Back in the early 1960’s the American Marketing Association coined the term the “Four ‘P’s” as a way to describe the essential elements of the marketing mix. Since that time every first year marketing student has been taught to think in terms of product, price, place and promotion as they analyze case studies of companies real and imagined.
Much has changed in the last 50 years, including what product really is, what place entails, how package plays a role and, well, pretty much everything about what promotion looks like.
In fact, the very definition of marketing has changed dramatically enough to render the original Four P’s somewhat useless as a foundational marketing and business strategy concept.
Today’s most important business and marketing directive is one of building trust. Engagement, connection and story are the new forms of promotional art. Price is a function of value and place has become bytes and ether more often than a shelf or an office.
There is a home for the Four P’s in today’s business but it’s in the very mortar of the business and the story of its people rather than in a department on an org chart.
The Four P’s are now more about how a business is experienced than what it sells. They reside in the expression of human characteristics that turn commitment into culture and culture into customer.
The following elements make up a redefinition of the Four P’s for the fully alive business and further make the case that marketing is everything you do and every business is really a marketing business.
The first element of the Four P’s in a fully alive business is the passion for living that the owner of the business brings. When the founder of a business can serve their own personal passion and purpose by growing the business, good things can evolve.
The leader of a business must have a great sense of passion for the business, but they also must be able to connect that passion with purpose in order to bring out the desire to commit in others. Leading with passion is how you put yourself out there and do what you were meant to do.
“A ship in port is safe but that’s not what ships are built for.” ~ Grace Murray Hopper
Purpose is how a business defines why it does what it does. It is the reason people are drawn to work in a business, it’s the reason they come to life inside the business and it’s the reason customers voluntarily become loyal ambassadors of the brand.
Purpose builds trust because it allows people to see their own values in action in support of something they strongly believe. A regular paycheck, important sounding title, or great deal on a cool product, probably doesn’t invoke much in the way of purpose.
Joining a business that is on an epic journey to create joy, change an age old industry, innovate under the nose of a Goliath, or just do a great deal more of the right thing – that’s purpose, that’s not simply a business it’s a cause and people will do some remarkable things inside and around the support of their cause.
Organizations that understand the power of purpose also understand that purpose is what they need to package as their reason for being, core difference and position in the market. They lead with why and let those attracted to that why create their own definition of what.
In fact, brands that start with purpose over product can effectively enter most any market with the same positioning and compete with entrenched category leaders. I know it’s become cliché to cite Apple as an example, but this computer company routinely blows competitors away in any market they enter. Think mp3 players and mobile devices – two categories they entered and dominate even though they’re a computer company.
Apple’s sense of why is so prevalent in their positioning that it wouldn’t surprise me if they entered the coffee market and became the category darling.
The final P is how a business uses desirable human traits or personality characteristics as a vehicle to allow all that encounter the business to actually experience purpose.
It’s one thing to state your purpose on a plaque or marketing brochure, it’s another thing entirely to live by a tangible set of daily habits and processes that offer proof of purpose.
We are drawn to people and experience that are simple, inspirational, convenient, innovative, playful, community oriented and filled with surprise. These are the personality traits that a fully alive business uses as the everyday creative language of the business.
These traits act as the filter for every decision and make up how the business is run internally and the brand is experienced externally.
Imagine what would occur if every college student today were taught these Four P’s. Imagine if every business were started with this framework. Imagine if everyone could go to work for a company built with this way of thinking at its core. Imagine if we could experience these Four P’s by simply becoming a customer of your business? What would that be like?
I don’t know, I think it would be pretty great.