What Are the 4 Ps?

The 4 Ps of Marketing Explained

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The 4 Ps is a marketing term that stands for product, price, place (or placement), and promotion. This “marketing mix” of four key marketing factors is the foundation of successful marketing strategies around the world. 

Understanding the 4 Ps enables small business owners and Fortune 500 companies alike to structure their marketing plans and grow their brands successfully. These four crucial elements comprise the core components of marketing products today.

Let's go over the 4 Ps and how they come together to form a great marketing game plan. We'll also look at some examples of how analyzing and maximizing prices, products, placements, and promotions influences great marketing plans.

Definition and Examples of the 4 Ps of Marketing

The 4 Ps were notably identified by Neil Borden, an advertising professor at Harvard University, in a 1964 article entitled, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix.” However, the concept of four essential marketing factors has been around since the 1950s, although it has evolved significantly since then. 

This four-pronged marketing model is used by most successful businesses and is the foundation of comprehensive marketing plans. Here’s more on the 4 Ps:

  • Product: The goods or services your business is offering.
  • Price: How much the consumer can or will pay for your goods or services.
  • Place(ment): The location or environment where the product will be sold.
  • Promotion: How your product is positioned and advertised.

The easiest way to incorporate the 4 Ps is by answering these four questions: What are you offering? How much is it worth? Where can consumers find it, is it priced well, and why should they care? 

In the marketing world, these considerations are referred to as “positioning” and help businesses examine their offering in relation to consumers and the market as a whole.

Sometimes, these 4 Ps are expanded to include three more “P” components:

  • People: The employees responsible for creating, marketing, and curating your products.
  • Process: Procedure management of your products and/or the methods and flow of your services.
  • Physical evidence: The physical assets (location, furniture, signage, layout) used to present your product.

The 4 Ps are more than a simple, static marketing plan; the approach is an evolving and cyclical explanation of your business's offering. Using a blend of techniques, strategies, and focus areas, the 4 Ps help business owners ensure that their marketing plan is hitting all the right points of emphasis, consistently, and over time. 

There is a subtle but essential difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Marketing strategies are the methods used to execute a marketing plan. Marketing plans are the road maps, or blueprints, businesses create to implement effective marketing strategies.

How Do the 4 Ps of Marketing Work? 

An effective business marketing plan based on the 4 Ps depends on what you're providing to the public, who wants or needs it, how rare or valuable it is, and the strength of your competition. Let's look into what roles product, price, place, and promotions play in building a marketing plan and shaping marketing strategies for businesses.

Product

Quality, packaging, design, materials, and production cost are vital considerations when designing and branding products. To fully understand this part of the 4 Ps, ask yourself, do I have a product worth buying? What makes this a good product? Who would want it and why? 

It’s important to ask questions such as, who is not interested in my product and why? How could I alter my product or marketing mix to accommodate new or more customers? Which designs, price points, promotional tactics, or product placements aren’t working effectively? 

For example, paper plates should be able to hold food well, be made of sanitary materials, have a low cost, be disposable, and readily available. Therefore, marketing gold-rimmed paper plates as a product would be a marketing failure. Offering expensive paper plates defeats the purpose of their invention.

The sizable current target market for paper plates would not be interested in paying more for this product, or in throwing away something of value (gold) when they only desired a time-saving, low-cost, convenience product.

Conversely, offering gold leaf on fancy desserts at a top-tier restaurant to a clientele that spends more makes sense. Those kinds of extravagant products are almost an expected part of a high-end dining experience and, therefore, market well. It’s also worth noting that marketing that same high-end dessert on paper plates would not be as popular, for obvious reasons. 

Price

When considering the "price" element of the 4 Ps, it's important to consider the two different pricing structures businesses can adopt: cost-based and value-based. Using market research to determine how much niche or mass appeal/interest your product has is an excellent place to start. 

For readily available products in flooded markets with much competition, cost-based pricing is the norm. If the product is not costly, sought after, or unique, basing the price on the cost to consumers makes more sense, and pricing your product competitively will be effective. 

Value-based pricing is dependent on the subjective assessments of worth from consumers. Designer clothing, luxury cars, and rare gemstones are examples of value-based-priced products. The rarer the item, the stronger the social and societal value placed on it—and the greater the demand—the higher a price it can command. 

Place

In the marketing mix, "place" refers to the location (virtual or real-world) where you will market your goods or services. Consider who wants your product, where they spend the most time, and which kind of promotions work well with that target audience in order to work this angle successfully. Certain kinds of products perform better when marketed in different venues or environments. 

Hardware supplies still sell well in physical stores for a large number of reasons. Consumers enjoy being able to handle such products before they buy them. Often, a trip to a hardware store leads to a few more purchases than the customer realized they needed. Selling a tool in a hardware store or lumberyard is still a smart move, in addition to offering it online.

Placing your product where it makes sense to do so (and where your target audience expects it to be) is smart marketing. That said, innovative, guerrilla marketing (a term for marketing in an unexpected location where consumers least expect it) can also be highly effective. Sometimes the element of surprise can be a powerful addition to a marketing plan.

For other products, sales in physical stores don't make sense anymore. Streaming services, apps, and software programs or services are great examples of this. There is nothing physical to buy, so the promotion, price, place, and product all happens in one place—virtually. This keeps production and advertising costs down and ensures that the products or services are readily accessible and serviceable, improving customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth marketing.

Promotion

Promoting your product successfully depends heavily on the other three marketing-mix factors as well. For example, how you promote your product or service depends on what kind of offering you have, where it will be sold, how much it costs, and who your target market is. 

For example, promoting the launch of your new app through a newspaper advertisement may not make much sense logistically (as your target market may not even see it), but promoting its launch through TikTok videos or Instagram ads does.

Within the 4 Ps marketing mix, you can morph promotional ideas from your marketing plan. Which blend of promotional tactics or strategies will work best for your product? Consider possibilities such as advertising on social media, targeted public relations (PR) releases, personal selling campaigns, direct marketing, and sought-after sales promotions.

Key Takeaways

  • At least four key factors, known as the 4 Ps, go into a successful marketing mix and plan: product design, pricing, placement, and promotional strategies.
  • Use a marketing mix of all 4 Ps to ensure that your goods or services are marketed effectively to the right customers, in the right way, and in the right areas. 
  • Understanding the 4 Ps and creating an ever-evolving marketing plan can help your business adapt, thrive, and grow in a dynamic, ever-changing market environment.