Rumors of the Death of the 4 P’s are Greatly Exaggerated

With all of the excitement of Social Media and Digital Marketing, there have been a lot of articles and commentary lately about the demise of the 4P model.  For those that don’t know or need a refresher, the 4P model stands for Product, Pricing, Placement, and Promotion.  A good, simple overview of the 4P model is presented on the NetMBA site.images

Ogilvy and Mather published an article about the 4Ps being out and the 4Es being in.  While I agree with the value of the 4E model as an extension or addition to the 4Ps (I have this as required reading in the undergraduate digital marketing course that I teach), it does not replace the 4P model.

There have been numerous attempts to EXTEND the 4P model over time.  There have also been arguments about what constitutes the main P’s with some arguing that People should be added (for customer segmentation).

Some argue that the 4Ps have been replaced by the 7Cs.  An alternative way of thinking about this is that the 4Ps approach the marketing mix from the vendor/producer viewpoint while the 7Cs approach marketing mix from the Customer/Consumer standpoint.  I think that this is another model that goes deeper and is complimentary to the 4P model.

As a way of highlighting the continuing importance of the 4P model, I point to the recent issues in the marketplace around Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet launch as a way of showing how critical the 4Ps really are to successful marketing.  Regardless of your personal viewpoint (Pro or Con) regarding the Surface RT platform, the product has had a challenging launch and ramp by any objective measure and it can be clearly tracked back to three of the four P’s.

From a Product standpoint, the Surface RT has had strong positive reviews for it’s industrial design but has also had negative responses to it’s lack of available apps and inability to run legacy Windows applications.

From a Pricing standpoint, there has been strong pushback from reviewers on the initial pricing for the Surface RT.  While there have been pros and cons about the Surface RT pricing and price positioning (with and without keyboards), the fact that it is raised as a value concern in various reviews shows that Pricing and price-positioning is an important part of the marketing mix.

Finally, Placement has been a major issue as the product was initially available only in Microsoft’s stores and online.  There was some commentary early on in the announcements that this was a point product for Microsoft and would not be available through broad distribution as a way to minimize competitive conflict with Windows 8 OEMS but that has proven to be an issue for the product’s acceptance in the marketplace.

From a Promotion standpoint, Microsoft has done a good job of building Awareness.  Using the 4P model it is possible to see clearly the challenges that they have in driving Consideration and, most importantly, Conversion.

While there is always value in extending models and creating complimentary models, the claims that the 4Ps are irrelevant are questionable at best.  Like good brands, good models stand the test of time.

7 thoughts on “Rumors of the Death of the 4 P’s are Greatly Exaggerated

  1. katzup

    So, based on your 4P model, do you believe the Surface RT will be successful in the tablet market (market share goal)?

    • dwriter

      I think the jury is still out. What I DO know is that the risks of failure were much higher with the issues highlighted in the post which Microsoft has begun addressing.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed but how does Microsoft mitigate the “risks of (market) failure” via ongoing application of the 4P (or any marketing model). I’m sure they went through a similar process in creating Zune (RIP).

      • dwriter

        By continued testing and review of the data available. Sometimes the data and analysis may point to a need to exit the market. See this week’s news about Samsung deciding NOT to bring their Ativ RT product to the US market. Sometimes it points to necessary changes in the offering.

        The model is a tool to analyze and make market plans/decisions with. It provides a structured way to evaluate, plan, and react. It can also help identify risks/issues when competitive environments change (I.e. Zune). It doesn’t predict success or failure.

        I don’t know what Microsoft uses or does. The nice thing about models like the 4p model is that they can also be used externally (although obviously not in a detailed, future outlook way since only publicly available info is used).

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for your reply. I agree that the 4P model helps to identify and analyze the market risks associated with a new product introduction especially in an established marketplace; what I’m trying to discover (and aren’t we all) a predictive tool/process for market success (other than sales, duh) to determine future resource/investment commitments (think BCG Matrix).

      • dwriter

        Prediction of success or failure is the holy grail search for many. Just like predicting the outcome of a football game, there Are changing dynamics that affect the competitive environment. No one tool alone can predict success or failure but a combination of methods and models may help in providing Some insight into outcome likelihood.

        The other problem is access to data. Many predictive Analytics tools (like WEKA) need some internal data to be able to do evaluation and analysis.

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