It’s Time to Rethink the 4 'Ps' of Marketing
The four "Ps" of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) still get taught in some college classes as a canonical example of modern, linear, evidence-based commercial strategy. The first reference to the four Ps appeared in a marketing textbook by business professor E.J. McCarthy in 1960. The problem is the four Ps doctrine has lost relevance in the modern, digital world.
University of North Carolina professor Robert Lauterborn has since suggested that the four Cs (consumer, cost, convenience and communication) might be a better framing for go-to-market strategy. His outlook held sway, for a time, back in the 80s. Since then, however, a global pandemic has created a new marketing ecosystem. Growing awareness of social injustice has upended the way consumers make decisions and interact with brands. Behaviors have changed wholesale, across all consumer profiles and activities. It’s time to think of a different mantra for business in this new era. It’s time for the new four Cs.
Community, Conscience, Credibility, Consistency
- Community: A recent survey of 530 business executives found that they shared a vision of businesses doing more to support their communities, employees and stakeholders. They noted the ongoing grief and trauma they’re still processing, and proposed that listening and empathy are more important now than brand and positioning.
- Conscience: Our relationship with luxury has changed since the 2008 financial crisis, and that change has accelerated in the wake of the pandemic. Generation Z promises to be even more socially aware and active, and businesses that acknowledge that will benefit their bottom line. It used to be only hyperprogressive companies established a public ESG platform; now it’s table stakes
- Credibility: Modern consumers can spot pandering in an instant. A vivid pandemic-era example was when Pepsi ran an ad featuring Kendall Jenner offering cans of soda to a street scene of protesters and police. That ad was immediately savaged online for its inauthenticity. In contrast, companies like Patagonia align their social and environmental values with their employees and customers.
- Consistency: Building customer relationships requires long-term commitment. It’s like a savings account that builds wealth over time. With each deposit of goodwill, the aggregate principal grows in both size and effectiveness. As with money, patient, consistent growth in brand equity is the safest route toward positive outcomes.
With the new four Cs in mind, how should companies conduct themselves in this new reality? Social media is a popular channel for developing relationships, but in many ways it’s just a different form of broadcasting. Before employing new tools or tactics, companies should thoroughly examine their values and customer relationships to make sure they all align as they should.
Brands and advertisers in our current moment should be asking questions of their customers, using whatever tools best suit their purposes. Moreover, they need to listen, acknowledge and respond to what they’re hearing both from known customers and from the market more broadly. As the pandemic fades and new calamities face the world, consumers no longer expect brands to act as neutral commercial entities. The market now largely acknowledges that our dollars represent our values beyond mere purchasing power. For a current, vivid example, look no further than the massive exodus of corporations from Russia in the wake of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Brands can flourish under this new paradigm, and the new four Cs can be a helpful way to approach that project. The events of the past two years have made the entire world more sensitive to their own personal and collective fragility, and consumers will adjust their spending and behavior accordingly.
Jon Stamell is the CEO of Oomiji, the first predictive, conversation-enabled customer data platform.
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