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In 1964 Neil H. Borden published the article: The Concept of the Marketing Mix. The marketing mix in Borden’s concept originally included “product planning; pricing; branding; channels of distribution or place; personal selling; promotions; advertising; packaging; display; servicing; physical handling; and fact finding and analysis,” (Zineldin and Philipson, 2007, p231). According to this concept, the list of twelve ingredients of the marketing mix is adjustable. It could depend on what kind of elements or areas researchers want to focus on or emphasize to change more, but in The Concept of Marketing Mix, Borden (1964) already explained explicitly why he chose the twelve elements as the marketing mix.
However, even though the idea of the marketing mix is derived from Borden, the 4Ps marketing mix which is known to the public was introduced by Jerome McCarthy: Product, Price, Promotion, Place (Constantinides, 2006; Gummesson, 2008). As Anderson and Taylor (1995, p2) claim: “The major step in popularizing the marketing mix was the publication of Jerome McCarthy’s, Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach in 1960.”
The purpose of this paper is to discuss whether the marketing mix is still a suitable approach to modern day marketing. For instance, with new technology and subsequent changes in people’s lifestyles, new marketing concepts are springing up, such as relationship marketing and service marketing. Therefore, is the marketing mix still useful today, or should it be improved or even replaced by other new themes; this is a controversial area.
The marketing mix and relationship marketing
A lot of criticisms are fined at McCarthy’s 4Ps model because researchers generally think that 4Ps are too simplified. Those who attack the paradigm have suggested that the model should have more factors added into it (Traynor, 1985; Magrath, 1986; and Doyle, 1994) or even use other factors, such as 4Cs to substitute 4Ps (Lauterborn, 1990). Grönroos (1994) even stated that it is time for the marketing mix to step down and let a new paradigm shift emerge.
Moreover, during the past few decades, the debate that the marketing mix needs to be replaced by other new paradigm shift marketing concepts is going on (Constantinides, 2006; Gummesson, 2008). As discussed by Grönroos (2006), relationship marketing is one of the strongest candidates among so many competitors who are eager to substitute the marketing mix. Furthermore, as Grönroos (1994, p5) states:
In marketing education, teaching students how to use a toolbox had become the totally dominating task instead of discussing the meaning and consequences of the marketing concept and the process nature of market relationships.
This indicates that the marketing mix is a good model and memorable for students to understand the general marketing strategy concept. It may, nonetheless, limit students’ creativity idea in order to fit the framework at the same time.
In fact, the marketing mix is still adopted by many scholars and is published in the majority of textbooks, but some have argued that customer relationship is an emerging trend in recent years (Grönroos, 1994). With time change, the pattern and relationship between sellers and buyers have a significant difference now than before (Coviello and Brodie, 2001). Take hospital industry in Taiwan for example: over the last few decades doctors have played a vital role in this industry. They are the kings and they are independent, because hospitals rely on them to make profits. In addition, the qualifications required to enter this industry are relatively high compared to other fields, so during that era the supply (hospitals) was much less than the demand (patients). This also results in hospitals not needing a good manager or a proper marketer to run the business, and yet they still can make money. It is common that, if patients are ill, they have to put their name on a long waiting list. Sometimes even if they have already made an appointment, due to too many patients in the same time period, they still need to wait. Moreover, after a long waiting time, when it is finally their time to see doctors, most of the time doctors are not so friendly. However, this kind of situation is totally different now. Health care industry is no longer a monopoly. As more hospitals are established, the competitions become more intense. As a result, owners of health care organizations start to emphasize the relationship between doctors and patients. In addition, managers also think that employees who may contact with customers are all “part-time marketers” (Gummesson, 1990). The main factor to cause this kind of change is that buyers (patients) have more choices nowadays. For instance, if there are two sellers (doctors) equipped with the same conditions, but one provides more support on intangible service and has good relationships with buyers, then buyers will definitely go to the one who shows more concern for them. Consequently, managers of health care organizations have to value patients and doctors’ relationships or they may keep losing customers. This also shows that relationship marketing is a new trend now.
While it is interesting to note that some researchers attack the marketing mix is being outdated and in fact that it cannot be deemed as an unchallengeable foundation of marketing, they believe that it formed almost 40 years ago; the concept of it, they argue, in contemporary business or academic research is no longer useful. By contrast, relationship marketing is the new upcoming theme of marketing. Relationship marketing is neither original thinking nor a novelty theory, but it has already been in existence for quite a long time. Zineldin and Philipson (2007, p229) argue that “relationship marketing is one of the oldest approaches to marketing”. As early as about 25 years ago, the term was introduced as a strategy to service marketing by Berry in 1983, according to Crosby and Stephens (1987).
