There’s a constant tendency in the marketing community to throw out long-established marketing concepts in favor of something new.
The classic “4Ps” (Product, Price, Promotion, Place) is often in the crosshairs, sometimes with new Ps like “Purpose”, “People”, “Process”, “Performance”, or “Personalization” thrown haphazardly into the marketing mix.
Mark Ritson recently mocked this behavior by launching a “Four P Regenerator” that randomly creates new jargon starting with the letter P so that every marketer can have their very own reinvented 4Ps.
In a recent MarketingWeek editorial, Mark shared the history of the 4Ps as a marketing tool invented by a PhD student named Jerry McCarthy in 1959. Mark writes:
“Discovering that a marketing concept is 60 years old elicits one of two possible responses. For a well-trained marketer who knows McCarthy’s work and appreciates disciplinary rigour, six decades signals robustness and consistency.
“But if you are a ‘modern marketer’ – low on disciplinary knowledge and unable to discern the constant evolution of tactics from the broader, unchanging nature of the marketing mission – 60 years is indicative of something that is surely out of date.”
The 4 Ps remains a simple but effective encapsulation of the levers of marketing, even as the marketing role has gotten more specialized over the years, often centered around the single “P” of Promotion.
Yet the marketing role has always had an element of “responsibility without authority” and so marketers have to learn to manage by influence. Russell Parsons urged marketers a few years ago to reclaim all 4Ps. As Russell put it,
“Leave marketers out of the decision making on price and you’re robbed of the insight, understanding and sensitivity to the customer’s needs. Take away their influence over place, and you risk decisions being made on the basis of cost at the expense of customer experience. Eradicate input on product and you get innovation for innovation’s sake.”
And in response to the rise of digital marketing, I like this observation from Mark Ritson:
“We do not need to change the four Ps because of digital. We need to understand that the constituent elements that make up the four Ps have changed – will continue to change – as time moves on.”
Or as Diageo CEO Ivan Menzes put it a few years ago: “It is not about doing ‘digital marketing’, it is about marketing effectively in a digital world.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: