Will Trevor is the Faculty Program Director for Marketing at Excelsior College. The original post can be viewed on LinkedIn.
The marketing mix is the mainstay of marketing courses the world over, and, for a concept that was originally conceived in the the 1960s, it has remained surprisingly durable. But is it time for a makeover of that traditional recipe in order to update it for the Digital Age?
The strength and durability of the marketing mix lies in the fact that it has been amended, added-to, and extended over the years – all of which have helped to keep it relevant and practical in the decades since it was first conceived. While it had been mentioned before, it was not until 1960 that a professor of marketing at Michigan State University, Jerome McCarthy (1), formulated the original ‘4Ps’. Which has been seared into the memory of every marketing student as:
Marketing Mix 1.0 – The ‘original recipe’ mix
What lay behind the 4Ps was the fact that the individual Ps are the ingredients: depending upon how the manager mixes the various elements, will influence the results of the marketing activities of the organization. A company, for example, trying to gain market share with a penetration pricing strategy will be focusing on the P of ‘Price’, and so on. But it was Robert Bartels (2), who helped develop the metaphor of the marketing mix as a recipe, when he said:
A marketer is like a chef in a kitchen … a mixer of ingredients.
Marketing Mix 2.0: When the 4Ps Became the 7Ps
Critics suggested that the original recipe, however, was all very well for the mass marketing of physical products, but with increasing affluence in the West, the growth of services didn’t seem to be adequately catered for by the original mix. Bernard Booms and Mary Jo Bitner (3), extended the 4Ps to 7, with the addition of:
- Physical Evidence
Variously known as the ‘7Ps’, the ‘extended marketing mix’, or even the ‘services marketing mix’. It was argued that the extra Ps made the original recipe more relevant to services, and, arguably, most products have a service element too. Think about your cell phone: is it a physical product? Is it a service? Or is it both? Nevertheless, the 4Ps continued to endure, both in its own right, but also as the key ingredient of the extended marketing mix.
Critics of the ‘original recipe’ marketing mix, and the extended 7Ps, focus on the fact that it can be viewed as representing a ‘push’ concept of marketing. They suggest that it disregards the wants and needs of customers and can lead to a product orientation (being overly focused on the product), rather than a customer orientation, which is the hallmark of good marketing practice. And this criticism has some credence, perhaps reflecting the roots of the original recipe mix in the 1960s.
Marketing Mix 3.0: what are the alternatives?
There are several possible contenders for Marketing Mix 3.0. Robert Lauterborn (4), for example, has formulated the 4Cs, which he believes more adequately addresses the issue of customer orientation that some feel is lacking in the original marketing mix:
- Consumer – research, understand, and focus on needs and wants;
- Cost – this extends beyond just price and considers other elements, such as time;
- Communication – moving beyond the one-way street of promotion to more of a dialog between the buyer and the seller;
- Convenience – how do our customers want to buy from us and how do we make it easier for them?
The 4Cs echoes the corresponding Ps of the marketing mix, but flips the orientation to focus more fully on the customer – particularly relevant for the niche marketing that characterizes today’s world.
Adding the 5Is to the Mix
Forrester Research, on the other hand, have formulated the 5Is, which they believe complements the original marketing mix and develops the process, whereas the 7Ps provides the variables that are controlled by the marketing manager. The 5Is comprises of:
- Involvement – how engaged is the consumer with the brand, in terms of page views, time spent on a page, and other elements derived from analytics?
- Interaction – measuring how involved the customer is in terms of responding to campaigns, requesting further information, etc.
- Intimacy – to what extent does the customer exhibit brand awareness, favorability, and other attributes that can be measured via qualitative data;
- Influence – measuring brand loyalty through recommendations and other positive mentions and reviews;
- Individual – ensuring a focus upon the individual consumer, rather than groups or organizations.
Marketing Mix 3.0 or 2.5?
While there are other formulations and mixes that could have been mentioned here, the 4Cs and the 5Is are two of the more influential and relevant contenders for the crown of marketing mix 3.0. However, I think it is more important to note that neither the 4Cs nor the 5Is fully replaces or overturns the marketing mix: both the 4Cs and the 5Is can complement the 7Ps formulation and help to overcome, to some extent, the lack of customer orientation that has dogged the 4Ps and the 7Ps.
But where does that leave us today?
It can be argued that we are currently in a situation of marketing mix 2.5, with both the 5Is and the 7Ps working well together as complementary formulations. Students, scholars, and practitioners would be well advised to think more broadly when they are applying the marketing mix and view it as most effective when the 7Ps is used in conjunction with something else. But it may be the case that the traditional formulations of the marketing mix are long overdue for a rethink and an update. So should we be on the lookout for marketing mix 3.0 in the not-too-distant future, when a new recipe may need to emerge to satisfy our appetite for a revamp and in order to keep it relevant for the digital age? Ultimately, however, the real test is whether marketing managers choose to vote with their feet and supplement or replace the marketing mix with alternatives.
(1) McCarthy, Jerome E. (1964). Basic Marketing. A Managerial Approach. Homewood, IL: Irwin.; (2) Bartels, Robert (1976) “The History of Marketing Thought,” 2nd edition; (3) Booms, Bernard H.; Bitner, Mary Jo (1981). “Marketing Strategies and Organization Structures for Service Firms”. Marketing of Services. American Marketing Association: 47–51.;(4) Lauterborn, B. (1990). New Marketing Litany: Four Ps Passé: C-Words Take Over. Advertising Age, 61(41), 26.