Although I’ve been working in marketing for almost 30 years and I’ve taught college level marketing courses, I’ve never, ever taken a single course in marketing. I’m a learn on the job, self-taught kind of guy.
I remember very clearly one of the first things I learned on the job that I would have learned if I had ever taken Marketing 101: the Four P’s. You remember them. Product, Price, Place, Promotion?
It’s such a powerful concept, the marketer as the wizard behind the curtain, pulling these four levers and causing the market to dance to his tune.
Too bad it’s not true.
Probably it was never true, but certainly today no marketer can make customers purchase in this simplistic, manipulative way. It’s time to retire the Four P’s.
As long ago as 1990, Robert Lauterborn, a professor of advertising at the University of North Carolina, proposed an alternative: the Four C’s.
Customer Wants and Needs Replaces Product
Forget about your product for a moment, and focus on the customer. What do they want and need? What problem(s) can you solve for them? How do you solve it completely, in a way that delights the customer?
Cost replaces Price
The cost to the customer to satisfy their wants and needs may be much more than just your price. If your product is so difficult to install and configure that it requires thousands of dollars of consulting time, the initial costs are much greater than your price. The total cost of ownership over the life of the product is much greater than your price. Checking at that big bank may be free, but if you’re charged a fee for every ATM withdrawal and every time your balance drops below $500, the cost is much greater than that free price.
Convenience replaces Place
Amazon is the master of this. They’re not just about place; anyone can set up shop on the Internet and sell in the same “place”. Amazon is all about convenience: 1-click purchasing, free two-day shipping, no questions asked return policy.
Communication replaces Promotion
Promotion is one-way. Communication is two-way. Promotion is shilling. Communication requires engagement. Communication is authentic. Promotion is false.
The Four C’s and Agile Marketing
Agile Marketing is much more consistent with the philosophy of the Four C’s than the Four P’s. Agile Marketing requires a focus on the customer, and their wants and needs. Agile Marketing requires engagement and transparency over official posturing and spinning. Agile Marketing encourages collaboration, not only internally, but with the customer.
So forget the Four P’s, and start applying the Four C’s.