By comparing the transaction-oriented marketing, which is part of the marketing mix feature with relationship marketing, most companies still put emphasis on attracting new customers rather than focusing on establishing a long-term relationship with their existing customers. As reported by Zineldin and Philipson (2007), finding new customers costs less than retaining current customers. Moreover, having a long-term relationship with clients is indeed profitable, but consumers’ desire is also endless. With more services are provided and a variety of products are easy to access currently, consumers just will want more rather than less, and their mind changes frequently. Accordingly, for companies to maximize profits immediately is both necessary and important for them (Zineldin and Philipson, 2007).
Furthermore, relationship marketing focuses on not only the connection amid corporations and customers, but also the relationship between corporations. Consequently, relationship marketing may not be the case for all corporations. For example, if a tin company’s ingredients are all from the same supplier, then once the food that the supplier offers has a problem, then the tin company’s business will definitely be affected by lack of ingredients. As a result, some companies may not want to rely on another company too much (Zineldin and Philipson, 2007).
The other point many academic scholars criticize about the marketing mix is that some standard marketing ingredients are not integrated with the marketing mix into textbooks to become a complete whole body (Grönroos, 1994;Gummesson, 2002). They are just like toppings on the pizza: the toppings are those additional Ps and the model of 4Ps is the base. The reason why it causes this kind of outcome is owing to model being oversimplified, from a list of elements into four Ps. However, at the same time it cannot be denied that the contribution of the marketing mix and four Ps is significant (Jobber, 2007). Although a lot of new concepts have emerged, it does not mean that the marketing mix will be replaced. To some certain extent, it is still a useful approach and provides a fundamental theory for people who want to study or explore this field. By combining the marketing mix with other spring up theories, it can allow marketing theory to become better. Even Grönroos is against the marketing mix, but he also claims the following (1994, p14):
[E]ven if marketing mix management is dying as the dominating marketing paradigm and the Four P model needs to be replaced, this does not mean that the Ps themselves, and other concepts of the managerial approach such as market segmentation and indeed the marketing concept (McKitterick, 1957; Keith, 1960), would be less valuable than before. Relationships do not function by themselves.
Hence, no matter how marketing concepts develop, the root of these new paradigms is related to the marketing mix. It is of course relevant to contemporary marketing means and still regarded as a core value of marketing.
The marketing mix and e-commerce marketing
In the 21st century, business may not only be based on physical activities, but also on virtual activities. Therefore, discussing whether the marketing mix can be adapted to e-commerce is a signal to see if it is still relevant to contemporary thinking. As Peattie (1997, p142) point out:
Although the marketing implications of emerging electronic or virtual markets are being discussed, the implications for the management of the marketing mix are often being overlooked. Already many innovative companies are taking advantage of the new generation of technologies to enhance or re-engineer key elements of the marketing mix, giving marketing a leading role in introducing companies to the revolutionary world of third age computing.
They stress that the marketing mix in this industry is revolutionizing and 4Ps have another new definition to fit e-commerce and marketing function. In a practical aspect, it had been put into practice for many organizations (Peter and Olson, 2005). In addition, virtual value chain also used 4Ps to illustrate the effect of it on electronic business (Bhatt and Emdad, 2001). Many companies still use the marketing mix and 4Ps as their strategy, but with little change on the traditional 4Ps. Allen and Fjermestad (2001, p22) also indicate that “Although many of the e-commerce strategy frameworks offer a unique contribution to strategic planning, integrating these models into the traditional product, price, place and promotion framework can provide a more complete analysis of strategy.” It reinforces the view that the marketing mix and 4Ps are the cornerstone of marketing and the basis of strategy marketing. More importantly, it is still applied to 21st century new trend business, electronic commerce. In consequence, it is identified that the marketing mix just needs some small changes to be integrated well with other “re-discovery” concepts; it then plays the most vital role in contemporary marketing theory yet.
The marketing mix and marketing are just like the constitution is to a country. Constitution is the foundation of a nation. The law may be changed or adjusted with time because the environment and the way people think is greatly different from that of those who were born 50 years ago. Consequently, it is unavoidable that the law should be changed, eliminated or have more rules added to it. Nevertheless, no matter how the rule is amended, the basic rule is always there. It represents a country’s spirit and belief, and this is unchangeable. Hence, this is just as the marketing mix to marketing, in my opinion.
Even though some scholars criticize that marketing is not an appropriate approach currently, it needs to be replaced with other rising marketing principles. Nonetheless, common terms such as relationship marketing, service marketing and e-commerce marketing, are focusing on just a part of marketing. They can tackle the problem of a specific area but the marketing mix and 4Ps are the basis of a much more general theory. Moreover, although those who attack the marketing mix for being an old concept and of less relevance today, they also support that the relationship between the marketing mix and marketing is still very close. The influence of the marketing mix is still strong today but certainly not as profound as it has been in the past, and indeed the concept of it still shows signs of practical implementation in contemporary society.
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