Tried and true: 4P's of the Marketing Mix


It's been written, "Everything old is new again." The 4P's have served as the Marketing Mix foundation for 55 years and are a simple, valuable tool for every business even in our "digital age."

In my 40-year advertising/marketing career, I've had the opportunity to help thousands of businesses. Some were "mom and pop," small retail, some were Fortune 500, large types, and others covered virtually every category in between.

Without fail, businesses -- regardless of category or size -- that have a real clear and honest understanding of the Marketing Mix were more successful in the marketplace.

What are the 4P's?

n Product - The first is product. A product can be either a tangible good or an intangible service that fulfills a need or want of consumers. The real test or question is, Do you or your company create a product your intended customers will buy?

n Price - This goes far beyond establishing a price for a product or multiple products based on profit margins alone. Long-term strategy versus discount or sale pricing impact product and brand positioning to customers. Price determinations impact profit margins, supply, demand and marketing strategy.

n Place-Product Distribution - Location. A great location previously could cover up pricing or product flaws. Not so much in our Google, Amazon, eBay digital world.

n Promotion - Includes paid advertising, selling, sales promotions, public relations and social media.

Experts and academics will argue that the first three have less value in today's markets, making the last -- Promotion -- the important one to focus on. I would argue that all are critical.

Let me share an example of a product/distribution failure:

A major fast-food chain decided to get into the booming breakfast market of which McDonald's controlled more than a 55 share. The company spent over $500,000 in developing and testing a line of breakfast sandwiches that tested off the charts for taste, quality, value and convenience with breakfast-sandwich consumers. Based on the research, the company rolled out a test in three Florida markets, spending over $1 million in TV, radio, billboard and print advertising. Initial sales were good, but the repeat business did not support the product and the national rollout was cancelled.

What happened?

They had the best-tasting product. The pricing was equal to or less than the competition. They had the same number of locations for product distribution as their competitor, and the product was advertised with twice as much media weight and share of voice of any competitor in the market.

What they missed in the product testing:

Sixty-five percent of fast food is traditionally sold through the drive-thru. For breakfast the number is closer to 85%. The product was tested on plates in an indoor dining setting.

Bottom line? The best tasting, bacon and fluffy scrambled egg sandwich could not be consumed easily or neatly while driving. And this equaled product failure.

Remember a product can be either a tangible good or an intangible service that fulfills a need or want of consumers. No consumer wants to wear their breakfast, regardless of the superiority of the taste. Hundreds of people involved in the rollout missed the simple context of this product and its product distribution -- that breakfast sandwiches are typically consumed in your car on the way to work.

It's easy in our new digital world to dismiss the 4P's as old thinking or old strategy but, in my opinion, overlooking the first three P's is a sure-fire way to fail or squander valuable promotion dollars.

John Mann is general sales manager for WPSD Local 6 and The Paducah Sun.

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