Understanding the Marketing Mix Concept – 4Ps
Marketing is simplistically defined as ‘putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.’ Though this sounds like an easy enough proposition, a lot of hard work and research needs to go into setting this simple definition up. And if even one element is off the mark, a promising product or service can fail completely and end up costing the company substantially.
The use of a marketing mix is an excellent way to help ensure that ‘putting the right product in the right place,…’ will happen. The marketing mix is a crucial tool to help understand what the product or service can offer and how to plan for a successful product offering. The marketing mix is most commonly executed through the 4 P’s of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place.
These have been extensively added to and expanded through additional P’s and even a 4C concept. But the 4Ps serve as a great place to start planning for the product or even to evaluate an existing product offering.
In this article, we will look at
1) the four P’s,
2) history of the marketing mix concept and terminology,
3) purpose of the marketing mix,
4) key features of the marketing mix,
5) developing a marketing mix,
6) key challenges, and
7) marketing mix example.
THE FOUR P’S
The product is either a tangible good or an intangible service that is seemed to meet a specific customer need or demand. All products follow a logical product life cycle and it is vital for marketers to understand and plan for the various stages and their unique challenges. It is key to understand those problems that the product is attempting to solve. The benefits offered by the product and all its features need to be understood and the unique selling proposition of the product need to be studied. In addition, the potential buyers of the product need to be identified and understood.
Price covers the actual amount the end user is expected to pay for a product. How a product is priced will directly affect how it sells. This is linked to what the perceived value of the product is to the customer rather than an objective costing of the product on offer. If a product is priced higher or lower than its perceived value, then it will not sell. This is why it is imperative to understand how a customer sees what you are selling. If there is a positive customer value, then a product may be successfully priced higher than its objective monetary value. Conversely, if a product has little value in the eyes of the consumer, then it may need to be underpriced to sell. Price may also be affected by distribution plans, value chain costs and markups and how competitors price a rival product.
The marketing communication strategies and techniques all fall under the promotion heading. These may include advertising, sales promotions, special offers and public relations. Whatever the channel used, it is necessary for it to be suitable for the product, the price and the end user it is being marketed to. It is important to differentiate between marketing and promotion. Promotion is just the communication aspect of the entire marketing function.
Place or placement has to do with how the product will be provided to the customer. Distribution is a key element of placement. The placement strategy will help assess what channel is the most suited to a product. How a product is accessed by the end user also needs to compliment the rest of the product strategy.
HISTORY OF MARKETING MIX CONCEPT AND TERMINOLOGY
The marketing mix concept gained popularity following an article titled “The Concept of the Marketing Mix” by Neil Borden published in 1964. Borden explained how he started using the term inspired by James Culliton who in the 1940s described the marketing manager as a ‘mixer of ingredients.’ Borden’s article detailed these ingredients as product, planning, price, branding, distribution, display, packaging, advertising, promotions, personal selling among many others. Eventually, E. Jerome McCarthy clustered these multiple items into four high-level categories that we now know as the 4 Ps of marketing. “Its elements are the basic, tactical components of a marketing plan”. Together, elements in these four categories help develop marketing strategies and tactics.
PURPOSE OF MARKETING MIX
The 4P’s were formalized and developed over the years by experts to ensure the creation and execution of a successful marketing strategy. Through the use of this tool, the attempt is to satisfy both the customer and the seller. When properly understood and utilized, this mix has proven to a key factor in a product’s success.
KEY FEATURES OF MARKETING MIX
The marketing mix is made up of four unique variables. These four variables are interdependent and need to be planned in conjunction with one another to ensure that the action plans within all four are complementary and aligned.
Help Achieve Marketing Targets
Through the use of this set of variables, the company can achieve its marketing targets such as sales, profits, and customer retention and satisfaction.
The marketing mix is a fluid and flexible concept and the focus on any one variable may be increased or decreased given unique marketing conditions and customer requirements.
It is vital to keep an eye on changing trends and requirements, within the company as well as in the market to ensure that the elements in marketing mix stays relevant and updated.
Role of Marketing Manager
A mature, intelligent and innovative marketing manager needs to be at the helm of the marketing mix. This pivotal role means that this manager is responsible for achieving desired results through the skill manipulation of these variables.
Customer as a focal point
A vital feature of the marketing mix is that the customer is the focal point of the activity. The value of the product is determined by customer perceptions and the goal is to achieve a satisfied and loyal customer.
This video shows how you can create value by using the marketing mix.
DEVELOPING A MARKETING MIX
Intuition and creative thinking are essential job requirements for a marketing manager. But relying on just these can lead to inaccurate assumptions that may not end up delivering results. To ensure a marketing mix that is based in research and combines facts with innovation, a manager should go through the following systematic process:
Step 1: Defining Unique Selling Proposition
The first item on the marketing manager’s agenda should be to define what the product has to offer or its unique selling proposition (USP). Through customer surveys or focus groups, there needs to be an identification of how important this USP is to the consumer and whether they are intrigued by the offering. It needs to be clearly understood what the key features and benefits of the product are and whether they will help ensure sales.
Step 2: Understanding the Consumer
The second step is to understand the consumer. The product can be focused by identifying who will purchase it. All other elements of the marketing mix follow from this understanding. Who is the customer? What do they need? What is the value of the product to them? This understanding will ensure that the product offering is relevant and targeted.
