The Marketing Mix is a framework to help marketers develop a marketing strategy. The traditional marketing mix contains four elements, often referred to in marketing textbooks as 'The 4Ps', which are, namely, Product, Price, Promotion and Place, extending into 'The 7Ps' with People, Process and Physical Evidence.
The 4Ps of Marketing
The 4Ps is considered by Palmatier and Sridhar (2017) to be a useful starting point for developing a cohesive marketing strategy, which is also aligned with other aspects of organisational activity such as strategic vision and goals, and also organisational resources.
What are the 4 Ps of Marketing?
Beginning with the Product first, this aspect of the marketing mix not only refers to the specifics of the product itself, but also the wants and needs of the end consumer - linking back to the observation of Kotler (1976, cited in Kotler, 2019) about marketing theory. Product in this context also include any improvements or innovations in the product, which might be a simple as a new recipe for consumer foods, or a significant technological development such as the latest version of the iPhone. Any labelling or packaging is also included under ‘product’ in the 4Ps, because high quality packaging is known to be an important component of the overall consumer experience (Spence and Velasco, 2018), as is, more recently the absence of packaging, in promoting environmental awareness. Branding is also often linked to product, because for many consumers a brand and a product are indistinguishable.
Price is understandably an important component of the marketing mix, because price points are as much strategic as they are psychological (Ebrahim et al., 2016). Products and services are typically assumed to be priced in a way which generates profit for organisation, but pricing is also psychological, because it is known that consumers associate particular price points with a willingness to pay. Consumers typically associate high prices with high-value and/or high quality (and this links back to branding and packaging for example), but consumers could also be price sensitive about what they perceived to be non-value adding services such as delivery charges. Wirtz and Lovelock (2016) note that consumers make decisions about personal sacrifices as part of their assessment of pricing - which links back to indirect substitutes - and might include any inconvenience that the customer has to experience in order to secure the product. Quite understandably, if a product is significantly more expensive than that of a competitor or an appropriate substitute, then there will need to be some additional value offered by the organisation.
Promotion refers to any marketing activity which raises awareness of the product or service within the market, and specifically with the preferred consumer segment (Kotler, 2019). Promotion in this context therefore collectively refers to direct marketing activity, branding, public relations and advertising, as well as more recent developments to marketing activities such as product placement, and social or celebrity influence. Promotion can thus be simply understood as a way of raising awareness and telling a story about a brand or product to encourage consumer engagement.
Place, sometimes referred to as distribution, ‘place’ describes the channel used to facilitate access to the product or service (Sit et al., 209). This might include direct retail, wholesale or electronic distribution. As part of a more sophisticated marketing strategy, it is quite possible that similar products are branded differently in different channels, and have different pricing, which is contingent on market segments. The more data an organisation can gather to support its marketing mix strategy, the more targeted the placing of products and services can be. It is also worth noting that some practitioners consider place to be the third of the 4P’s and promotion to be the 4P - to some extent the order of the 4Ps is contingent on the specifics of the actual product and service.
Why are the 4 Ps of Marketing Important?
The 4Ps of marketing is built around developing a marketing strategy for a physical product, considering a number of factors, including what consumers are looking for, how the business can meet their needs with the product or service, how they are different to their competitors, and more. The 4Ps give businesses a greater insight and understanding, allowing them to develop a strategy that is more informed and ideally more effective.
However, as services and experiences have become more important to organisations and consumers, marketing theorists identified that an extension to the 4Ps would be helpful to focus on services marketing (Chaffey and Smith, 2017). This led to the development of the 7Ps framework, with the addition of People, Process, and Physical Evidence. Dave Chaffey (2019), a noted expert in digital marketing, offers insights into these three additional aspects of the services marketing mix.
The 7Ps of Marketing
Chaffey argues that ultimately, People buy from people because of a human connection, even if this is not necessarily immediately obvious. Whilst direct personal selling would be a clear example of people buying from people, and indirect example would be highly skilled marketers within the organisation being responsible for developing a high-profile marketing strategy or advertising campaign which influences consumer behaviour and impacts on consumer wants and needs. Therefore, it is important for an organisation to have highly skilled people within its organisation who are able to develop products and services, answer any questions that customers might have, and also, address any customer complaints to avoid damage to brand reputation and support recovery from any service failure.
Process is also very important, especially if the product or service is delivered remotely or electronically (Calder et al., 2018). Good process should ensure that the right product is delivered to the right customer in good condition, and also helps to ensure customer service follow-up to begin to build a relationship with a customer which is invaluable for future marketing activity. Technology plays a key role in having a strong organisational process, because technology can facilitate reciprocal relationships between the consumer and the organisation or brand. Technology can also be used to gather valuable consumer data which can then enable marketers to refine a marketing strategy and engage in highly personalised marketing which will encourage a consumer to purchase.
Physical evidence links back to high quality presentation of the product or service. Recalling the example of high-quality packaging or, also the absence of packaging where appropriate, Sit et al., (2018) demonstrated through an empirical study how these physical aspects influence consumer behaviour. Think of the example of consumer walking into high quality boutique or retailer, and the physical evidence of good quality well displayed products and well-presented staff (people) illustrate this point. Physical evidence is therefore also part of the brand experience, even if physical evidence is associated with service delivery, such as hairdressers.
Limitations of the Marketing Mix
Both the 4Ps and 7Ps are very widely used by marketing practitioners, but there are some limitations to the overall theory. The 4Ps especially has been criticised as being predominantly ‘inside out’ - meaning that marketing is pushed onto a customer based on what the organisation wants to sell (Tuten and Solomon, 2017). The 7Ps framework makes some effort to address this criticism, by gathering data about customer wants and needs, and attempting to develop an ‘outside-in’ approach which better understands customer thought processes. Although in principle, the categories in each of the frameworks should be clearly defined, there can be overlap - obvious evidence of this is disagreement amongst some marketing experts as to the order of the 4Ps. In common with any type of analysis framework of this nature, it does not necessarily provide insight into a precise marketing strategy, but instead simply helps to gather evidence which can inform marketing strategy. Provided that these limitations are understood, both the 4Ps and 7Ps can be powerful analytical tools for marketers.
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