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The 4 P's of Marketing=Fuzzy Brain BS

I keep getting comments quoting the "four Ps of marketing" in refutation of my critique of brand-oriented marketing. Far from a crushing counter-argument, the "four Ps" are exactly the kind of mental mush that makes marketing ineffective. Here's a typical comment, from the post "How Branding Can Kill Your Profit":
Perhaps you need a refresher in business basics: Product, distribution (place), promotion are three of the four most basic, integral parts of marketing (price is the fourth). Branding is the belief system about these things plus the company.
There are so many things wrong with the "four Ps" concept that I hardly know where to start. But here goes...

First, the "four Ps" is a cutesy mnemonic, but it tends to make all four elements seem as if they are of equal importance. But they're not, are they? Of the four, "product" is by far the most important, because if you don't have a product, all of the rest are meaningless.

Second, if "promotion" and "place" are as important as "product", then companies should be spending twice as much on marketing as they do on cost of goods. While that might make some marketers happy, you'd go out of business so fast your corporate heads would spin.

Third, there's a gigantic omission in the "four Ps" concept: Sales. Selling the product (infinitely more important than promoting it) has been completely removed from the equation. One could argue that it's included in "place" but it's clearly not even a minor focus.

Finally, there's an even bigger omission in the "four Ps" concept: Customers. The people who actually buy things are reduced to invisible objects. They may get to play a role in defining product (via focus group, perhaps) but that's about it.

In short, the whole "four Ps" idea is so stupid that I'm surprised that marketers keep trying to spout it as if it's some sort of business gospel.

Perhaps you're curious who thought up this "four Ps" tripe? Even before looking it up, I said to myself -- gotta be somebody from the Harvard Business School. And, sure enough, the concept came from professor E. Jerome McCarthy, who was at the Harvard Business School in the early 1960s.

So here we are, in a world with marketing messages blasted at us from hundreds of different outlets and with access to a trillion pages of information on the Internet... and we've still got marketers spouting a business concept that dates from back when the typical TV had 3 stations on it.


But what's even sadder and funnier than that is that McCarthy was talking about the mass marketing of consumer products, not B2B. Even so, marketer keep trotting out examplars like Coke in order to justify spending big money to brand businesses that sell to other businesses.


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