Behavioral Science

Basic Marketing Concepts Demystified! – Part One: The 4 P’s of Marketing

by . October 22nd, 2013

Why Your Marketing Mix Matters.

Just as coherent stories have a plot, defined characters, settings, themes, and conflict, sustainable marketing campaigns will need the right mix of ingredients. The classic marketing mix is made up by the Four P’s of Marketing:

  • Promotion
  • Price
  • Product and
  • Place (distribution)

Literature and marketing have a couple of other similarities. Both are meant to address an audience and convince them of ideas. Both are meant to meet certain needs. Anyone can write a short story or create a marketing strategy without ever knowing the necessary components ever existed. And people do this all the time- often with poor results.

Your overall marketing mix matters more than any single part of your campaign.
Your overall marketing mix matters more than any single part of your campaign.


A story that fails to include conflict, a plot, interesting characters, interesting themes, and interesting settings would in most cases be difficult to like, let alone read.

Likewise, not learning about the necessary components of the marketing mix makes it very difficult to consistently come up with coherent marketing strategies that actually help your organization meet actual needs. Not only will learning the Four P’s save you time and resources, it will becomes simple to steer your business towards a desired direction.

In other words, learning the Four P’s is not only good for you, it’s great for your customers as well.

Marketing vs. Sales

Ask almost anyone the difference between marketing and sales, and chances are, they’d have to pause to think about it. One potentially fatal mistake many novice entreps and marketers make is to confuse selling with marketing.

Before the components of the marketing mix can be discussed, it’s important to distinguish the general differences between sales and marketing.  Here’s a rough idea of what the differences are:

Marketing Sales
Approach: Forecast a company’s future needs and builds foundations for a lasting relationship with targeted customer base Match customer demands to products and services offered
Speaker/Audience Relationship
One to many
One on one, or specific groups
Focus Fill customer demands Meet specific sales objectives
Strategy Duration Long-term Short-term
Scope -Develop product and service offers 
-Determine price
-Determine places for distribution 
Promote products and services
-Gather and interpret data needed for the above
Persuade customers to purchase offers, ideally according to predetermined marketing strategies
Strategy Pull (soft/passive approach) Push (hard/active approach)
Breadth Marketing is a wider concept Sales is a narrower concept
End goal Build lasting relationships with customers Reach sales targets according to predetermined strategies

You’ll notice that the Four P’s fall squarely under the scope of marketing. Addressing these four things are absolutely central to what marketers are all about.

The 4 P’s of the Marketing Mix

Developing the right set of strategies for each “P” is a basic part of creating sustainable marketing campaigns. Here’s how they affect your marketing.

4.) Product

medium_651Basic Marketing Concepts Demystified! - The 4 P’s of Marketing: Why Your Marketing Mix Matters.3552569Every business offers a product or service.  These can be tangible, meaning they actually exist in space; or intangible. The clothes you wear and the devices you’re reading this through are examples of tangible products. Haircuts and legal advice are examples of intangible services.

Some products are also intangible, such as computer applications.  However, with the increasing value and importance of intangible products and services in today’s world, there’s still plenty of debate going on about the differences between intangible goods and services.

Important ideas include:

  • Consumer demand – Learning what your potential customers actually need is the first step towards developing marketable products and services. It would be pointless to offer a product or service for which there is no real demand. However, it’s completely possible to create a demand when there was previously none, through promotion.
  • Product development – products and service features and design should address consumer demand. Testing should also be done to ensure better customer experiences.
  • Product life cycles – The circumstances around which a product is sold is constantly changing – tastes change, competitors emerge, new technologies are developed, etc. Some products will also realistically have a short-lived appeal for one reason or another. Fads, fashion items, and computer software are common examples of these. Even staple items will often be sold in a different way. Coca-Cola for example, has been sold and promoted in different ways in different circumstances, despite the actual product remaining essential the same throughout its long history.
  • Product positioning– How you want your product or service perceived in relation to competition, if any. The design and features of your product, as well as the other P’s are all important factors to consider when determining this.

3.) Price

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Pricing can be a lot more complicated than new entreps might expect. Set prices should also complement the other parts of your marketing mix and help recover the cost of promotions, distribution, and product-expenses. Your market’s perceptions of your product and brand are also affected by pricing.

Basic pricing strategies include:

  • Market skimming pricing  – Pricing high upon introduction for early adopters, then lowering prices to meet demand
  • Market penetration pricing – Pricing low, often at a loss in order to increase market share
  • Neutral pricing – Pricing more or less the same as competitors with similar offers.
  • Premium/Prestige pricing  – Pricing high to raise product/service perceptions

2.) Promotion

Basic Marketing Concepts Demystified! - The 4 P’s of Marketing: Why Your Marketing Mix Matters - Megaphone: garryknight via photopin cc.
This is probably the part we’re all familiar with. Advertising, public relations, personal selling, sales promotion, and word-of-mouth are just some of the parts of this marketing mix component.

