When Marketing Professor E. Jerome McCarthy first proposed the "4 P’s" of Marketing in 1960, it is unlikely he would have predicted that his "Marketing Mix" categorization would become that industry’s standard and remain so for the next 50 years. But so it has gone. The framing of "Product", "Price", "Promotion" and "Place" has defined annual marketing plans ever since it was first introduced and still dominates the marketing industry today.
The problem is that this categorization is in desperate need of rejuvenation in the current context of an over-saturated marketing world, jaded consumers, and the emergence of the powerful, self aware, social networked customer.
In response (and general frustration), I propose that the "4 P’s" need to move over and make room for a fifth P, a "P" significantly more attuned to the current marketing landscape. The fifth P that I would suggest is "People". Let me put a quick case forward for discussion.
In his 2004 address to the American Association of Advertising Agencies (which should really be standard reading for marketers), the President of Yankelovich Consulting, J Walker Smith, noted that,
"Marketers haven’t done a lot to create positive views of their industry but they’ve done many things – unwanted spam and telemarketing, guerrilla marketing, intrusive ads covering every blank space and less targeted, less informational communications – that create more negative views. It’s time for marketers to focus their business models on how to better deliver the kind of marketing that consumers really want, instead of assuming that consumers are happy with fending off a daily deluge of marketing. The era of consumer resistance and control has begun."
According to the Yankelovich study, 60% of consumers have a much more negative opinion of marketing and advertising now than a few years ago; 61% feel the amount of marketing and advertising is out of control; and 65% feel constantly bombarded with too much marketing and advertising.
So the $64,000 question is – then what is the type of marketing that "consumers really want"? This is where I bring us back to my argument for a new marketing strategy around the "P" of People.
Using my own industry of financial services as an example, this study by the Deloitte Center for Banking Solutions is just one of the many studies indicating a common theme in how customers of financial services are receiving marketing messages differently.
Look here specifically at the cross generational comparisons of "Doing Your Own Research", "Recommendations from Friends" and "Recommendations from Colleagues", versus "General Advertising". It paints quite a clear picture of marketing impact and behaviour and is a clear indicator on what’s missing in the 4 P’s methodology (click the chart to see full size).
The short story for me personally in this data is the need to create a marketing strategy not based on the traditional 4P’s but based on a definition of marketing that includes a "People" strategy.
How can we engage our customers? How can we allow our customers to engage each other? How can our customer care strategy include our customers and not just service our customers? How do we get our customers to evolve our product or service offer over time? How do we make our customers part of our brand itself?
In response to these questions, I think that developing a marketing strategy around "People" could look something like this:
- A company website that is helpful, human and customer information-oriented (i.e. the information customers are looking for not the information you want to tell them)
- An active voice in the blogosphere where you can engage the customer community (i.e. two way communication which is transparent to the outside world)
- Providing tools to allow your customers to tell everyone they know what they like about you (or don’t)
- Creating an active and engaged community of customers at your site encouraged (and incented) to help other customers to solve their common service or industry related questions
- A strategy that says you are "in" the customer community and not "above" the customer community
Notice that none of these marketing tactics are oriented around price discounts, promotional contests, creative brand building with quirky animal characters or broadcast advertising.
This isn’t to argue that these traditional 4P’s don’t still have a role to play in the new marketing mix of successful companies. What I’m arguing is that they are no longer a complete picture of the framework for modern marketing, and with all due respect to Mr. McCarthy, that they have reached their hegemonic end.