Marketing: the 4Ps or 4Cs?

One of the problems with “Marketing” as a discipline, is that most people think that marketing sense is common sense.  It isn’t.  But because so many people can think up great ideas, they imagine that they are great marketers.

When it comes to marketing discipline, the same holds true.  Finding great ideas or great new products is really not a problem.  It’s putting strategy, then execution plans against those ideas that will lead a new product to success or failure in the marketplace.

For decades, the 4Ps of marketing were the tent poles around which new product launches were built: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.  The Business Fundas blog (8/14/11) has a great article on this switch from 4Ps marketing strategy to the 4Cs approach that was proposed in the 1990s.

As I looked at this very clear comparison graph (also from Business Fundas), it struck me that the marketing world has been turned on its head in the past decade.  The 4Ps approach, while still very important and necessary, is a company-centric way of looking at product marketing.  The product itself, it’s price, it’s placement and it’s promotion have always been determined by the brand team in an outward-focused launch into the marketplace.

On the other hand, the 4Cs approach is consumer-centric.  The four “Cs” are: Consumer, Cost, Convenience and Communication.  Each of these categories is seen from the consumer point-of-view, rather than the company’s point-of-view.  The phenomenon of new media and digital tools has given the power to the people..

In the past we had mass media, consumed by nearly all the population.  Today, consumers can customize their own media (social networking, blogging, crowd-sourcing, apps that compare pricing in a shopping mall, etc.) to engage and interact with brands and companies.

This power of being able to select, customize and give feedback on products and brands with new media and digital tools has reversed the arrow in the chart.  As a marketing community, we should focus less on migrating our strategy from the 4Ps to the 4Cs; instead recognize that consumers are molding product development from their individual platforms of cost, convenience and communication.

With a consistent 90% failure rate for new products, perhaps consumers have been driving this equation in the opposite direction all along–we just didn’t know it!


Thanks to Arpan Kar and the Business Fundas blog for the chart and always great insights on marketing strategy!


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