One extremely important development in the past generation is the widespread use of social media tools. These let you do so much more than just promote brands online. They allow real-time feedback and are unprecedented in speed and scope as a data-gathering tool.

mediuBasic Marketing Concepts Demystified! - The 4 P’s of Marketing: Why Your Marketing Mix Matters.m_8468788107
The promotions channels and strategies you use will have to be complementary to the other parts of your marketing mix. A product with premium pricing and exclusive distribution for example, might be better off advertising in lifestyle magazines rather than on television.

Common promotions channels include :

  • Mailing lists
  • Outdoor ads
  • Television
  • Social media sites
  • Radio
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Trade and consumer fairs
  • Product/brand tie-ins
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Events

These are by no means the only ways to promote brands. Also, there is huge variation between different operators of each channel. What works well on Pinterest for example, may not give you the same returns on LinkedIn.

1.) Place (Distribution)


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Place refers to how you distribute your goods and services. Now that so much commerce is done online, “place” doesn’t necessarily refer to physical brick and mortar stores. Where and how widely you distribute can not only affect your customer’s ability to purchase your goods and services, but also affect their perceptions of your brand.

Common strategies include:

  • Intensive distribution
  • Selective distribution
  • Exclusive distribution
  • Franchising

BONUS: Other P’s!

Some marketers subscribe to a “7 P” model to reflect a more holistic approach. They’re not as well known or cited as the other P’s and they can arguably be folded in to the original “4 P” model. What do you think?

  • Physical evidence – the parts of the buying experience that customers can physically perceive.
  • People – the employees in direct contact with customers.
  • Process – any and all systems that affect marketing processes.

It’s hard to exaggerate how important a balanced marketing mix is for any business.  Focus too much on promotions, and you might not be doing enough to improve your offers. Fixate on delivering the lowest prices, and you might ruin your own reputation over time, even when you’ve got a quality product. The possibilities for messing up are endless. But at least you now  know what to look out for.

Knowing which P’s are at play is the first step not just for creating effective marketing campaigns, but for creating a pattern of success for your business.

You might enjoy the rest of our Basic Marketing Concepts series!

Customer Relationship Management 

Demand Generation 

The Sales Process

The Purchase Funnel 



  1. Needham, Dave (1996). Business for Higher Awards. Oxford, England: Heinemann.
  2. Borden, Neil. “The Concept of the Marketing Mix”. Neil Borden.
  3. Banting, Peter; Ross, Randolph E. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science
  4.  Kerin, Hartley and Rudelius “Marketing, The Core,” 4th Edition, McGraw Hill Publishing 2001.
  5.  “The 7 Ps of Marketing”.
  6.  Don E. Schullz, Stanley I. Tannenbaum, Robert F. Lauterborn(1993)“Integrated Marketing Communications,”NTC Business Books, a division of NTC Publishing Group.
  7. Koichi Shimizu (2009) “Advertising Theory and Strategies,”16th edition, Souseisha Book Company. (Japanese)
  8. Koichi Shimizu (2003)”Symbiotic Marketing Strategy,”4th edition, Souseisha Book Company.(Japanese)
  9.  Brian Solis(2011) Engage!: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp.201-202.
  10.  E. Jerome McCarthy (1975)”Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach,” fifth edition, Richard D. Irwin, Inc., p.37.
  11. Trout, J., (1969) “”Positioning” is a game people play in today’s me-too market place”, Industrial Marketing, Vol.54, No.6, (June 1969), pp. 51–55.
  12. Ries, A. and Trout,J. (1981) Positioning, The battle for your mind, Warner Books – McGraw-Hill Inc., New York, 1981, ISBN 0-446-34794-9
  13. Trout, J. and Rivkin, S. (1996) The New Positioning : The latest on the worlds #1 business strategy, McGraw Hill, New York, 1996, ISBN 0-07-065291-
  14. Moore, G. (1991) Crossing the Chasm, HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.
  15. Levi, K. (2007) “Differentiate or Diminish: The Art and Necessity of Business Positioning”, (March 2007), p. 9

Image Sources

Vending Machine: midorisyu via photopin cc Price Tag: CarbonNYC via photopin cc Drafting: fiddle oak via photopin cc Megaphone: garryknight via photopin cc Social media: mkhmarketing via photopin cc Mixer: Bunches and Bits {Karina} via photopin cc


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.