It all started with Culliton, who declared that the role of the marketing manager was to be a ‘mixer of ingredients’.1 He was followed by Borden, who coined the term ‘marketing mix’ in his early teaching and then in a 1964 article.2 Borden deemed that the mix included 12 elements: product planning, branding, pricing, distribution channels, personal selling, advertising, promotions, packaging, display, servicing, physical handling, and fact-finding and analysis. McCarthy then crystalized the marketing mix into the highly memorable ‘4Ps’: product, price, place and promotion, which became the standard classification, taught and studied throughout the world.3 Since the 1960s, the marketing domain has changed considerably, and there have been many proposals to improve the classification of the marketing mix. There has been a veritable proliferation of new ‘Ps’, as professors and practitioners of marketing have tried to keep this key term up-to-date.
One target of dissatisfaction was ‘P’ for promotion that was recognized by many authors as being unclear and too narrow a definition (see, eg Hartley).4 The common denominator among the various authors who examined the issue was the search for a more detailed, inclusive and realistic definition under the heading ‘communication’ that would include both media advertising and sales promotion. The accumulated literature was thoroughly reviewed at the start of the 1990s, which led to a broader definition of ‘the communication mix’ to include mass communications, personal communications and publicity.5 The ‘publicity’ element was also refined by many contributors who referred to the actual tool in the marketing mix as ‘public relations’, with publicity being an outcome of good PR (see, eg Dewitt).6 More recently, it has been realized that all the elements of the communication mix for any brand, company or institution should be seamlessly combined for maximum impact (see, eg Schultz et al.).7 Thus, we now have the concept of ‘integrated marketing communication’ (IMC) that includes media advertising, sales promotion, public relations, package design, personal selling and direct marketing. In this article, the present authors will propose redefining this as IMC 2.0 to include the use of social media and the development of viral marketing communication campaigns.
Another element in the marketing mix to receive critical attention was ‘P’ for place, originally covered by Borden with his three elements — distribution channels, personal selling and physical handling.2 In its broader sense, the term ‘distribution’ could encompass the following three sub-elements:
where the products were to be sold (ie in which geographically defined markets);
which type of sales channel would be used (eg directly via a company sales force or indirectly via independent reps);
how the products would actually be supplied (ie physical delivery logistics).
Thus, by the mid 1980s, the traditional classification of the marketing mix had been modernized and was already being taught by Shapiro in the Harvard Business School MBA Program as product, pricing, communication and distribution.8
That was by no means the end of the story. By the late 1970s, it became clear that the discipline of marketing should not just cover the marketing of products and brands, but should also be relevant to the service sector (see, eg Shostak).9 The marketing mix had to be made relevant not only to business-to-consumer (B2C) manufacturing companies, such as Coca-Cola, and business-to-business (B2B) companies, such as IBM, but also to suppliers of intangibles, such as airline companies (eg British Airways), hotels (eg Hilton), retailers (eg Wal-Mart) and banks (eg HSBC). The traditional 4P classification was clearly inadequate, and a search began to expand the classification by including more Ps. The most widely quoted version of an extended marketing mix (‘7Ps’) includes ‘physical evidence’, ‘participants’ (or ‘people’) and ‘processes’.10 Physical evidence referred to the look and feel of the service environment, which contributed to the overall customer experience. Participants referred mainly to the character, motivation and skills of the service providers. Processes included the selection, training and supervision of the service providers, supported by data management based on information technologies. The 7P classification has been accepted by Kotler in one of the world’s most widely used marketing textbooks (see, eg Kotler and Keller).11
Another proposal has been made for the special case of cause-related marketing, where marketing plans are developed and executed that link customers and the company to promote social issues, such as protection of the environment.12 In this special context, there are eight Ps, including people, partners, participation and passion. Both the 7P extended marketing mix and the 8P classification include P for people and this idea will provide a catalyst for our customer-centric approach described below.
There have been other suggested additions to the marketing mix, including ‘positioning’, which focusses on perceptions in the minds of the target audience.13 While accepting the importance of this idea, the present authors prefer to consider positioning as a function of the application of the four basic Ps, rather than as an independent element in the marketing mix. For example, the positioning of Apple’s iPhone is a mainly a function of the product functionality and design, its price level and the corporate image of Apple Inc.
A different marketing mix consisting of 5Ps has been suggested by Hayden.14 She proposed a classification based on people, positioning, personal credibility, push plus pull and persistence. This 5P model has not posed a significant challenge to McCarthy’s traditional 4P model, probably because, although containing some insight, her five elements of the classification are not on the same conceptual level.
There have also been suggestions to include P for programs in the marketing mix, but it seems to the present authors that a programme is an integrated formulation of the basic 4Ps into a plan with defined goals, strategies and forecast outcomes. P for performance could also be suggested, but performance measured by bookings, sales revenues, contribution to profits and so on is the outcome of a plan and its execution, not simply one of the marketing tools that have to be managed to attain the desired results.
To the above proliferation of Ps, one of the present authors notes his personal contribution to the field by adding ‘professional and personal service’ in his lectures in marketing over the last 20 years.15 Another suggestion is ‘P’ for ‘purpose’ (Institute of Management Technology).16 When considered by the dedicated panel of marketing professors and practitioners (including the present authors), the conclusion reached was that this element was not just relevant to the function of marketing, but was a broader issue relevant to the organization as a whole. This topic may be addressed in a future article. So, at the time of writing, we can identify three possible categorizations of the marketing mix elements, depending on the point of view of different marketing experts: ‘purists’, ‘modernists’ and ‘expansionists’ (see Table 1).
In presenting the various categorizations in Table 1, we note in passing that the plurality of Ps (or any preferred subset of them) that might satisfy ‘expansionists’ exceeds Borden’s original multiplicity of marketing mix elements.2 Assuming that most readers will adopt one of the above three optional categorizations, is everybody happy? Unfortunately not. Some readers, the present authors included, feel rather uncomfortable with the state of affairs described above. Our reasons are as follows:
The actual term ‘marketing mix’ has not yet been defined and might even need to be refined. Everyone who has ever taught, studied or practiced marketing probably feels, ‘well, we all agree and know what it is’. But the present authors are not quite so confident and believe that the term itself requires clarification.
Expanding IMC by adding ‘communication through the use of social media and viral marketing communication campaigns’ appears to bring the concept up-to-date. But it belies the paradigm shift that has occurred in consumers’ behaviour, attitudes and use of media and, therefore, hardly does it justice. This issue will be addressed in greater depth below.
The marketing of services is clearly different from the marketing of products and would therefore benefit from having its own classification. This was recognized some years ago.9,17
In this article we will address the first two issues. We will first clarify the term ‘marketing mix’, then will consider how times have changed in the world of marketing, and finally will propose a new customer-centric paradigm for the marketing mix that is better fitted to the twenty-first century. In a future article, we plan to propose a new classification of the marketing mix that is more appropriate for the service sector and we will consider how a different (but complementary) set of four Ps could be developed not just for products or services, but also at the organizational levels of companies or institutions.