The four P’s are dead?

The way we communicate and connect with others is rapidly changing. This is true for both business and personal interactions (a divide that in itself is becoming fuzzier). Marketeers have traditionally been the gate-keepers of this dialogue between consumers and brands, and are coming to grips with their role now that the gate has been left open, allowing an honest, two-way dialogue. For some it must seem that their arsenal of tools has been taken away, and they’re uncertain of the rules.

Judging by the amount of spammy e-newsletters that flood my work inbox everyday, there is a huge market in bringing the marketeers up to speed. Everyday my inbox yells; “Develop real breakthrough strategies,” “Engage user groups online,” “Influence and Inspire customers with social media.”

One daily e-newsletter I actually look forward to receiving is Fast Company’s Co.Design. So when I saw the article “Why Do B-Schools Still Teach The Famed 4P’s Of Marketing, When Three Are Dead?” I was looking forward to a revelatory look at Marketing for today’s world. To say the 4 P’s are redundant is a big call, but I was prepared to be convinced. And I had to agree with the intro statement, “The digital revolution has rewritten the laws of marketing.” But then the article just lost me…

The article’s key argument was that there is no way to compete on grounds of Promotion, Place and Price, and only Product matters. My argument; the way we think about these 4 P’s is outdated, not their role as the bedrock of marketing practice.

The article held up Zara as an example of a brand that doesn’t need Promotion for success, saying, “Zara, one of the largest and fastest-growing fashion brands, never advertises.” But hang on. Isn’t promotion about more than paid advertising? What about the 10,428,817 people that like them on Facebook? Or the 713,576 views on their Youtube page? The article states, “In a transparent, digitally empowered world, only the best offerings survive, so companies that spend on promotions have a cost disadvantage.” But not when their successful promotion campaigns cost them as little as the time spent to upload a film to Youtube.

‘Place,’ is all about ensuring your offer is accessible to the consumer. Being there when they need you, or want you. Traditionally this may have meant a focus on the supply chain or logistics or shelf space or the retail environment. But Place is now more important than ever, when consumers can access and purchase information, entertainment, or necessities wherever they are. The Place you need to worry about now is online, on app, on mobile, and in all these places you should be on brand.

The last P the Fast Co article tries to kill off is Price, arguing comparison sites like,, and enable raw market forces to determine the price of their products. Wally Olins made a similar claim, with regards to BA and the broader European Airline industry in last weeks Marketing Week. But to assume that a consumer will make purchase decisions solely on price is naive. The fact is, none of the 4 P’s can be viewed in a silo. They need to be understood and utilised holistically. And a strong brand strategy, that takes into account your offer, audience and market, should make implementing the marketing mix fairly straight forward.

Believe me, I was weirdly excited about throwing out the theory that’s underpinned Marketing 101 lessons for the past 5 decades. But if you’re starting at a point where you truly understand your brand, they’re still a brilliant tool to make sense of this moving world.


  • Saurabh Maheshwari

    Very well written. I think it is just that the meaning and relevance of these Ps has change but they are still very much relevant in the their new avatar.