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The elements of the marketing mix

Borden claims to be the first to have used the term “marketing mix” and that it was suggested to him by Culliton’s (1948) description of a business executive as “mixer of ingredients”. However, Borden did not formally define the marketing mix; to him it simply consisted of important elements or ingredients that make up a marketing programme (Borden, 1965, p. 389). McCarthy (1964,) refined this further and defined the marketing mix as a combination of all of the factors at a marketing manger’s command to satisfy the target market. More recently McCarthy and Perreault (1987) have defined the marketing mix as the controllable variables that an organization can co-ordinate to satisfy its target market. This definition (with minor changes) is widely accepted as can be seen from Kotler and Armstrong’s (1989) definition of the marketing mix: as the set of controllable marketing variables that the firm blends to produce the response it wants in the target market.

The essence of the marketing mix concept is, therefore, the idea of a set of controllable variables or a “tool kit” (Shapiro, 1985) at the disposal of marketing management which can be used to influence customers. The disagreement in the literature is over what these controllable variables or tools are.

He did not consider this list of elements to be fixed or sacrosanct and suggested that others may have a different list to his. Other suggested frameworks include Frey’s (1961) suggestion that marketing variables should be divided into two parts: the offering (product, packaging, brand, rice, service) and the methods and tools (distribution channels, personal selling, advertising, sales promotion and publicity). Lazer and Kelly (1962) and Lazer et al. (1973), on the other hand, suggest three elements: the goods and services mix, the distribution mix and the communication mix. However, the most popular and most enduring marketing mix framework has been that of McCarthy who regrouped and reduced Borden’s 12 elements to the now popular 4Ps, namely: product, price, promotion and place (McCarthy, 1964, p 38). Each of these categories consists of a mix of elements in itself and hence one can speak of the “product mix”, “the promotion mix”, and so forth. For instance, Kotler and Armstrong list advertising, personal selling, sales promotion and publicity under the heading of promotion. The 4Ps formulation is so popular, in fact, that some authors of introductory textbooks define the marketing mix synonymously with the 4Ps (see for example Pride and Ferrell, 1989, p. 19; and Stanton et al. 1991, p. 13).

While McCarthy’s 4Ps framework is popular, there is by no means a consensus of opinion as to what elements constitute the marketing mix. In fact the 4Ps framework has been subjected to much criticism. Kent (1986), for example, argues that the 4Ps framework is too simplistic and misleading. Various other authors have found the 4Ps framework wanting and have suggested their own changes. For instance, Nickels and Jolson (1976) suggest the addition of packaging as the fifth P in the marketing mix. Mindak and Fine (1981) suggested the inclusion of public relations as the fifth P. Kotler (1986) suggests the addition of Power as well as public relations in the context of “mega marketing”. Payne and Ballantyne (1991) suggest the addition of people, processes, and customer service for relationship marketing. Judd (1987) suggests the addition of people as a method of differentiation in industrial marketing.

Managing the marketing mix makes marketing seem easy to handle and organize. Marketing is separated from other activities of the firm and delegated to specialists who take care of the analysis, planning and implementation of various marketing tasks, such as market analysis, marketing planning, advertising, sales promotion, sales, pricing, distribution and product packaging. Marketing departments are created to take responsibility for the marketing function of the firm, sometimes together with outside specialists on, for example, market analysis and advertising. Both in the marketing literature and in everyday marketing vocabulary the expression “marketing department”, and organization unit, is used as a synonym for marketing function, which is the process of taking care of the fulfilment of customer needs and desires. However, the organizational approach inherent in the marketing mix management paradigm is not very useful either (Gronroos, 1990) The psychological effect on the rest of the organization of a separate marketing department is, in the long run, often devastating to the development of a customer orientation or market orientation in a firm. A marketing orientation with, for example, high-budget advertising campaigns may be developed, but this does not necessarily have much to do with true market orientation and a real appreciation for the needs and desires of the customers. The existence or introduction of such a department may be a trigger that makes everybody else lose whatever little interest in the customers they may have had (Jackson, 1985). The marketing department approach to organizing the marketing function has isolated marketing from design, production, deliveries, technical service, complaints handling, invoicing and other activities of the firm. As a consequence, the rest of the organization has been alienated from marketing. Therefore, it has made it difficult, often even impossible, to turn marketing into the “integrative function” that would provide other departments with the market-related input needed to make the organization truly market oriented and reach a stage of “co-ordinated marketing” (Piercy, 1991).

Furthermore, the marketing specialists organized in a marketing department may get alienated from the customers. Managing the marketing mix means relying on mass marketing (Gronroos, 1994). Customers become numbers for the marketing specialists, whose actions, therefore, typically are based on surface information obtained from market research reports and market share statistics. Frequently, such marketers act without ever having encountered a real customer. The marketing department concept is obsolete and has to be replaced by some other way of organizing the marketing function, so that the organization will have a chance to become market-oriented. A traditional marketing department will always, in the final analysis, stand in the way of spreading market orientation and an interest in the customer throughout the organization (Piercy, 1991).

Sometimes the term marketing has become a burden for the marketing function. Managers as well as their subordinates in other departments and functions do not want to take part in the marketing function. But, according to the relationship marketing approach and contemporary models of industrial marketing and service marketing, they do undoubtedly belong to this function. The use of the marketing mix management paradigm and the Four Ps has made it very difficult for the marketing function to earn credibility. Some firms have solved this problem not only by downscaling or altogether terminating their marketing departments but also by banning the use of the term marketing for the marketing function (Gronroos, 1994).

Marketing of services

In the early 1970s the marketing of services started to emerge as a separate area of marketing with concepts and models of its own geared to typical characteristics of services. In Scandinavia and Finland, the Nordic School of Services, more than researchers into this field elsewhere, looked at the marketing of services as something that cannot be separated from overall management (Johnson and Mattson, 1985) In North America, research into service marketing has to a much greater extent remained within the boundaries of the marketing mix management paradigm, although it has produced some creative results. Gronroos brought quality back into a marketing context by introducing the perceived service quality concept in 1982 (Piercy, 1991). He introduced the concept of the interactive marketing function to cover the marketing impact on the customer during the consumption of usage process, where the consumer of a service typically interacts with systems, physical resources and employees of the service provider. These interactions occur between the customer and employees who normally are not considered marketing people, either by themselves or by their managers, and who do not belong to a marketing or sales department. Nevertheless, they are part-time marketers. In many situations, long-lasting relationships between service providers and their customers may develop. Gronroos (1994) developed the customer relationship life-cycle model, originally called the “marketing circle”, to cover the long-term nature of the establishment and evolution of the relationship between a firm and its customers. Managing this life-cycle is a relationship marketing task, although the term itself was not used at that time. Again, the marketing success of a firm is only partly determined by the “full-time marketers”. In fact, the “part-time marketers” of a service provider may often have a much more important impact on the future purchasing decisions of a customer than, for example, professional salespeople or advertising campaigns.

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