Updated: Feb 23
If you have had minimal contact with marketing, it is likely you have dedicated a portion of time to the Traditional 4 P’s of Marketing — Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.
The New P’s of Digital: Transform Your Marketing Strategy in the Era of the “New Normal”
The Marketing Mix is a set of variables that can be controlled and used to influence consumer responses and represent the four fundamental pillars of any business strategy. However, this set of variables has since evolved, mainly due to technological changes over time. Moreover, it is essential to know that the balance of these elements contributes to a successful brand.
It is increasingly common to receive client inquiries regarding the significance of the Marketing Mix in the digital environment. Those clients who are actively selling a product online are often unfamiliar with the essential tasks of creating a sales and marketing strategy while still in the business plan phase. Similar to this, is it likely these clients have created a business plan without taking into account the new pillars of the marketing mix and how they are applied in digital strategy.
Contrary to what many people think, marketing is a science that goes far beyond the promotion of a product. It is, above all, the result of significant, high-level planning.
Understanding the Origin of the Marketing MIX
The Marketing Mix was created in the late 1940s by Neil H. Borden, a Harvard advertising professor who was inspired by an article by his professional colleague, James Culliton, who describes marketers as “ingredient mixers.”
Despite the idea, "mixers" became popular among marketing professionals at the time, and there was no consensus on the elements that should compose this mix until 1960. Professor and author Edmund Jerome McCarthy proposed the concept of “Marketing Mix 4 Ps” in his book Basic Marketing – A Managerial Approach. What he wanted to explain with the definition of these four great pillars was why some brands are more expensive than others, why some sell more than others, and why some are better promoted than others.
But it was Philip Kotler who later helped spread the concept. The following studies carried out by Kotler disseminated the marketing mix to the whole world, complementing the theory developed by McCarthy and giving a more realistic character. He defined the four pillars as applicable tools in corporate marketing, where he explored the argument in his books. His influence was so important that many people think he was the one who developed the 4 P’s idea.
The Importance of the Marketing Mix for Your Business
To remain competitive, a company must seek a standard of excellence in its products or services, taking into account that customers become increasingly demanding overtime. And for that, companies frequently need to be concerned with meeting ongoing and evolving needs. For Kotler and Armstrong (2010), “the key to achieving the organization’s objectives is to determine the needs and desires of the target consumers and satisfy them more effectively and efficiently than the competitors.”
Why is Starbucks coffee more expensive than competitors and still a worldwide phenomenon? The answer is closely related to the brand identity and ability to make the public aware of its differentials, such as the consumer experience. The real secret of Starbucks is in the interior design, the moody playlist, comfortable furniture, abundance of nearby outlets, free wifi, and the possibility of customizing your drink with a name.
At first, it all sounds quite common and easily copied by other coffee shops. But what really makes this unique in the brand is that it can replicate the same experience with excellence in all its stores around the world. All of this makes the consumer feel part of a tribe that inhabits the coffee shop to work, study, and host meetings. These features, when combined, end up being perceived as a more valuable experience than having coffee at a traditional bakery counter.
The 4 P’s of Marketing are constantly changing and adapting so that both customers and businesses can benefit. When establishing a strategic plan, it is essential to ask to what extent has the company been generating customer satisfaction through the marketing mix? It is important to remember companies adapt to customer needs and interests, and not customers, companies.
The Evolution of the First 4 P’s of Marketing
This pillar serves to understand and define the attributes, differentials, and characteristics of what is offered to satisfy consumer needs or desires. In this case, the product here is not just a tangible asset, but anything that can be provided as a business, having added value and meeting the needs of a specific group of people.
Philip Kloter defined a product as “something that can be offered to a market for appreciation, acquisition, use or consumption, and that can satisfy a desire or a need” (Kotler & Armstrong, 2010). Meeting consumer needs has become increasingly important in the past decade that many marketers have renamed product P to problem P. After all, a product will be successful when solving customer problems.
If you plan to develop a new product, always keep in mind some questions that you will need to answer for your team or marketing consultant:
Concept: What is the purpose of this product? How does it meet needs or desires? Does your target audience need what you have to offer?
Functions: What is required to achieve expectations? How, where, and when will the customer use the product?
Appearance: What will be its shape, style, size, and color? Are there variations?
Brand: What is the name? Is it possible to register a domain and profile on social networks without changing the brand name?
Differentials: How does it differ from other products and services already on the market? What feature, function, or quality does it offer that is unique?
The development of new products, per consumer demand, is an essential part of product P. A strong example of how digital media is changing this development process is the use of crowdsourcing, which is designed to create products in partnership with potential consumers. Further, the data collected through online surveys and statistics is the basis for the development of any new product.
The behaviour of users on the internet is recorded by various software, such as Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, and MailChimp. The use of digital media facilitates direct research that is often executed via proprietary or third-party platforms such as Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, and Typeform.
An additional vital component in product development is understanding the life cycle before launch. The five different stages assist in characterizing the life cycle of any product or service: Development, Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline. Each one has a specific set of requirements for sales and marketing strategies. Thus, it enables the monitoring of behaviour in the market, interest captured, maintenance of customers, and tactics related to pricing.
