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Part 1: 4Ps…. and a POD

4Ps… and a POD 

Okay, okay, so please forgive the dodgy enough ‘peas in a pod’ pun and stick with me anyway!

If you’ve been exposed to marketing theory at any level, you’re sure to have come across the mantra of the 4Ps marketing mix – Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

Dating back to 1960, the 4Ps concept was the brainchild of the American marketing academic, E. Jerome McCarthy. Born way back in 1928, McCarthy was still with us until very recently – he passed away in 2015 at the age of 87. 

In his lifetime, McCarthy saw his 4Ps go from four to five to six to seven to eight… and, more recently, to nine. I kid you not. We truly are a generation of ‘more’!

Out of interest, I attempted to track down anything that might tell us what McCarthy thought about how his concept was evolved by others, but with no luck. So, whether he was appalled, thought it was a good thing, or was indifferent for now remains a mystery. 

While over the years, there were all those extensions to McCarthy’s original 4Ps concept, the one that has stuck is the 7Ps one conceived in 1981 by Bernard H. Booms and Mary Jo Bitner. Their concept sought to revise McCarthy’s – according to some – primarily product-focused marketing mix to make it more relevant to service-focused business marketing by adding three more Ps… Physical Evidence, Process, People.

Of course, 1981 was still way before anything like digital marketing was a thing – the first references to that were in the 1990s, driven by the birth and growth of search engines throughout the decade. BTW, Google turns 23 this September (2021).

To say that digital marketing is a thing at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, well…

Source: Google Trends

As I say, while pre-dating digital marketing by some time, Booms’ and Bitner’s 1981 7Ps is, with some modifications, the one that is said to be one most relevant for today’s marketing.

So what is it and how can we use it?

Here’s my go at a crash course… 

PRODUCT [or SERVICE] 

  • What is it that you’re selling?
  • Do I want it? 
  • How do you know I want it?
  • Does it offer something that I want but that your competition can’t provide? 
    (There’s your POD, right there – more about this shortly.)  

PRICE

  • Saying as we’re talking about digital marketing, is your product or service less expensive if I buy it online? 
  • How does your price compare to that of your competitors?
  • Here’s the thing: will I see beyond price to value?

PLACE

  • Where can I buy your product or service? 
  • How will I find it? 
  • How easy is it to find? 
  • Might I find something the same or similar elsewhere? Quicker?

PROMOTION

  • How and where will I get to know about your product or service? (The channels and the content formats you’ll use.)
  • What will you say about it that will convince me that it’s what I want or need? 
    (The ‘content’ itself.) Spoiler alert: the benefits!
  • How can you prove it?
  • Will I believe you?
  • How will I feel about your brand? 
  • Might I also get to know about a competitor’s product or service?
  • What will I think about that? 
  • How will I feel about their brand? 
  • Why should I buy from you instead of them? (There’s that POD again.)
  • Might I become a customer who actually becomes part of your promotion ‘P’? 
    (For example, through reviews or social media sharing.) 

PHYSICAL EVIDENCE

  • What do you ‘look like’ in the physical world? 
  • Will I like what I see?
  • (For example, think Apple!)

PROCESSES

  • How will you deliver your product or service?
  • Are there any barriers to conversion or delivery? 

PEOPLE

  • Does your team know what they need to know in order to deliver your product or service?
  • How and where will I interact with them?
  • Will I like what I’m seeing and hearing?

Back to the theory… here’s how digital marketing strategist, Dr. Dave Chaffey presents all this…

Source: How to use the 7Ps Marketing Mix, Smart Insights

(https://www.smartinsights.com/marketing-planning/marketing-models/how-to-use-the-7ps-marketing-mix/)

In his great little book, The Smart Marketing Book (which I highly recommend, BTW), Dan White proposes that the original 4Ps framework ‘encompasses the whole mix, and that ‘later versions highlight components that aren’t immediately apparent from the labels of the four core areas’.

So, perhaps McCarthy’s 4Ps are still the thing, then!

Now, about that POD…

When it comes to your product or service, does it offer something I want, that the competition’s doesn’t?

This/these are your points of differentiation (PODs). This is where your focus should be.

Many businesses offer stuff that I want OK, but which I can get just as easily from your competition. These are the points of parity (POPs).

Then there’s the stuff businesses think I want, but which I really couldn’t care less about. These are the points of irrelevance (POIs).

This is nicely illustrated through one of my favourite and, to me, most valuable marketing related graphics…

Source: widerfunnel.com

(https://www.widerfunnel.com/blog/how-to-create-an-awesome-value-proposition/)

I would go so far as to say that unless you get this bit right, all the Ps in the world aren’t going to be of much help!

To finish, may I say that whatever number of Ps you might prefer, remember that it is a framework, which, by definition, is a ‘basic structure’. The reality is that the complexities of modern marketing sometimes call for some degree of flexibility (rather than rigidity) across the Ps. Sometimes, even, the lines between them can be blurred. The most important thing, however, is understanding what they mean and how, why and where to apply them. 

I hope that this short article helps with that.

Damian Donnelly, Senior Associate, Belfast Academy of Marketing

Damian is a professional marketing, digital marketing, and social media mentor, coach, trainer, and consultant with nearly 30 years in the communications industry. He has delivered many 1000s of hours of marketing, digital marketing and social media consultancy, training, coaching and mentoring to 100s of businesses and organisations across Ireland.

As well as being a CIM tutor for Belfast Academy of Marketing, he also develops and delivers training workshops on a range of digital marketing subjects, including social media, copywriting, content marketing, digital marketing planning, search engine optimisation, and web and social media analytics.

Damian holds a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the CAM Foundation, is an Enterprise Northern Ireland Premier Adviser, and an InterTradeIreland approved digital marketing consultant.

He runs a very successful digital marketing consultancy, Ad_Man Creative Marketing.

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