While the 1950s might seem like ancient history, it was still a pivotal time in human history. The space race ignited with the creation of NASA, the civil rights movement began, and Queen Elizabeth II took the throne. For obvious reasons, marketing is rarely mentioned in the same conversation but the 1950s was the era when Neil Borden’s landmark “marketing mix”, better known as the four Ps (product, place, price, and promotion), first began to take shape.
Of course, these Ps are intended as a guide to how to market something – anything – to potential customers. Let’s start with Promotion. Today, the term often refers to special offers, such as buy-one-get-one-free. Deals like this are frequently used online by e-commerce outlets to attract buyers. For instance, the French running shoe brand Hoka gives a free hat to people who spend more than a certain amount in the store.
Similarly, the entertainment website Betfair has an array of online casino offers designed to make certain parts of its website stand out. This includes free golden chips (worth 25p each) in exchange for placing a bet, as well as free turns on Prize Pinball. With the four Ps, marketing professor Neil Borden was actually using the word promotion to describe the wider art of advertising, which now includes the internet and social media.
Promotion also includes PR and the basic act of informing customers about a product and who is selling it.
Product and Place
The nature of the four Ps is that they’re intertwined concepts that can’t really exist without each other so an understanding of Product, i.e. what something is and what it can actually do, naturally forms a part of Promotion. Whether it’s a piece of software, a gadget destined for late-night infomercials, or a brand-new phone, the marketer must be able to communicate the benefits of an invention to an uninformed audience.
The idea of Place might seem a little more abstract. It’s actually one of the more straightforward parts of Borden’s four Ps though. Perhaps better described as where – Place refers to where a product should be sold. The Investopedia website uses the example of selling luxury cosmetics at Walmart in describing Place. It’s a mismatch of demographics, as the supermarket giant was founded as a cut-price outlet.
As with Product, Place now also requires a conversation about stocking items online or offline, depending on likely demand.
Finally, let’s discuss Price. The final part of Borden’s marketing philosophy considers all financial aspects of an item’s creation, sale, and even potential discounting. Product materials are often sourced from all over the world, especially in the case of technology. In fact, a 2013 study found that 62 of the 83 stable elements on earth are contained within the average smartphone. This means that things can get expensive.
The problem is that, regardless of how much financial weight a company puts behind a product, customers aren’t going to buy it if it’s too expensive for them. For manufacturers, this might mean skimping on features for lower-end models or even aiming at a new customer demographic. Price ultimately comes down to two things, namely, what it actually costs and what customers think it’s worth.
The four Ps might seem like elementary features of modern marketing but, as a foundation, they’ve served businesses well for over seventy years.