When establishing these phases, it is easier to establish necessary actions for effectively promoting a product or service.
Establishing a price point for a product or service is not an easy task, especially when you are launching an innovative product. The pricing can be complicated for those who have never done it, but various mechanisms and strategies can help to facilitate this conclusion.
The correct definition of price, the main factor in generating revenue, can leverage the brand in competitive terms or position it in the wrong way. It is important to remember that the price is linked not only to the value of the product or service but also to the perception of brand value. Simply put, brands that are more valuable to the customer are more likely to come out on top, even with a higher price point.
When developing a strategic plan, it is essential to ask the client-specific questions, which may or may not reflect what the market expects, to land on an idea of where to begin.
Margin: What is the lowest financial value that the product can have to guarantee a return?
Perception of Value: What is the highest acceptable value for the market?
Competition: How is the price of the product compared to competitors? What is the price charged by market leaders?
Identifying the average price charged by competitors is relatively simple. Depending on the market in which you operate, this price survey can be mastered quickly through other channels that sell similar products.
3. Place, Presence
Once the product and its price positioning have been defined clearly, it is necessary to construct a distribution plan – also known as presence, that is, how and where the consumer will be able to purchase. For this stage, it is imperative that consumers have access to the brand to make their purchases, whether in an online or offline environment.
It is beneficial to make a geographical analysis and evaluate the consumption habits of the target audience before defining optimal sales channels. Therefore, offering the product online is often one of the best options for universal access. It is essential to identify where the target audience lives and consumes this type of product, in which establishments they frequent, and what kind of products they explore online.
For the best distribution strategy, there are a few questions that should be answered:
Consumer Habits: Where is your audience looking for products and services?
Points of Contact: Which social networks are being used by your ideal buyer? Do these users prefer online shopping?
4. Promotion with Purpose
When entering the promotion stage, it is necessary to develop mechanisms for brand disclosure, both online and offline. The message needs to reach the right people, as it is the best way to make the brand known and for the products to be considered for future use.
In our current climate, it is not enough to emphasize the differentials of a product, and it is necessary to show the consumer the purpose of the brand. Having a purpose aligned with the target audience, which reflects your values and beliefs, health and well-being, environmental sustainability, and family connections, has a significant weight in the purchase decision. However, innovative and necessary a particular product may be, there is no more space for those who, for example, offer degrading working conditions for their employees.
To find the purpose of a brand and make it active in daily life, it is important to start by answering those more meaningful questions:
What is the reason for the brand's existence?
What role does it play in the lives of customers?
What kind of solutions does it offer?
How would the world be different without it?
Peter Drucker said:
There will always, one can assume, be a need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy. All that should be needed then is to make the product or service available.
The data analysis tools available today enable a more assertive analysis in the identification of the consumer. Before creating a communication plan to promote a product or service, start with the following questions:
Budget: What investment does the client have available for a communication plan?
Objective: What is the sales objective? How long does the customer have to achieve this goal?
Media Plan: What are the best online and offline channels, and what public relations actions can be used to present the product or service?
Seasonality: Is there a seasonal factor in product sales?
Competitor Analysis: How do competitors promote their products and services? What insights can we gain from competitor actions?
The magic of Digital Marketing is that it allows you to create, test, measure, and adjust your communication in a matter of hours. This detailed capability is nearly nonexistent when launching a TV campaign or print ad. When a communication plan in the digital environment has taken place, after being tested and validated, a business may then adapt the message to offline media.
The complementary Ps
With the popularization of online stores and social media, the consumer's shopping journey has changed, and the need for an adjustment has emerged to ensure the definition of an increasingly complete and integrated marketing plan, focused not only on the product but now with a focus also with the client, with this, other issues besides the 4Ps had to be taken into account. Ensuring that the product reaches the target audience and is consumed by it is much more than merely talking about Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. It is necessary to build a closer and personalized relationship with consumers through data analysis and satisfaction surveys.
Consumers are increasingly demanding and aware of their wants and needs. The purchase process is increasingly guided by the ease of access to information, available 24 hours a day on smartphones, such as online price surveys, product comparisons, and evaluations by other consumers. As a result, they are no longer passive buyers to take a more active role in choosing the products and marketing messages they want to hear and buy.
The 4 Ps of marketing, created in the '60s, continue to play a fundamental role in any strategy, but now, more than ever, it is necessary to follow this "new" journey of buying and the needs of consumers, including new pillars in this structure: People, Processes, Positioning, and Performance.
People's behavior needs to be taken into account more than ever. To sell, it is not enough to just communicate the right message, to the right people, in the right places; it is necessary to create empathy and a relationship between the brand and the customer. And this has to be generated from the inside out, starting at the hiring stage, going through the training, motivation, and qualification of the team, making them understand and deliver on edge the brand promise (Brand Promise). There is no point in communication reaching the target audience if when they go to you to purchase your product or service, you do not serve them well.
Serving well means receiving well, listening to needs, and finding the best solution for them. The need to empathize with the public is immense. According to Albert Deweik, "empathy is the ability of a person to put himself in another and understand his issues and feelings. In this way, being empathetic is much more than understanding someone's demands" (Deweik, 2019).