Step 3: Understanding the Competition
The next step is to understand the competition. The prices and related benefits such as discounts, warranties, and special offers need to be assessed. An understanding of the subjective value of the product and a comparison with its actual manufacturing distribution cost will help set a realistic price point.
Step 4: Evaluating Placement Options
At this point, the marketing manager needs to evaluate placement options to understand where the customer is most likely to make a purchase and what are the costs associated with using this channel. Multiple channels may help target a wider customer base and ensure east of access. On the other hand, if the product serves a niche market then it may make good business sense to concentrate distribution to a specific area or channel. The perceived value of the product is closely tied in with how it is made available.
Step 5: Developing Communication / Promotion strategy
Based on the audience identified and the price points established, the marketing communication strategy can now be developed. Whatever promotional methods are finalized need to appeal to the intended customers and ensure that the key features and benefits of the product are clearly understood and highlighted.
Step 6: Cross-check of the Marketing Mix
A step back needs to be taken at this point to see how all the elements identified and planned for relate to each other. All marketing mix variables are interdependent and rely on each other for a strong strategy. Do the proposed selling channels reinforce the perceived value of the product? Is the promotional material in keeping with the distribution channels proposed? The marketing plan can be finalized once it is ensured that all four elements are in harmony and there are no conflicting messages, either implicit or explicit.
Over the years, marketing managers have felt that the traditional marketing mix has its limitations in how it is structured. Several important elements have been grouped with four larger categories thereby belittling their true importance amid several factors. Two main criticisms and their solutions:
Lack of Focus on Services
The conventional marketing mix tends to be applicable to tangible goods i.e. the traditional definition of products. Services or intangible goods are also a vital customer offering and can be planned for in much the same way as physical products. To cater to the unique challenges of services, the 4P model has been supplemented with 3 additional categories which are:
- Physical Evidence is proof and a reassurance that a service was performed
- People are the employees who deliver the service
- Processes are the methods through which a service is executed and delivered to the customer
Lack of True Customer Focus
Though a total focus on the customer and what they desire is a vital element of the 4P model, this truth is often in danger of being overlooked by enthusiastic marketing teams. To counter this, Robert F. Lauterborn put forward his customer centric four Cs classification in 1990. This model converts the four P’s into more customer oriented four C’s:
- Product to Customer Solution
- Price to Customer Cost
- Promotion to Customer Communication
- Place to Customer Convenience
MARKETING MIX EXAMPLE
Marketing Mix for new product line
Market research revealed an opportunity in the market for a younger customer base. This led to the launch of Nivea Visage Young in 2005. This product was developed for girls in the 13 to 19 year age range.
For the eventual launch of the product, the company needed to develop a balanced and relevant marketing mix to appeal to its young audience. Through its initial launch in 2005 to a subsequent relaunch in 2007, the company focused closely on the marketing mix balance to help ensure that all elements of the product appeal to the target audience to achieve success.
The company put significant importance in ongoing research to understand the constantly evolving market and consumer dynamics. This knowledge has helped the company develop more innovative new products that fulfill consumer needs. Through this research, it became clear that younger consumers wished for a more specific product that addressed the skin needs of their age category. The need was for a product that offered a beautifying regime for daily use rather than a medicated product that targeted specific skin problems. The latter are abundantly being offered by the competition. The product was subsequently redesigned to meet these specialized requirements.
From the company’s perspective, some of the changes helped meet its commitment to the environment which included more efficient packaging to reduce waste, the use of more natural products and the use of recyclable plastic.
An effective pricing strategy takes into account the product’s perceived and actual values. The final price should be based on both these in order to make the product attractive to both buyer and seller. After its relaunch, Nivea Visage Young was priced a little higher than before to account for the new formula, better packaging and extended range of products. Since the product as being bought by mothers for their daughters, it remained low enough to remain good value for money. Effective pricing means that sales from this product account for nearly 7 percent of all Nivea Visage sales.
As mentioned, Nivea aims to have a wide reach for its products to ensure that it is easily available wherever needed by the extensive target market. The primary channels used are retail stores. High Street stores such as Boots and Superdrug account for nearly 65 percent of all sales. Another portion comes from grocery chain stores such as ASDA or Tesco. This covers young people making their own purchases (mostly high street), as well as their mothers buying for them (mostly grocery stores). These stores ensure a cost effective distribution channel that has a wide reach. The company manages its own cost by selling to wholesalers rather than directly to smaller stores. It also does not sell online directly, but the product is sold through stockists.
Nivea’s has always tried to base its promotions on the actual lifestyle of its target market. The company does not find the line promotions to be very effective as these are one-way communications through TV for example. Instead, the promotion is more consumer-led through different below the line solutions. Sample sales are a key activity that allows consumers to try out the actual product. There is also an interactive online magazine FYI (fun, young, independent) to increase product visibility and association. The company has also maintained a strong social media presence on popular social media networks. This used of new media has ensured a better brand awareness and association among target audience.
Through its successful use of a balanced marketing mix, Nivea Visage Young has managed to create a clear position in the market. It addresses a need felt by a specific niche segment. Traditional distribution methods are balanced by a unique product and updated promotional strategies. This ensures that the brand message reaches the right people at the right time in the right way.
As we see from the Nivea example, it is vital for any company to focus equally on all elements of the marketing mix while planning for a product. Eventually, there may be a need to divert more resources towards one variable such as strong distribution channels over promotional activities. But this needs to come after a clear plan and strategy have been decided upon. An effective marketing mix can mean the difference between a flash in the pan product or one that is bound to become a well-loved classic.