Conventionally the ‘Marketing Mix’ is how a company positions a product in the marketplace – but since a company usually has lots of products and no one product is completely independent from any other it’s more accurate to think of the ‘Marketing Mix’ as a vast number of constantly changing angles by which a company tries to take advantage of the marketplace, and simultaneously try to help its customers.
The TRADITIONAL marketing mix (the four P’s) goes something like this 1:
Product (features, presentation, brand …)
Pricing (base price, special offers, hire-purchase …)
Promotion (salesmen and saleswomen, advertising, PR …)
Place (channels (the equivalent of networks of affiliates), physical distribution, dealer support…)
Onto this have been tacked a few more P’s, particularly in relation to services (plumbing, hairdressing etc.):
People (staff motivation, allocation of roles …)
Process (the standardised customer experience)
Physical Evidence (something tangible offered as a result of an (often invisible) transaction)
A few more P’s …
Consider, however, the following:
Mike owns a small business. What sets him apart from his competition is PASSION. Passion gets him travelling to trade shows, participating in events related to his product and staying on the bleeding edge of what’s hot and upcoming. Because of passion his business has the latest products and Mike knows how to communicate with his customers.
Jenny’s business involves the manufacture of toys. Fortunately she has a few children of her own, and her friends and relatives have kids. The kids help keep her attuned to the world of toys. Family life is a small part of her marketing mix because it keeps her in touch with her market and affects the decisions she makes. So let’s add another ‘P’, PERSONAL.
Sam has a disabled mother. Each day she takes her mother to a day-care centre, and each day she trails back home to run her small business. Patience is a trait she’s had to develop. It affects the way she’s positioning her company. Let’s add another ‘P’ - PSYCHOLOGY.
So we can now add PASSION, PERSONAL and PSYCHOLOGY to the Marketing Mix.
The 4 C’s …
Relatively recently there’s been a shift away from ‘push marketing’ towards ‘pull marketing’, with the consumer taking the driving seat2, leading to the four C’s concept of the ‘Marketing Mix’:
Customers (their needs and wants: they have to want what you’re selling)
Cost (working backwards from how much a product will cost a customer e.g. product maintenance, product accessories, upgrades etc.)
Convenience (how easy it is for the customer to get hold of the product e.g. the time it takes, the distance travelled)
Communication (building a better relationship with customers through listening … )
The limits of the ‘Marketing Mix’
‘Marketing Mix’ is a very fluid concept but the risk in using the term is that it constrains our world view. Words are symbols that help make sense of the world, and we have to be careful what symbols we choose. ‘Marketing Mix’ means nothing until the underlying structure (above) has been learnt, and it then triggers off that structure - but if we’re not careful that will limit our world view.
So, unconventionally …
Is there an alternative way of looking at the ‘Marketing Mix’?
The ‘Marketing Mix’ isn’t two-dimensional – it’s four-dimensional (timing is probably somewhere in the ten ‘P’s because timing is involved in introducing a product, changing it’s pricing, updating it etc.) and it’s also a set of feelings, insights, pictures and intuitions that are the result of a company-insider’s wide knowledge, deep experience and hours of obsessive thinking and analysis (hopefully).
A better way of thinking of the ‘Marketing Mix’ is to redefine it as a dance or a game of wits and strategy. It demands a visceral way of thinking. Perhaps in-house marketers should use their own private symbols (words) based on their own experience of life to make sense of it. The competitive yachtswoman might relate to positioning a product in a different way to the semi-professional jazz musician – one might think in terms of three-dimensional angles, forces and competitive pressures, the other in terms of cooperation, whilst both will have their own versions of being ‘in the zone’, timing and intuition.
Positioning a product or a company isn’t for the disinterested – it’s for the passionate, experienced and fascinated, working within a company and (ideally) with both intuitive and analytical skills.
A crude tool
Whilst the conventional concept of the ‘Marketing Mix’ is useful as a crude tool it’s also limiting. It’s the equivalent of corporate-speak, reducing everything down to its lowest common denominator, useful for getting an initial snapshot but of little use after that. A far better process is to be fascinated and absorbed by what your company does …
(1) Peter Doyle, Marketing Management and Strategy