Designing and building a marketing campaign is a big project. Even experienced leaders sometimes find it hard to get started because there is so much to consider, plan, and organize.
But there are several strategies that can help, and “the 4 Ps of marketing” is one of them. It’s not a new concept, but the 4 Ps are so foundational that many marketers are using at least some of them without even knowing it. Understanding the whole framework of the 4 Ps of marketing can help make planning your next campaign simple and straightforward.
What are the 4 Ps of marketing?
The 4 Ps of marketing are a collection of four essential elements of a marketing campaign — namely product, price, promotion, and place.Also known as “the marketing mix,” the 4 Ps collectively create a framework for organizing and planning a marketing strategy for a product or service.
Professor Neil H. Borden first described the concept of the 4 Ps and the marketing mix in the early 1950s at Harvard University. In the 1960s, marketing professor E. Jerome McCarthy at Michigan State University officially named these concepts “the 4 Ps of marketing” in his book Basic Marketing: The Managerial Approach.
Borden later published his conclusions in a 1964 article, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix.” The 4 Ps have remained a key reference for companies in consumer marketing and advertising for decades.
Marketing has evolved dramatically since the 1950s, and the marketing mix continues to develop as well. As early as the 1960s, the Ps were expanded to include people, process, and physical evidence. The marketing mix concept continues to be developed as marketers apply the concept to modern marketing.
Understanding the 4 Ps of marketing
The 4 Ps help marketers consider a product or service in the eyes of their consumers and buyers. It’s a framework that helps marketers build a holistic marketing strategy based on a deep understanding of the product, strategic consideration of pricing, unified view of promotional tactics, and unique insights into the places your audiences are.
Product — the object or service for sale
The product is the object or service for sale, and the marketer needs to know the product well. Understanding the product is about more than just knowing what it is and what it does. In order to design a strategic marketing campaign, you need a complete picture of:
- Your product or service
- How users relate to your product or service
- How your product compares to the competition
All of the details are important, and it will take a little bit of time to pull together a complete view of the product — but don’t skip it. It’s easy to get a very basic product description and then skip ahead to designing a marketing plan, but this almost guarantees that some insights will be left out — and the advertising strategy won’t be as strong as it could be.
Business owners and entrepreneurs should be especially careful here. You’ve probably spent a lot of time working on your product already, but thinking about it from a marketing perspective is a little different. Make sure you have a complete marketing portrait of your product before moving forward.
An example of product
A media streaming subscription is an example of a product. The company may offer a limited, free plan but also provide another tier of service for a monthly fee. As the marketing team considers the product, they may note that this plan offers more types of media than their competitors. Market research may reveal that while the product was designed for desktop devices, most users are actually engaging on their smartphone apps. Or they may discover that even though they thought the service was being used for casual entertainment, there is actually a large audience segment streaming educational podcasts in the mornings.
Price — cost of the product or service
As part of the marketing mix, “price” refers to how the cost and pricing structure of a product will impact the marketing strategy. In some cases, pricing will be designed in conjunction with a marketing strategy. But even if pricing details are simply handed down to the marketing team, it shouldn’t be overlooked as a key consideration.
The concept of price becomes a marketing strategy in a couple of ways, including:
- Brand perception. Pricing affects how your audience perceives your brand and your product. If you can design pricing structures as part of your marketing campaign, consider whether you are offering an economy or a luxury product. If pricing is predetermined, the marketing campaign will need to be consistent with the perception that pricing creates.
- Lead generation. Pricing strategies can be designed for lead generation by using free trials or limited free pricing tiers. Whether or not lead generation is built into your product’s pricing structure will impact your marketing campaigns.
An example of price
In our media streaming example, the company offers a free account with limited access. If the paid subscription costs more than competitor subscriptions, the marketing team may choose to describe and illustrate their service as a more sophisticated option. Ad campaigns may associate the product with a more expensive lifestyle, highlight the larger library of content, direct content at adults more than teenagers, and establish partnership marketing relationships with other brands that market to the same audience.
Promotion — reach the target audience
Promotion is communicating with customers and target audiences.Promotion is what comes to mind for many people when they think about marketing because it’s the piece of the marketing strategy that considers how to tell your audience about your product.
Promotion includes SEO and content marketing, online ads, social media advertising, email marketing, public relations campaigns, media placement, and more. It’s about all of the considerations that will help you get your product to your audiences. Some of those considerations include:
- The types of messaging your audience responds to
- The ideal time to communicate with them
- Market segmentation and demographics
- How people interact with your brand
You’ll take all of those insights (and more) and use them to design visual ads, videos, email campaigns, and content calendars that speak directly to your target audience at every stage of the customer journey. You’ll also want to consider how to use personalization at scale in order to create a truly unique, engaging experience for each individual that helps move them through the funnel.
An example of promotion
For example, the media streaming service may consider a promotional campaign that targets business professionals in major US cities. The company may partner with popular tech brands and design messaging that advertises the largest collection of educational podcasts — perfect for learning about your business or favorite subjects during your morning routine.
Place — location of consumers
Place is about where and how your product is available, as well as where your marketing messages are shared. The idea of product ”place” is an important marketing consideration because it also affects brand perception. The “place” of your promotions has a similar effect because people associate the medium with the message. Many exclusive brands, for example, are not available in big box department stores. Selective product placement reinforces the customer’s view of the brand as something elite.
It’s important to note that most marketing places are now digital. Digital marketers need to consider where their customers and buyers are online, both for product and promotional placement.
An example of place
Let’s take one last look at the media streaming company example. The marketing team may focus a lot (if not all) of their campaign resources on digital platforms. LinkedIn might be a more valuable place than Facebook, and podcast sponsorships might be a valuable place for influencer marketing.
How to use the 4 Ps of marketing
You can put the 4 Ps of marketing to work by using them as a framework for planning your next campaign. Think through and document how each one applies to your strategy and how the implications of each can improve your marketing performance by asking some strategic questions:
- What is unique about your product?
- Why is it better than the competition?
- How is the product designed to be used?
- How is your audience actually using the product?
- What needs does the product meet?
- What frustrations does your audience have with the product?
- What frustrations does your audience have with competitor products?
- How does the product relate to our current branding and company mission?
- What does the price communicate about the product?
- What does the price communicate about your brand?
- How will the pricing likely influence buyer perception?
- Does the pricing model support lead generation strategies?
- Based on the product and pricing, who are my target audiences?
- Why do my target personas need this product?
- When are my target personas most aware of their need for this product?
- What type of messaging and content most resonate with my target audiences?
- Where should my product be available? Is it exclusive or widely available?
- Is my target audience geographically limited?
- Where does my target audience spend their time?
- What digital channels does my target audience prefer?
- What marketing partners align with the strategy for this product and our brand identity?
Getting started with the 4 Ps
The 4 Ps of marketing are not a new strategy and — like most marketing strategies — the strength of the marketing mix lies in its flexibility. It continues to develop to suit marketers’ needs and remains a key framework decades after it was first documented.