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.