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4 P's marketing mix

What is the marketing mix (4 P's of marketing)?

The marketing mix, also known as the four P's of marketing, refers to the four key elements of a marketing strategy: product, price, place and promotion. By paying attention to the following four components of the marketing mix, a business can maximize its chances of a product being recognized and bought by customers:

  • Product. The item or service being sold must satisfy a consumer's need or desire.
  • Price. An item should be sold at the right price for consumer expectations, neither too low nor too high.
  • Promotion. The public needs to be informed about the product and its features to understand how it fills their needs or desires. 
  • Place. The location where the product can be purchased is important for optimizing sales.

Understanding the 4 P's: Examples and considerations

The four P's are linked and work together. While various marketing concepts have been developed over time, the four P's are the basis for every successful marketing strategy. The following is a breakdown of each P with examples.

Product

Products are commodities and services that solve problems and satisfy the needs of consumers. A product can be tangible, such as a vehicle or a piece of clothing, or intangible, such as a cruise or house cleaning service. A successful product either fills a void in the marketplace or offers a unique experience that spikes demand.

Example. Before the iPhone was launched, most consumers did not realize the need for a phone that would let them access everything at their fingertips. The way Apple marketed its product compelled people to simplify their lives by carrying a smartphone that could also serve as a GPS, calendar, search engine, flashlight, weather guide and calculator. 

Questions to ask. Before marketing a product, it is important to understand it intimately. This includes discovering details about the target audience and its preferences.

The following are some questions to answer before developing a product:

  • What is the product?
  • Is it a specific product or a service?
  • What does the product accomplish?
  • Does the product fulfill a need or provide a unique experience?
  • Who are the target customers for the product?
  • What differentiates the product from the competition?
Explaining the marketing mix, also known as the 4 Ps: product, price, place and promotion
The marketing mix consists of the four key elements of a marketing strategy: product, price, place and promotion.

Price

Price is the cost of the product that the consumer pays. During product marketing, it is important to set a price that reflects the current market trends and is affordable for consumers, yet at the same time is profitable for the business. Price can fluctuate based on the supply and demand and the product's sales cycle. While some businesses might lower the price to compete with the market, others might inflate it -- especially if they are promoting a luxury brand.

Example. Price points play a vital role in making a product successful. For example, if a product is overpriced, only a few consumers will purchase it. Conversely, a product that is priced too low can give consumers an impression of inferior quality, thus preventing them from purchasing it.

Questions to ask. To determine the most profitable price for a product, it is important to study the target audience and what they are willing to pay for that product.

The following are some questions to answer before establishing a product pricing strategy:

  • How much do the competitors charge for similar products?
  • What is the affordability and price range of target consumers?
  • What is the lowest price that the product can sell for?
  • What is the highest price that the product can sell for?
  • What price is too high or too low for the target audience?
  • What price is the best fit for the target market?

Place

This is where and how the product or service is purchased by the customers. It also entails where the product is stored and manufactured. Digital transformation has evolved how products are sold -- online, small local shops or global producers. This marketing plan also considers where the product is advertised and in which format, such as magazines, online ads, radio, infomercials or film product placements.

Example. The place is where the product is marketed and distributed from. For example, when targeting a product to seniors, it would be wise to not market it on TikTok. Similarly, products targeting the younger generations would gain more attention if they were promoted online and on social media platforms.                

Questions to ask. Not every place is suitable for marketing and distributing a product. As such, it is important to distribute products and meet customer needs in a place that is easily accessible.

The following are some questions to consider before deciding on a place to market a product:

  • Which places or venues do buyers frequent for similar products and services?
  • Where is the competition selling its products?
  • What are the shopping habits of the target audience?
  • Will the product placement and distribution require a sales team, the use of Salesforce or will it be self-service?
  • How can the right distribution channels be accessed?

Promotion

Promotion refers to reaching the target audience with the right message at the right time. It gets the word out and is an effective way to conduct a sales promotion and connect with consumers. A promotional strategy aims to show consumers why they would need a certain product and the reasons for buying it over other products. The core of marketing communications, product promotions push out specific and meaningful advertising through popular channels: word-of-mouth seeding, social networking, Instagram campaigns, print marketing, television commercials, email marketing campaigns, social media marketing and more.

Example. Timing can play an influential role in promotional marketing. Take, for example, the football season during which pizza delivery deals are targeted during games. This entices consumers to try new products they may not have enjoyed otherwise.

Questions to ask. For a product to be successful, setting the best price or being a great product offering is not enough. Promotion is the main ingredient in the marketing mix that can distribute the product to the masses. Therefore, the promotional messages should always cater to the target audience as well as to the distribution channels.

The following are some questions to consider when thinking about a promotional strategy:

  • When is the right time to reach the target audience?
  • Which channels or mediums will the target audience get their information from?
  • What advertising approaches will be the most fruitful for the target audience?
  • Which channels are the most cost-effective and efficient for product promotion?
  • Which part of the target audience should be engaged?
  • Where are the competitors spending their advertising efforts and marketing revenue?

History of the 4 P's

The origins of the marketing mix date back to 1960, when it was first introduced in E. Jerome McCarthy's best-seller Basic Marketing - A Managerial Approach. Later, Harvard professor Neil Borden formalized the term marketing mix in his 1964 article, "The Concept of the Marketing Mix." Borden explained his idea was inspired by his associate, James Culliton, who compared successful marketers to professional chefs. Culliton's analogy was that great chefs -- like successful marketers -- work off a recipe but are always willing to experiment with new ingredients and make changes on the fly in response to market conditions and customer demand. According to Borden, some of the forces that can alter a marketing mix include consumer motivation for shopping, the competitive landscape and government regulations. 

The four P's have stood the test of time, and despite the rapid digitalization, they still hold value in the marketing world due to their strong foundational principles.

Alternative marketing mix models

A typical marketing mix is made up of the four P's. However, several newer iterations of the four P's have been developed over the years.

Below are a few popular marketing mix alternatives.

Booms' and Bitner's seven P's. Professors Bernard Booms and Mary Jo Bitner presented the seven P's of marketing in 1981. The seven P's are also sometimes referred to as the extended marketing mix. They include the original four P's of marketing along with people, processes and physical evidence.

Lauterborn's four C's. This approach, which educator and consultant Robert F. Lauterborn suggested in 1990, presents a more customer-centric approach that showcases different elements of the marketing mix from a buyer's perspective, rather than from a seller's viewpoint. It is comprised of the following elements:

  • Consumer wants and needs, which correspond to the product in the marketing mix.
  • Cost, which corresponds to the price in the marketing mix.
  • Convenience to buy, which corresponds to the place in the marketing mix.
  • Communication, which corresponds to the promotion in the marketing mix.

Customer mix, or six C's. A fundamental overhaul of the traditional approaches, the six C's aims to address the needs of modern and customer-focused digital marketing strategies. This marketing mix consists of the four C's plus content and community.

Reaching the target audience is an integral aspect of the marketing mix. Learn how to craft an effective multichannel marketing strategy.

This was last updated in May 2022

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