Will you really use the 4 P’s of marketing?

If you are earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing, it’s likely you’ve been introduced to the 4 P’s —product, price, place and promotion. However, despite the framework’s wide presence in the college-level marketing courses, there is some debate about its modern day use.

Coined in the late 1950s, this framework — also known as the marketing mix— was introduced as a way to pursue desired marketing goals. By assigning an amount of the marketing budget to each element of the marketing mix, the marketing managers would aim to optimize marketing performance.

However, changes in the marketplace, such as the advent of the Internet also changed the way consumers choose, learn and shop for products and services. As consumers found new ways to obtain information, marketers needed new ways to communicate to consumers. Digital marketing became a staple of almost every integrated marketing campaign leading many to question whether a framework invented over half a century ago is still applicable.

In their Harvard Business Review article “Rethinking the 4 P’s,” authors Richard Ettenson, Eduardo Conrado, and Jonathan Knowles, write “It’s not that the 4 P’s are irrelevant, just that they need to be reinterpreted to serve B2B marketers.”

The authors argue that the 4 P’s are too product focused neglecting the large solutions market, particularly important in B2B marketing. Instead, they suggest a modified framework that shifts the emphasis from products to solutions, place to access, price to value and promotion to education. In short, SAVE.

From their perspective, this framework not only takes into account the new paradigms spurred by the technological advances of the last three decades, but it also enables B2B companies to shift to a more customer-centric perspective.

As to whether or not the 4 P’S will be something you use at work, the answer is both yes and no, and will largely depend on your employer.

For example, if you are working for a company that sells services, the 4 P’s are likely to adapt to a more solutions oriented framework similar to SAVE. If you are working in a product-based company, 4 P’s may have a greater role in your work. However, even then, the chances are that the marketing mix will have long been figured out or entrusted to senior staff. Nonetheless, the 4 P’s will be instrumental in helping you contextualize the marketing strategy and understand the big picture behind marketing decisions your company makes.

While it may be some time before you begin to appreciate this framework that time will indeed come.