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Some argue that the 4Ps have been replaced by the 7Cs.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.

It’s Lonely on the Edge

I was observing my 12 year old daughter as she was going through the tribulations of a middle school student council election this week and realized an important thing about leadership. It’s challenging when you are doing something that is groundbreaking and public and you don’t have peers that you can talk to about the ‘thing’.

This was brought home when my daughter was having challenges with the competitive part of campaigning and was getting down. This was a case where the people that were experiencing this were three – her and her two challengers, yet the whole school was watching what was going on in the campaign between them. Very public yet a very private experience.

As her energy was starting to wear down from the negativity her sister called her and gave her a pep talk. The talk went along the lines of – ‘you’re doing great, this is normal, and you are taking the high road and learning from the experience, keep going’. This little talk from someone that she respects seems to have done wonders for her efforts and psyche and she is back in the fight.

How often does this parallel happen in the workplace and how often do we not pay attention to the needs and challenges of those that are trying to ‘push the edge’. Often people believe that those in leadership positions or on leading, tough projects are strong enough to do it on their own. It’s important to realize that a true leader (including leaders that aren’t managers) remembers to pay attention to those working at the edge and reinforce their efforts. It’s even more true when those efforts are groundbreaking, public, and difficult to do.