The 4 Ps of Marketing: What They Are and How to Use Them

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Learn what the 4 Ps are and how they can help you on your next marketing endeavor.

[Featured Image] a young woman in a jacket gives a presentation covering the 4Ps to a marketing team.

The four Ps are a “marketing mix” comprised of four key elements—product, price, place, and promotion—used when marketing a product or service. Typically, businesses consider the four Ps when creating marketing plans and strategies to effectively market to their target audience. 

Although there are many other “marketing mixes,” the four Ps are the most common and foundational to creating a successful marketing plan. In this article, you will learn more about their purpose, history and find a detailed breakdown of the four Ps. 

What are the 4Ps of marketing? (Marketing mix explained)

The four Ps are product, price, place, and promotion. They are an example of a “marketing mix,” or the combined tools and methodologies used by marketers to achieve their marketing objectives. 

The 4 Ps were first formally conceptualized in 1960 by E. Jerome McCarthy in the highly influential text, Basic Marketing, A Managerial Approach [1]. There, McCarthy noted that while the text of the book was  “similar to that found in the traditional texts, the approach is not.” 

McCarthy’s novel approach was influenced by the still-recent “marketing mix” concept, which Harvard Business School professor Neil. H. Borden popularized in the 1950s. In fact, Borden himself had been influenced by a 1948 study written by James Culliton, in which the author equated business executives to “artists” or “mixer[s] of ingredients” [2]. Rather than using the same approach for every situation, then, Culliton and Borden recognized that successful executives instead mixed different methods depending on variable market forces. 

McCarthy streamlined this concept into the four Ps—product, place, price, and promotion—to help marketers design plans that fit the dynamic social and political realities of their time and target market. In effect, the purpose of the four Ps remains the same today as when McCarthy first published his book: “developing the ‘right’ product and making it available at the ‘right’ place with the ‘right’ promotion and at the ‘right’ price, to satisfy target consumers and still meet the objectives of the business” [3]. 

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A lecture from Northwestern's Sports marketing course discussing the 4Ps.

The four Ps

The four Ps form a dynamic relationship with one another. Rather than one taking priority over the other, each is considered equally important in crafting a strategic marketing plan. 

Product

The product is the good or service being marketed to the target audience. 

Generally, successful products fill a need not currently being met in the marketplace or provide a novel customer experience that creates demand. For example, the original iPhone filled a need in the market for a simplified device that paired a phone with an iPod, and the chia pet provided a humorous experience for consumers that was utterly unique.    

As you are working on your product, it is essential to consider your target audience and their unique needs. Some questions to consider when working on a product include: 

  • What is your product? 

  • What does your product do? Does the product meet an unfilled need or provide a novel experience? 

  • Who is your product’s target audience? 

  • How is your product different from what others offer? 

Price 

Price is the cost of a product or service. 

When marketing a product or service, it is important to pick a price that is simultaneously accessible to the target market and meets a business’s goals. Pricing can have a significant impact on the overall success of a product. For example, if you price your product too high for your targeted audience, then very few of them will likely purchase it. Similarly, if you price your product too low, then some might pass it up simply because they are concerned it might be of inferior quality and cut into your potential profit margins. 

To identify a successful price, you will want to thoroughly understand your target audience and their willingness to pay for your product. Some questions you might ask yourself as you are considering your product’s price include:

  • What is the price range of your product’s competitors? 

  • What is the price range of your target audience? 

  • What price is too high for your audience? What price is too low? 

  • What price best fits your target market? 

Place

Place is where you sell your product and the distribution channels you use to get it to your customer. 

Much like price, finding the right place to market and sell your product is a key factor in reaching your target audience. If you put your product in a place that your target customer doesn’t visit—whether on or offline— then you will likely not meet your sales target. The right place, meanwhile, can help you connect with your target audience and set you up for success. 

For example, imagine you are selling an athletic shoe you designed. Your target market is athletes in their early twenties to late thirties, so you decide to market your product in sports publications and sell it at specialty athletics stores. By focusing on sports stores over shoe stores in general, you are targeting your efforts to a specific place that best fits your marketing mix.  

To decide the best place to market and sell your product, you should consider researching the physical or digital places that your target audience shops and consumes information. Some questions to consider include: 

  • Where will you sell your product?

  • Where does your target audience shop? 

  • What distribution channels are best to reach your target market? 

Promotion

Promotion is how you advertise your product or service. Through promotion, you will get the word out about your product with an effective marketing campaign that resonates with your target audience. 

There are many different ways to promote your product. Some traditional methods include word of mouth, print advertisements, and television commercials. In the digital age, though, there are even more marketing channels that you can use to promote your product, such as content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing.  

 Some questions to consider as you are working on your product promotion include: 

  • What is the best time to reach your target audience? 

  • What marketing channels are most effective for your target audience? 

  • What advertising approaches are most persuasive to your target audience?

Other marketing mixes

The four Ps aren’t the only marketing mix used today. Some other modern marketing mixes include the five Ps, the seven Ps, and the 5 Cs. Although each of these reflects certain aspects of the four Ps, they also each possess some unique elements that alter their emphasis on the marketing process.  

The five Ps

The five Ps are product, price, place, promotion, and people

Today, many marketers use the five Ps over the four Ps because it centers the experiences of customers and staff in the marketing process. Typical considerations include how a customer behaves, their experience with the product, and their overall satisfaction with the business.  

The seven Ps

The seven Ps are product, price, place, promotion, people, processes, and physical evidence

The seven Ps are a further elaboration of the five Ps, adding considerations of the processes that define the customer experience and the physical evidence that the target market needs to see to become customers. While processes might involve the specific customer service processes that define a product, physical evidence can be websites or store displays that help the target market imagine themselves using the product. 

The five Cs

The five Cs are customer, company, competition, collaborators, and climate. 

In some respects the five Cs reflect many of the same concerns of the four and five Ps, but with added emphasis on external factors, such as possible outside collaborations and competitive research. 

Furthermore, while “climate” refers to the social, political, and economic context surrounding the market, “customer” refers to the target market and customer experience. “Company,” meanwhile, refers to the place of the company and their available resources in the marketing process. 

Get market-ready 

Effective marketing takes time, but the proper preparation can yield outstanding success. As you look to your next marketing endeavor, define your Ps with Marketing Mix Implementation from IE Business School. Just getting started in marketing? Build the skills you need for an entry-level role with the Meta Social Media Marketing or Marketing Analytics Professional Certificates on Coursera.

Related articles 

Article sources

1. Oxford Reference. “E Jerome McCarthy, https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100143321.” Accessed January 17, 2022. 

2. Guillaum Nicaise. “The Concept of the Marketing Mix, http://www.guillaumenicaise.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Borden-1984_The-concept-of-marketing-mix.pdf.” Accessed January 16, 2022.

3. HathiTrust. “Basic Marketing: a managerial approach, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=inu.30000041584743&view=1up&seq=1.” Accessed January 17, 2022.

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