In a world that worships social, are the 4Ps still relevant?

The basic pillars of marketing are the product you sell, the price you sell it at, the place where you sell it and the promotion – how you go about convincing people to buy it. These four pillars are known as the ‘4Ps’ and, it is said, for a marketing strategy to be effective, these four components must be considered, integrated and implemented appropriately.

When I started training as a marketer, the 4Ps were our commandments. They were the bedrock of our studies and central to our on-the-job planning and implementation.

But at a time when marketing channels and consumer behaviours are changing at speed, when we are as much bothered by social funnels and brand touch-points as we are price and promotion, should marketers and their brands continue to pay heed to these 4Ps or should they instead rewrite the rules of marketing for themselves?

I think it’s fair to say that a few of my clients and colleagues still consider them fundamental to what we do, still the foundations on which to build all sound marketing strategies.

In their minds, they favour a process that takes the modern challenges of the role, and places them in the appropriate ‘P’ – digital is a manifestation of ‘place’ and the customer experience of ‘product’, and a brand touch-point is ‘promotion’ in any other language.

For others, either they represent the dusty and outmoded thinking of a time pre-digital, pre-branded, pre-now … in need of updating, perhaps with a few more letters thrown in, or they need to be discarded for some new and more relevant way of structuring what we do.

What do I think? Well, for me, where marketing has changed most over the last decade is in the erosion of the perceived value of strategy in favour of a new way of working which is big on promotional tactics but light on process and planning.

Tactics, tactics, tactics

The marketing plan remains critical to all of us and what we do but it is not uncommon, indeed it is now the norm, for us to be briefed on projects that sit outside any wider marketing plan or strategy, or indeed are seen as a replacement for one.

Planning, from what I can see, has increasingly been diluted down to promotional tactics that generally lack context and measurement. Consequently, what follows is a tactical rather than strategic focus to what we all end up doing day to day.

And if you start tactically, you continue tactically and the strategic simply does not apply.

You may say that this is because of the demands we now face from a professional environment where marketing decisions need to be made quickly and flexibly; where lead times and campaigns are now much shorter and where new marketing professionals are increasingly following non-linear career paths that render more traditional marketing skill sets as less important. And to an extent you would be right. All these are relevant issues and influences on our profession.

But surely that only increases rather than negates the importance of core marketing knowledge and the need for a solid strategic base to plan for what then follows?

In conclusion

The whole point and therefore importance of the 4Ps is their place in the process – at the start, when the thinking and the planning is done, in that bit we call ‘strategy’. Yes the role of the marketer has, and continues to evolve, but the fundamental principles of marketing have not, and as such, and in my view, they still retain their relevance and therefore their importance to all marketers.