consumer, Cost, Communication, and Convenience was proposed by Lauterborn in 1990. This is a customer-centric (as opposed to the internally oriented 4P’s) approach which seems like a natural evolution of the 4P’s in an a era.

The 4E model for Experience, Everyplace, Exchange, Engagement & Evangelise offered by Ogilvy focuses on the customer experience. It’s no longer just about being customer oriented, but it clearly emphasis the importance of the experience the customer is going through.

The 4P framework for Personalisation, Participation, Peer 2 Peer, Predictive Modelling suggested by Idriss Mootee is definitely a model worth looking at. Compared to the previous two, this one is not just an evolution of the 4P’s of McCarthy, but it looks at the changing market conditions and offers an additional reference frame, in a conversation-driven, social network-powered, technology-enabled and information-intensive economy.

Obviously there are other models! But what we can learn here is that there is more than the old 4P’s. Adopting a customer-centric and experiential view point might be the first step in evolving your marketing mix. If this is not enough, or if those frameworks are already part our your marketing toolbox, evolving even further and consider the marketing mix from the Personalisation, Participation, Peer 2 Peer, and Predictive Modelling stand point can help you stay competitive!

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