The 4 Ps of marketing is a well-known concept that summarizes the 4 basic elements of a marketing strategy: product, price, place and promotion.

The concept was originally introduced in McCarthy’s 1960 best-seller Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. While it’s 60 years old and digitalization of the world has changed the fabric of marketing forever, these are still some core, foundational principles that have stood the test of time.

Before we look at this framework in more detail let’s take a look at its history.

What is the marketing mix?

The first known mention of a marketing mix has been attributed to a Professor of Marketing at Harvard University, prof. James Culliton. In 1948 Culliton published an article called ‘The Management of Marketing Costs’ where he described marketers as ‘mixers of ingredients’. Years later Professor Neil Borden published a retrospective article about the early history of the marketing mix as a concept where he claims to have been inspired by Culliton’s idea of mixers and credits himself with popularising the term.

Borden’s original model included 12 codependent ingredients:

  1. Product planning
  2. Pricing
  3. Branding
  4. Channels of distribution
  5. Personal selling
  6. Advertising
  7. Promotions
  8. Packaging
  9. Displays
  10. Services
  11. Physical handling
  12. Fact-finding analysis

And here are the four different “market forces” that influenced the marketing mix:

  1. Consumer buying behavior, as evidenced by wholesalers and retailers
  2. Industry and trade behavior, as evidenced by wholesalers and retailers
  3. Competitor positioning, behavior, and industry response
  4. Governmental regulation of the industry and/or market

What are the 4Ps of marketing?

Professor E. Jerome McCarthy simplified Borden’s concept and distilled it down to four simple categories, now referred to as ‘the 4 Ps of marketing.

  1. Place
    Place refers to how the product will be provided to the consumer.
  2. Product
    Refers to the physical product or service designed to meet a consumer need.
  3. Promotion
    The marketing strategies used, including sales, PR consumer education etc.
  4. Price
    What the consumer will pay for the product or service.

Are they even relevant today?

While the general consensus is that both of these concepts are better suited to companies selling traditional consumer products, we’d argue the process of defining your marketing mix and four Ps is a great exercise for developing a marketing strategy in any industry.

The marketing mix and the 4 Ps require us to:

  1. Identify and articulate the market for the product or service.
  2. Research potential customers and the unique need your product or service will fill.
  3. Craft a value proposition that addresses the consumer needs identified.
  4. Perform some competitor intel to identify how they’re pricing their product, their target market and the messaging they are using.
  5. Identify the right time and place to promote the product to the target market.  

The above even applies to content marketing strategies, you need to know your audience, their pain points, what you're selling, and what your competition is up to.

So, as you can see, even though the framework is 60 years old, the concept is timeless!