Why Do B-Schools Still Teach The Famed 4P’s Of Marketing, When Three Are Dead? That was the question raised by Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen and it received some good traction. Skibsted and Hansen argue that the only P of the four alive is Product.
Now, I won’t spend time arguing their arguments. I can see how they (and others alike) came to their conclusion. I’m just not so much of a guy that throws good stuff away. I like to try and see if I can fit what I think and see into the current framework. So here’s my perspective on the 4 P’s:
Places your Customers are..
At first I think marketers continue to need to answer the question where they believe their market is and subsequently they need to design the business model to serve that market. This is even the case for pure on-line business models, because local laws and regulations need to be taken into account. We all know of the challenges Facebook, Google and Twitter have when trying to enter the largest country in the world.
More than this, Place is still a very relevant concept to think about in your go-to-market strategies when it comes to understanding where your Customer segment is. In this day and age of information overload it is extremely important not only to be relevant, but also be close to the (potential) Customer when the problem your product or service can help solve, becomes relevant to them.
The Internet has not made the P of Place irrelevant, it has made Place one of the complex problems to solve, imho. And the solution, is not always to be found on-line either.
Price as a Key Performance Indicator
Yes, transparent markets dictate prices for many products. Not because these products are the same, but because they perform (part of) the same or similar jobs for Customers. In other words: it’s not the value of the product that determines it price, it’s the quality of the Customer’s job fulfillment, in its context, that determines how the Customer values your product or service. And the way it’s priced is an important element in the Customer’s evaluation of the service offered AND/OR consumed.
Price is probably something you should start seeing as a key performance indicator of how well you help solve your Customers’ problems and what value that represents to them.
Last but not least: prices may be very transparent, but not an element in the marketing mix to ignore, if only because it is still a very strong, and widely used, lever to pull when one wants to enter a market, or defend it.
Promotion, of who.. and what exactly?
Without promotion your product or service will not make it in the crowded market place. It’s that simple. Yes, paid promotion (or media) may become less effective in some cases, this can be leveraged with earned and owned promotion. Nevertheless, it’s promotion, even if your Customers do it for you.
I think there’s also some other elements to Promotion that are becoming more and more important. I think Promotion should not longer be just about you, yourself and you.. Promotion of others by means of game mechanics is an example how promotion of someone else’s behavior can help your business as well. Or think about how businesses with a multi-sided platform business model empower others to promote themselves. And, last but not least, promoting a purpose based on (community) values, if authentic, is the new ad.
Product was off the table years ago..
Now for the more interesting part. Product is probably the only P that has been off the menu for a while. Not only have we already moved from the Experience Economy to the Era of Engagement (at least, that’s what they say), we know for some time that it’s not about products or services, or a combination of both. It’s not even about the value you(r product) offer(s). Simply because value is not something to be offered, it is to be co-created in use.
The product is mostly just one of the tools a Customer uses to get his job done. (Btw: making it essentially company centric to rename your product to “solution”.) Again, you as a company, nor your products or services, solve any Customer problem by yourself. You, at least, need the Customer to make that happen. Hence, you can only propose value to be co-created, also known as your value proposition.
Of course the four P framework is not the only thing a marketer needs to understand, let alone that stating it is all about the product (or content for that matter) makes any sense really.
In my humble opinion it is better to adapt your understanding of what the framework represents in the context of the world today (and maybe tomorrow) then to announce its death. Because the latter will give you a good nights’ sleep believing “one “P” will be easier to learn than four”, the former will last you a fortnight at least. Guaranteed :)
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