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The alternative 4Ps of marketing

Man's back with writing - The 4ps of marketing pointing towards elbows, with people who say the 4Ps is dead pointing towards arse.

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Why read this? : We look at why those who say the 4Ps of marketing are out of date have got it wrong. Plus, learn from our alternative 4Ps of marketing what marketers actually do day to day. Read this to learn more about how marketing is driven by project management, planning, politics and pain management. 

We’ve been following a recent marketing squabble on Twitter. It’s between people who think marketers should be trained in marketing, and those who say experience beats any training you can get. 

It’s a kinda dumb argument. As you often find on Twitter. Clearly training and experience are BOTH good things. You don’t have 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 see many businesses not doing training on basic concepts. So, they waste money on poor ideas and terrible executions. A marketing fool and his budget are soon parted. 

The original 4Ps of marketing

The 4Ps of marketing is one of these basic concepts. Good marketing training teaches you about the 4Ps of product, price, promotion and place, aka 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. 

There are variations on it. The 7Ps for services, for example. We’ve also seen a 4Cs model in some categories. But the 4Ps is still the heart of most marketing plans

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 journey map.

Man's back with writing - The 4ps of marketing pointing towards elbows, with people who say the 4Ps is dead pointing towards arse.

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 outdated? Well, most customer 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 the original one of these, the AIDA model (Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action) is over 100 years old.

These arguments against the 4Ps of marketing just don’t make sense. Plus, many businesses still successfully structure their plans around the 4Ps. They understand the job it does versus other customer experience planning tools. There’s nothing wrong with these other tools. They just do a different job.

So, 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 action areas. 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 has 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 even 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. Marketing isn’t just a concept. It’s a way of working in a business. So as a fun challenge, we tried to come up with an alternative 4Ps of marketing to cover what it’s like to work as a marketer.

The alternative 4Ps of marketing

In many marketing functions, the original 4Ps isn’t a tool that’s used every day.

In our experience it only appears on “special” occasions. Like the annual marketing plan, or in an innovation launch plan.

Day to day, 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.

The alternative 4Ps of marketing

Project management

Out of curiosity, we dusted off our very old copy of Kotler’s Marketing Management 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.

Business meeting round with a man presenting in front of a screen to 5 colleagues

But, in the business world of marketing, brand managers and marketing managers spend a lot of time on projects, and in project meetings. (for example, see our marketer’s life cycle article).  

Most brand activities in the marketing plan are project based. There’s a specific end goal. A series of actions to deliver that goal. And a team coming together to make it all happen. 

End goal + actions + team = project

You see this end goal + actions + team = project equation come through in multiple marketing processes. 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 e-Commerce processes like setting up your own store.

Being a marketing project manager starts with defining the goal. Then, you find the right people for the project team to deliver that goal, based on their expertise. You ask them to list all the tasks to be done to reach the goal. And, then you manage this list, and make sure people do what they need to. 

Simple, right? 

But, what we’ve just summed up in a paragraph, takes weeks, months, sometimes even years in real life. A big advertising campaign or new product launch can easily run to 70-80 different tasks, and need a team of 10+ functional experts. All of whom will 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. 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. 

Board level view of a chessboard as you are playing black and your opponent is moving their white queen

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 act strategically. Strategy and planning’s not about googling the latest marketing fad. Nor nicking some fancy looking framework for LinkedIn, or repurposing something the agency did for you. Nope, planning is about being prepared for anything. Having the quickness of thought to adapt your game, based on changing circumstances, to move you closer to your goal.

These changing circumstances are usually driven by changes in people. Which brings us to the third of our alternative 4Ps of marketing, politics. 


In marketing, you have to work with other people. Both inside your business and outside your business like your marketing agency.

And you soon work out everyone’s different. They have different experiences, biases and 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 different people.

Man on stage with a microphone talking to a large seated audience of what appear to be university students

This is basically politics. You’ll spend a lot of time developing “policies” like customer focus, and brand identity. But these policies have 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 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 is more politics than it is 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 have 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. 

Pain management

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.

Close up image of a man in a suit wiping away a tear and looking sad

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 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 about that. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Because, genuine marketers live for challenging situations. That’s when they show genuine talent. Situations which stretch your thinking, force you to look for new solutions, and stop you becoming a critic or a coaster.

We’re not one of those motivational numpties who 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 and our example marketing mix article for more on this. Or, get in touch if you want to learn more about how to use the 4Ps of marketing.

Photo Credits

Back :  Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Business meeting : Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Chess : Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Man giving speech : Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

Man crying : Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

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