Why read this? : We share why the 4Ps of marketing are still relevant. And why those who say they’re out of date have got it wrong. We also share our alternative 4Ps which reflect the reality of working in marketing. Learn why project management, planning, politics and pain management shape what marketers do. Read this to learn more about the 4Ps of marketing.
We’ve been following a recent marketing squabble on Twitter. It’s between people who claim marketers should be trained in marketing, and those who say experience beats any training you can get.
It’s kind of a dumb argument. As most arguments on Twitter are. Clearly training and experience are BOTH good things. But, you don’t need to choose one or the other. What’s more important is when you do them. And for us, training before experience is the way to go. It gives you a safe place to try things out before you do them in the real world.
And yet, you can see many businesses don’t apply good marketing practices. They waste money on poor ideas and terrible executions. Better marketing training which covers basic concepts would cut a lot of the really bad marketing activity out.
The original 4Ps of marketing
The 4Ps of marketing is one of these basic concepts.
If you study marketing, you should learn about the 4Ps of product, price, promotion and place, also known as the marketing mix.
It’s one of the first things you learn. The 4Ps help you organise and group marketing activities. You use them as a checklist in your marketing plan, with a clear strategy and plan for each “P”. It’s a key part of any marketing planning process.
Don’t believe those who say the 4Ps of marketing is dead
That’s because the 4Ps are a good place to start your brand marketing. They’ve got a long and proven history. And they’re easy to understand.
The Twitter squabble was started by some newer marketers trying to make a name for themselves, by saying the 4Ps concept was dead.
Their main argument was the tool isn’t customer centric enough. Also, that it’s been around so long, it’s become dated. It should be replaced by newer tools like the customer experience journey.
But, those are all poor arguments. They miss the point.
Not customer centric-enough? Well, that’s because when you use the 4Ps of marketing, you should have already built your customer understanding. It comes out later in the brand development process, when you’ve already analysed the market.
And out-dated? Well, most customer experience journey models are based on the idea of an adoption model. A series of steps the customer goes through to reach an end goal. And all of those models are derivations of the AIDA : Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action model that dates back over 100 years.
So, these arguments against the 4Ps of marketing just don’t make sense. Plus, there’s plenty of businesses who still successfully structure their plans around the 4Ps. They understand the job it does companies to other customer experience planning tools you can use.
There’s nothing wrong with those other tools. They just do a different job. Don’t get them mixed up. And don’t use them to structure your marketing plan.
It’d be like getting your arse and your elbow mixed up, for example. Though, we suspect that’s what’s happened with some of these “4Ps are dead” idiots.
The 4Ps of marketing - a start point for brand marketing
So, why are the 4Ps of marketing a good start point?
Well, first they’re simple and easy to remember. 4 things. All starting with P.
Then, there’s their scope. They cover the basic tasks a brand has to do to interact with customers. Every brand needs to consider what they sell, where they sell, how much they charge and how they tell customers about it. That’s your basic 4Ps.
If you then need to “stretch” some of those Ps out, because your category is “different”, that’s fine.
In service businesses, for example, the word “product” can be confusing. Most people think tangible / physical items you can touch when you say product. But, services are typically intangible. To quote MC Hammer, with services, you can’t touch this.
So, if you’re a bank, a hairdresser, an e-Commerce retailer, or heaven help us, a marketing coach, then adding some extra Ps like people, process and physical location can help. They’re technically part of “product”. But adding them helps make that “P” clearer and more relevant.
But, all this talk of the 4Ps of marketing got us thinking.
Because marketing is more than just a concept. It’s also way of working in a business. So, just for kicks, we challenged ourselves to come up with an alternative 4Ps of marketing, that cover what it’s like actually being a marketer.
The alternative 4Ps of marketing
In many marketing functions, the original 4Ps isn’t a tool that gets used every day.
Day to day though, it’s the recommendations and actions from the 4Ps which take up the most time.
You need to make your plans happen. For that, you look at projects. And that leads us to the first of our alternative 4Ps of marketing – project management.
Out of curiosity, we recently dusted off our very old copy of Kotler’s Marketing Management book to see how it covered project management.
Wanna have a guess how often it got a mention?
If your answer was zero, then go to the top of the class. Look through the index, and it jumps straight from “profitability” to “promotion”.
No sign of project management. None at all And that’s pretty much what you’d expect from an academic textbook.
But, in the business world of marketing, brand managers and marketing managers spend a lot of time on projects, and in project meetings. (see our article on the marketer’s life cycle for example).
Most brand activities which come out of the marketing plan are project based. There’s a specific end goal. A series of actions needs to happen to deliver that end goal. And, a team of experts need to come together to make those actions happen. These things scream project.
End goal + actions + team of experts = project
You see this end goal + actions + team of experts = project equation come through in the processes which underpin many marketing activities.
It’s in the market research process. The advertising development process. In fact, you’ll even find it even in creative processes like logo design, and our e-Commerce processes like setting up your own store.
Being the project manager on one of those types of project means defining the goal. You need to identify the right people for the project team to deliver that goal, based on the expertise they bring. You then need to get those experts to map out all the tasks that need to happen to reach the goal. And, then you need to organise the task list, and make sure people do what they need to.
