The Marketing Mix
The term marketing mix arguably stems from James Culliton, who claimed that a marketing manager’s role was to ‘mix’ the various marketing ‘ingredients’ in the proportions required by a consumer. The term was further publicised by Neil Borden, who first referred to it as a specific ‘marketing mix’ incorporating the product, planning, pricing, branding, distribution, advertising and various other aspects. The concept is most recognisable today in the 4P model promoted by E. Jerome McCarthy and the 7P extended marketing mix model promoted by Bernard Booms and Mary Bitner as being more relevant to service organisations.
McCarthy’s 4Ps are as follows:
and Booms and Bitner added the following additional three:
- Physical Evidence
The common factor behind all the Ps is that they are specific parameters which the marketing manager can exercise some control over, within the constraints of their firm’s resources. For example, the marketing manager can control the type of product to be developed, subject to the firm’s technology, as well as the places it is sold, subject to the firm’s distribution network. Ultimately, the aim of the marketing mix is to ensure that all Ps are focused on the target customers, serving their needs and creating value for them.
The “product” is whatever the company is supplying to its customers. It can be a tangible product, such as a car; a service, such as a haircut; information, such as a course; or anything that the firm can sell to customers. The main decisions around the product centre on its functionality, quality and branding. However, companies also need to consider its styling, safety, warranty, packaging, support and any complementary accessories and services.
The price of a product is not simply the price that a firm sets for a product; rather it encompasses a whole series of decisions around how the price will be set and adjusted. The primary consideration is the pricing strategy the firm will follow. For example, company’s can choose to “skim” the market by setting a high price and serving only the wealthiest customers, or it can mass market the product by setting it at a price that anyone can afford. The company also needs to consider what volume and early payment discounts it will make; how it will set the price for different channels and seasons; whether the product can be bundled with others for a lower overall price; and whether the firm can attempt to price discrimination, as airlines do with first class and economy class fares.
The place generally refers to how the product is distributed, and hence in what places the customer can buy it. The primary decision to be made here is what distribution channels will be used, including traditional retail outlets, direct selling, online selling, and telephone and TV ordering. In addition, the company needs to consider how it will cover the market, and how it will manage its stock, warehouses, distribution centres and transportation. As such, this part of the marketing mix is heavily linked to the company’s operations and operational efficiency.
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Promotion is probably the part of the marketing mix which people most associate with the term marketing. This is because the promotion refers to the various marketing communications used by the company, including advertising, sales promotions, public relations and publicity. It also includes the company’s overall promotional strategy, such as whether the company will primarily use viral marketing, consumer pull, technology push or some other method to attract customers. Finally, companies need to consider how their sales force and marketing communications budget is suited to their chosen promotional strategy.
People are arguably a vital part of any marketing mix, but play their most important role in the marketing of services. People represent the front line staff, customer service staff, back office staff and anyone else in the company who will have customer contact, or whose actions can affect the customers. The key consideration in this aspect of the mix is to train staff to respond effectively to customer needs, as well as to ensure that all staff are aware of the company’s policy towards its customers and behave appropriately. This can be supported by the development of a strong customer oriented organisational culture.
The process refers to the method by which customers are served, and is particularly relevant to service industries. This is because customers not only expect a certain quality of service, but also expect to receive a comparable level of service to all other customers of the firm. Therefore, the firm must ensure that its processes are of the highest quality for all customers. Indeed, even treating one customer with higher levels of service than usual can cause problems, as it may lead other customers to believe they are being treated in an inferior manner.
Physical evidence is another important part of services marketing and also information marketing. This is because services and information provision tend not to have any tangible outcomes. As such, whereas a customer can feel satisfied that if their product is inferior they can return it or complain, once a service or information has been provided the customer may have little recourse if it does not meet their expectations. This can lead to customers being very wary of purchasing services or information, particularly over remote distribution channels such as the internet. In order to overcome this, companies need to provide some form of physical evidence, in the form of photos, testimonials or statistics, which support their claims around the quality of their service levels and information.