14th November 2016

Are the 4P’s still applicable to the Digital Marketer?

Customer experience is essential in any marketing strategy

The 4P’s & The 4E's...

Having recently moved back from living in Aus for 8 years, I still read a lot of Australian based digital news. In my daily dose of digital news yesterday I read a blog article hailing from a panel discussion in Australia that claimed the death of the 4 P's, which has now (apparently) been replaced with the 4 E's.

Now don't get me wrong, as somebody who already ridicules the MANY over used buzz-words and acronyms that are so often found and then become synonymous with 'marketing', I am not precious about the 4 P's. But to claim they are now redundant and have now been replaced with the 4 E's.... I call bullshit on that.

Quick Recap:

The 4P’s were originally coined by E. Jerome McCarthy and are known as the ‘marketing mix’, which have become the staple strategic and planning foundation found in the Marketer's toolbox.

To quote wikipedia “The marketing mix has been defined as the "set of marketing tools that the firm uses to pursue its marketing objectives in the target market.". Thus the marketing mix refers to four broad levels of marketing decision, namely: product, price, promotion, and place. In services marketing, a modified and expanded marketing mix is used, typically comprising seven Ps made up of the original 4 Ps plus process, people, physical environment. Occasionally service marketers will refer to eight Ps; comprising the 7 Ps plus performance. “

As the marketing world rapidly moved from typical push tactics to pull tactics, there was (and continues to be) a huge shift towards consumer-centric marketing. To reflect and perhaps better represent the changing landscape, the 4C’s were introduced, of which there are two popular and slightly different theories:

  1. Lauterborn's four Cs (Consumer, Cost, Communication, Convenience)

  2. Shimizu's four Cs (Commodity, Cost, Communication, Channel).

And now we have another marketing framework biting at the ankles - welcome 4E’s, and this is the focus of my article.

  • 4E’s - Engagement, Experience, Exclusivity, Emotion

Semantics versus value

4 P's, 4C's, 4 E's, we do love these frameworks in marketing don’t we!

Semantics aside, if these methods are used properly they can be extremely useful strategic guideline tools for marketers and businesses to help focus their marketing strategies and planning, to think about how they position their service offering / product, and to navigate through the marketing treacle.

Has there been a shift in the marketing landscape?....yes, big time.

Has digital marketing / digital consumption played a large role in that?....yes, big time.

Have consumers changed their fundamental buying habits of 'why' they buy a product? No I don't think so. How they buy a product, how they found out about a product, how they reviewed a product, how they purchased a product, how they became informed about a product - yes. But fundamentally, people still buy things for two reasons, these are logical reasons, and emotional reasons.

Going back to the 4 P's:

Price - is this still important? Absolutely.

As a marketer you would be naive to say otherwise, this applies to both the bottom and top end of the scale. Some people will associate price with value and quality, that's the power of Brand. Others will want and actively seek a bargain. Engagement can be used to drive brand awareness and therefore brand experience. Price can also be used to drive exclusivity.

Product - is this still important? Absolutely.

Just look at the leading global multi billion dollar phone manufacturer, Apple. Is this not an example of 'Product'. Is an iPhone 7 exclusive in the true sense of exclusive, no. Do (some) people buy a iPhone because of the product centric focus of the user experience, yes. The same could be said for a whole host of products.

Placement - is this still important? Absolutely.

This one has changed in the sense that we aren't talking just about the position on a shelf or a specific billboard (we could be btw), but digital allows ads to be in the right place at the right time. Placement in a digital world means retargeting, it means creating look-a-like audiences, it means coming up on a search with relevant content specific to where the user is at in their buying journey. Is it dead, no, not one bit.

Promotion - is it still important, erm yup.

So what about the 4 E’s?

We can and should use terms such as engagement, experience, exclusivity, and emotion but it's not an apples vs apples comparison with the 4 P's. Terms such as exclusivity is like promotion reworded and emotion is just a fundamental factor in the reason people buy or act, it's psychology and has always existed in all types of marketing and sales.

Engagement is one of those HUGELY overused terms that is constantly pillaged in digital marketing to prove how brilliant a campaign has (or maybe hasn't) been....but ‘Experience’; now you are talking.

Experience is everything

From prospective customers to existing customers, from someone picking up a product for the first time, to someone having a conversation with a brand after being a customer for ten years. From someone having an issue and wanting to get it resolved by a customer representative to someone finding what they need on a website and being able to buy it confidently and quickly. Experience = engagement, emotion, satisfaction.

I mean we as marketers have spawned entire job genres from the word experience 'UX', 'CX', it's crucial.

The more brands focus on experience the more successful they will be, period. Focusing on experience will help brands understand when things aren't right and give them the opportunity to amend a wrong, likewise a positive experience will breed....dare I say it..engagement, be that a social share or word of mouth recommendation. Brands that truly analyse, understand, emphasise, act on, and constantly optimise the customer experience will ultimately be the champions.

So, are the 4 P's dead?

No - that's simply a stupid attention seeking headline.

Have what the 4 P's represent shifted or evolved over time?

They have absolutely evolved but I would argue that the premise of what they represent still rings very true in the marketers strategic arsenal. The means has shifted but the end is the same.

In this ever evolving customer centric world, information is always on tap. Consumers are more informed than they ever have been before. For this reason the consumer focused model (the 4C’s) is probably more applicable but ultimately the actual real difference between the 4P’s and the 4C’s for a seasoned marketer is just semantics, by and large it’s just horses for courses. Price = Cost, Place = Convenience (when I want, where I want), Promotion = Communication (shift from push to pull), Product - this is the more dubious one and perhaps doesn’t have a fit with the 4C’s, again it really depends on the type of business you are marketing though. Some brands are product centric and that is their USP.

To end

We live in a world of ever increasingly diverse products and services with an evolving and broadening set of tools, media and approaches to market them.

Ultimately one could argue that any acronym based model that has to sum up an entire business approach that applies to all categories and still stands up has to be so over simplistic that it barely adds more value than what one would already know from common sense alone.

I do use various models as a starting point, a guideline, and a set of criteria to remind me of the key elements to stay considerate of whilst developing a strategy. Regardless of the model that you choose to use (if any), ‘Experience’ should be at the top of your list, as this reflects the consumer / end user in the true sense. Any marketing that stands a chance of success should be focused on the customer's (experience), drive real business impact, and allow a test, measure, learn, optimise approach.

Thanks for reading.

Si