But, what we’ve just summed up in a mere paragraph, in real life takes weeks, months, sometimes even years at a time. A big advertising campaign or new product launch can easily run up to 70 or 80 different tasks, and need a team of 10 or more different functional experts. All of whom are likely to have different opinions to your marketing thinking.
Legal experts who want to protect the company’s reputation. Supply chain experts who want to run efficient operations. Finance teams who worry about the profit and loss. Sales teams who worry about keeping their trade customers happy, and need to give them months of notice about any changes.
You need good planning skills to navigate past these barriers.
Planning as a skill doesn’t just mean project plans. It’s much more than that.
Planning is the ability to think ahead in time. To think about different scenarios which could happen. To work how each action connects, how it impacts on the overall direction.
Planning is about having contingencies for when things go wrong. It’s about documenting and presenting clear plans, so everyone understands what they’re supposed to be doing.
Planning’s about learning from your previous marketing mistakes, so you do better next time.
The higher up the marketing chain you go, the more time you spend thinking ahead, rather than doing stuff now. Marketing managers spend lots of time on plans, budgets, and business cases.
It’s why planning is one of our alternative 4Ps of marketing.
Planning is about being strategic. Which is why we get frustrated at people who call themselves strategists, but who don’t think or act strategically.
Strategy and planning’s not about googling the latest fad in marketing. It’s not about nicking some fancy looking framework you saw someone share on Twitter or Reddit. Or repurposing something the marketing agency dug out for you.
Nope, for us, planning is all about being prepared for anything. It’s having the quickness of thought to adapt your game, based on changing circumstances, to move you closer to your end goal.
And changing circumstances are usually driven by changes in people. That brings us to the third of our alternative 4Ps of marketing, politics.
In business, you have to work with other people. Either directly inside your business, or outside your business like your marketing agency.
And what you’ll find when you work with people is everyone’s different. They have different experiences, different biases and different ways of seeing the world.
It’s part of the day-to-day job of marketing to try to pull these differences together. To establish common principles, based on understanding what’ll appeal to, and motivate the people involved.
This is basically politics.
You’ll spend a lot of time developing “policies” like customer focus, and brand identity. But these policies need to take into account the views of the people who’ll work with them. Your legal, supply chain, finance and sales teams all need to be on board with the plan.
Want to make your brand edgy and cool? You’ll need to swing people’s views that swear words in your advertising is OK.
Want to launch an online store? You’ll need to use politics to overcome all the barriers you’ll run into.
If you can’t get other teams on board, you’ll never get anywhere. The critics will come after you. And, they’ll block you every chance you get.
Build support for your marketing activity
Like winning an election in politics, building support is critical. Making sure the board sign off the budget. Making sure operations can make your new product. And making sure the sales team are pumped enough to sell the plan to customers.
In our experience, the people who make it to the “top” in marketing, aren’t the ones with the best marketing knowledge. They’re the ones who are best at politics. They know how to build confidence they’re the best people to lead the marketing team. And this comes more down to politics than it does marketing.
Think about it.
Who decides on the appointment of the CMO or marketing director? It’s usually the CEO and the Head of HR (or Chief People Officer which seems be the hellish new “in” thing in HR these days). In most cases, they don’t come from marketing backgrounds. They can’t tell who has the best marketing knowledge.
So, many of the people who make it to the top in marketing do so, based on their reputation and image. Not their marketing expertise.
You may not like this. But it’s a fact. To get ahead in marketing, you need political savviness. You need to know how your business works, and how to gather support from others.
Because otherwise, all you’re going to run into is a wall of pain.
Which brings us to our final alternative “P” of marketing.
Pain might be a weird thing to think about when it comes to marketing.
But, think about what good marketing is. It’s a way to solve problems for your customers.
You take away their pain. That’s a good thing for the customer. That makes them more likely to buy what you’re selling.
Think about what marketing does for a business. It’s about orienting yourself around the needs of the customer, so you grow your sales with them. Growing sales takes away a lot of pain from your business.
And here’s the thing, when marketing works well, and sales grow, no-one will really praise you. Non-marketers take the success of marketing for granted. It’s what marketers are paid for after all, isn’t it?
But, when things go wrong with marketing, the company feels the pain. And, marketers feel the brunt of this. Budgets slashed. Jobs cut. Fingers pointed at bad execution.
And here’s the thing.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because, genuine marketers live for challenging situations. That’s when they show genuine talent. These are the situations that stretch your thinking, that force you to look for new solutions, and stop you becoming a critic or a coaster.
We’re not one of those motivational numpties that says pain is good. Get up and squat jump at 5am? Feel the burn? No thanks.
But when the business feels pain, it’s on marketers to work out how to take that pain away. And that’s why we include pain management as the last of our alternative 4Ps of marketing.
Conclusion - the alternative 4Ps
Yeh, so you’re unlikely to find these alternative 4Ps of marketing in any text books. But take it from us, these are all good additional tools to think about as you do marketing.
They don’t replace the original 4Ps of course. They have a different use.
Remember, arse and elbow?
And that’s probably as good a place as any to call it quits this week. We’re off to exercise our elbows lifting a nice cold beer at the pub. But do, check out our marketing plan guide. Or, contact us, if you want to know more about the 4Ps of marketing, both the original or our alternative ones.