There is no place for the 4 Ps in a brand strategy

The four Ps is a mass economy concept based on the ‘sell what we make’ company driven approach. It has no place in the customer economy of today where customers, not companies define brands. The 4 Ps emerged in the 1930s, a time when your doctor would enjoy a cigarette after examining you. A time when there really was lead in the pencil you stuck in your mouth all day at school. A time one, maybe 2 national TV stations. A time before leisure time, mass travel, cable or satellite TV, multiscreen cinemas, the Internet, Facebook and twitter. The 4 Ps were often used in conjunction with another popular formula, AIDA. AIDA was developed even earlier than the 4 Ps, in the 19th century, by door to door salesmen in the USA.

In the customer economy of today, firms have to sense, define, realise and sustain value for consumers based on those consumer requirements for value. They can only do that by identifying the right consumers, talking with and listening to those consumers and matching product attributes to those consumers requirements for value. And once the long and expensive process of gaining a customer is over, firms have to then continue the relationship to ensure they retain those customers. They have to accept that not everyone is a prospect and shareholders must pressurise them to deliver measureable results in marketing.

The good news is, those consumers no longer inhabit the mass economy world of TV, print media, billboards and so on. Today, those consumers inhabit communities of like minded individuals who can and do influence each others decision making process. And because of the effectiveness of new technology and the nature of those communities and where they are, it is possible to identify the right consumers, engage them, build relationships with them and measure marketing effectiveness.

A key element of successful brand building today is a massive move away from the aquisition focussed approach of the 4 Ps and positioning products (you can read my obituary to positioning here) and an increase in retention strategies that look to sell more and more often to existing customers, acquired at such great expense.

You have a 15% chance of selling to a new customer and a 50% chance of selling more to an existing customer. Bain and Co reckons a 5% increase in retention equates to a 25% increase in profitability. But are you still using the 4 Ps to acquire new customers? Are you still sighing with relief every time a new customer walks in and then letting them go without even finding out who they are? And even if you get their card, how much data do you collect and record and how much of your marketing budget is used to market to these existing customers? I doubt very much.

If you want to build a brand, forget about the 4 Ps and start looking at your existing customers.


4 thoughts on “There is no place for the 4 Ps in a brand strategy

  1. Just one question. Do you think 4 Ps should be forgotten in nation/place branding strategies, too? Because most of the time, these branding campaigns start out as crisis communication attempts and nations aim to – well with business terms – acquire new customers rather than re-convince their existing supporters.


  2. Efe, I’m so sorry about taking so long to reply.

    It’s a good question because the rules are very different in the nation/place branding space.

    The 4 Ps relies very much on mass economy tools that are a lot less effective today than they were as recently as 20 years ago.

    20 years ago if you were trying to brand the East Coast Economic Region in Malaysia, you would do so using traditional mass economy tools and tactics such as mass media for awareness, positioning, reach etc

    But those tools are less effective today furthermore, there is much more data available for nations/places to access, review analyse and to identify target markets and develop strategies to go after those targets.

    In a nutshell, I’d be more inclined to identify influencers in specific sub sectors – tourism, FDI, education etc and seek to influence those influencers through targeted communications featuring content likely to resonate with them.


  3. Funny. I wrote an article with a somewhat different take on the Four Ps:

    I think that brands should consider each of the Four Ps when building implementation programs, as that’s a solid way to ensure that their marketing plans are seamless and integrated.

    However, I don’t think the overarching brand STRATEGY should be built on the Four Ps. Brand strategies should be built on the foundation of the company – why the company was started in the first place (not what they make or how the products work).

    In other words, in my opinion the Four Ps should inform the communications plan once the objective, the target, and the brand strategy are determined.


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