With a sharp team, you need to go deeper and better understand your product's ideal consumer. In my strategies, I always resort to the creation of Personas to better understand the needs and habits of my clients' consumers. Persona is a semi-expert representation of the ideal customer of a brand. It is based on real data on customer behavior and demographic characteristics, often obtained through online surveys, as well as their personal stories, motivations, goals, challenges, and concerns. The creation of Personas is fundamental to your digital marketing strategy, as it will serve as a guide for generating content and your communication plan.
This pillar was included in the modern version of the marketing mix due to its importance in creating the consumer experience plan. The company cannot have bureaucratic processes and hinder the relationship with the customer; it is necessary to be present and have clear and dynamic processes to provide the best possible consumer experience before, during, and after a sale. After all, all the processes involved from the first contact with the customer directly impact their way of thinking about the brand. Thinking, planning, and mapping all contact points, aiming to maintain a standard of excellence, are vital, and a tool widely used in this planning phase is the Customer Journey Mapping (or Customer Journey Mapping).
At first, a customer's journey seems very simple. The company offers something, and the consumer buys. However, when you start to analyze in detail, taking into account all the points of contact and how to proceed in each of them, you have the exact notion of how complex this process is. The Customer Journey Mapping is a visual representation of all the experiences that customers have with a product, from packaging and manuals to postings on social networks. This helps to tell the story of a customer's experience with the brand, from original engagement to a long-term relationship. Mapping all the steps helps to train all those responsible and foresee solutions to possible problems, thus ensuring that no interaction has flaws.
By optimizing and improving experiences throughout the customer journey, you will build a solid and lasting relationship with your customers. According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, "the number of digital touchpoints is increasing by 20% per year, as more offline consumers move to digital tools and younger, digitally oriented consumers join the buyers' queue" (Bughin, 2015). With more points of contact, more complexity arises in the search for excellence in meeting customer needs. A map will also help identify areas where technology can ease the burden and the challenges facing companies.
Positioning is how the company will interact and create a connection with the consumer, building the way in which the brand will be recognized in the heart and mind of its target audience. In other words, to position a brand is to occupy a different position at the head of a specific market segment. If the company does not offer something different, consumers will have no difficulty choosing the competition.
In general, to define the positioning, you need to answer three basic questions that if you have developed the 4 Ps of your marketing mix well, you will not have any difficulties:
Buyer Personas: Who is your product for?
Problem: What consumer problems and needs will the product solve?
Differential (Point of Difference - POD): What is your differential compared to the competition?
An example of an effective structure could be what Amazon used in 2001:
"For World Wide Web users who enjoy books (buyer persona), Amazon.com (brand) is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books (point of difference). Unlike traditional book retailers (frame of reference), Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection (reasons to believe)."
In order to create a good brand positioning strategy, it is necessary to consider, among other factors, the strengths, and weaknesses of the organization, the needs of consumers and the market, in addition to the position of competitors. Performing a SWOT analysis is a good starting point for identifying these factors based on analyzes of the internal and external environments. Another purpose of strategic positioning is to allow the company to focus on specific areas to fight competitors, thus adding a competitive advantage.
To position oneself, therefore, means to explain to the market what are the values that the brand offers and that justify buying from it and not from the competitor. It is to prove to the consumer why he should pay more for what the brand offers instead of buying cheaper from the competitor.
The various metrics present in the marketing environment are increasingly sophisticated and helping many entrepreneurs to measure the high Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI). It is necessary to establish goals and performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your performance regularly, whether weekly, monthly, or biweekly.
A business's goals are usually related to finance, sales, to obtain, and growing revenue. Still, they can be directly linked to the other pillars, especially when our communication is made in digital environments, which gives us a series of indicators that can be analyzed and adjusted at any time. Software like Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics will be your best allies in this task. My performance indicators, such as Engagement Rate, Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Cost per Lead (CPL), and Conversion Rate, are my favorites.
As with any strategic marketing decision, the consumer must always be the central point of decisions, and the analysis of these eight fundamental pillars makes it necessary to understand who will be the person who will use the product or service offered. It is not enough to just make them buy, but to satisfy all needs so that they will buy again and be an evangelizer of the brand. And for that, the 8 Ps of marketing must go together in planning and execution, always with constant measurement of results. And thanks to digital marketing, the metrics are now much more accurate and make it easier to identify the return obtained.
A company that wants to grow and evolve with the public needs to consider each pillar to establish itself as a brand and reliable organization. It is from this strategy that business and sales opportunities will be created.
In light of COVID-19, the demand for companies offering their services online has had an unprecedented historical explosion.
According to a study conducted in March 2020, 42% of the U.S. population was already shopping online at least once a week (Soper, 2020). This marks a sharp increase of 22% just two years ago. Daily online supermarket sales have also doubled.
It is evident that the current pandemic has created a search for companies that solve the consumer problem online, which will have no return. If companies fail to adapt to this new form of consumption, changing their communication plan to serve this online consumer demand will soon be out of the market.
Andre Havro, MBA