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

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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

[Featured image] A man holding a tablet stands before a whiteboard where the 4 Ps of marketing are listed in green marker.

The four Ps are a “marketing mix” composed 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 many other marketing mixes exist, the four Ps are foundational to creating a successful marketing plan. In this article, you will learn more about their purpose and 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 conceptualised 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 popularised 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 recognised 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” [1]. 

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. 


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 humourous 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 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 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 speciality 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 where 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 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.

You can promote your product in different ways. Some traditional methods include word of mouth, print advertisements, and television commercials. In the digital age, though, you have even more marketing channels 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 five 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 centres 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 build off the four Ps and five Ps to help companies understand how their products will be impacted by various market forces, as well as help them define key issues to focus on. The seven Ps include the processes that define the customer experience and the physical evidence that the target market needs to see to become customers. Not only are the seven Ps applicable to traditional marketing, but they are also effective and useful insights for digital marketing in the modern age.

The five Cs

The five Cs are company, customer, competitor, collaborator, 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.

The five Cs promote creativity while allowing you to identify your company’s strengths and what competitive advantage you have in a particular market, versus your competitors. As you create new marketing strategies to enhance your brand, the five Cs will help you to clearly define key performance indicators (KPIs).

How to use the 4 Ps of marketing

Now that you know the 4Ps and other marketing mixes, here is a quick refresher on your main objectives for your marketing strategy:

Communicate the benefits that the product offers potential customers.

Demonstrate how the product's value matches the price.

Place the product where your target audience is most likely to encounter it.

Promote the product in ways that resonate with your target audience.


Get market ready

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