From the Four Ps to the Four ‘Why’s’

Chekitan S. Dev and Don E. Schultz
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • The four “why’s” are the real tools to make marketing communications investments profitable.
  • Companies that excel at customer acquisition today are doing it in new ways and using new digital tools to account for how customers now search and buy.
  • Without clearly addressing the “why’s” of marketing, marketing managers face a real danger of misallocating resources, under-investing in the crucial elements of retention and recommendation using state-of-the-art tools, or not investing in them at all. 

Any marketer can spend money. The challenge is to acquire and retain customers, and ultimately generate worthwhile returns. Here’s how to better connect the dots from the strategic, to the tactical, to the desired and achieved outcomes.

In the late 1950s, when the four Ps concept of marketing—product, price, place and promotion—was conceived and presented as the ultimate framework for planning, implementing and measuring a marketing budget, marketing objectives were simple, media options were limited, and consumers were hungry for product information and details. Mass communication was in full gear and television was the new “darling” of the consumer.  ​​​

Massive changes obviously have occurred in the marketplace since then, yet many marketers cling to the past, arguing that the “marketing mix” of bygone years is still relevant, reliable and, most importantly, pervasive for all marketers. That seems to be particularly true with promotion. However, with the rise in overall marketing spending worldwide, the development of new media forms including mobile and other hand-held devices, the increasingly limited consumer attention spans and a host of other changes, marketing executives are feeling tremendous pressure to identify and justify their marketing and communications decisions, and to show a positive return on investment—all in real time. Adding to the challenge is the fact that what worked in the past commonly doesn’t work anymore.  

Many marketers respond by spending more and more, or they cut expenditures or shift them all to less expensive media alternatives, such as social media and the Internet. Not a very viable answer in a bottom-line-driven marketplace. 

If marketing managers turn to the academic or practitioner communities for advice, they get even less help. A cursory content analysis of most marketing publications, including this one, shows that most content is about the “what” of marketing and communication: strategies, tactics, tools and techniques, usually aggregated as the four Ps. There is much less discussion on the “why” of marketing communication: the purpose, goals and objectives, and the reason for engaging the marketing communication initiatives in the first place. And there is practically no discussion of returns from all of that spending or all of those new media initiatives. For example, in a market-leading textbook, published in 2014 by Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong, the objectives and goals of marketing are summarized in less than a page, and limited to mentions only of revenue, profit and market share—not a word about customers. That seems a rather backward approach to the marketing function in an interactive marketplace. It makes it sound as if spending on product, price, place and promotion, if done often enough, will create returns that will simply fall from the sky.    

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Author Bio:

Chekitan S. Dev and Don E. Schultz
Chekitan S. Dev is a professor of marketing and branding at Cornell University. His work has been published in the AMA’s Journal of Marketing and Journal of Marketing Research, and in the Harvard Business Review. Dev has served corporate, government, education, private equity, startup and law firm clients in more than 40 countries as a keynote speaker, advisor, workshop leader and expert witness. Don E. Schultz is a professor (emeritus-in-service) of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School and president of Agora Inc., a global marketing, communication and branding consulting firm. He is the author or co-author of 28 books and more than 150 trade, academic and professional articles. He is a featured columnist in the AMA’s Marketing News and Marketing Insights magazines.

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