Have we missed the most important P?

The original 4 P’s of the marketing mix developed in the 1960’s – Product, Place, Price and Promotion, have been expanded over the years to 8 P’s to keep up with a changing world. But I argue that we have failed to include missed the most obvious and important elements from the equation.

The first four P’s were a concept developed by marketing professor Jerome McCarthy to help businesses and marketers apply discipline around developing their brand or business offerings. 

The easy to remember 4 P’s helped ensure that marketers thought about how the Product should fit the task needed from it, ensuring it is in the Place where the customer finds it easiest, making sure the Price is good value for money, and that the Promotion is informative or appealing.

Then in 1981, Booms and Bitner extended on the four P’s with three more P’s, which were particularly relevant to service marketing:

  1. People – considering the people in your company that contribute to producing your product or service
  2. Processes – considering how you deliver your service or product, and;
  3. Physical Evidence – providing evidence that you have performed the service, i.e an insurance company would supply contract documentation, a hairdresser would supply a finished hair style.

Since then, suggestions of an 8th P have focused on Productivity and Quality – how your company passes on something that enables your customers to provide value to their customers. 

But I still feel like all these miss the biggest Pelephant in the room. 

In this never-ending world of multiple places to buy and places to promote, I would argue that the top of any marketing mix, the number one P, should be “Persona”. 

How else would you be able to begin making decisions on product, placement, price and promotion? 

Some may argue that the customer is at the heart of all the decisions around product, price, promotion and place, but as channels have disseminated and places to purchase have changed, it’s no longer good enough to think about pulling together the marketing mix by product or service line alone. 

To cut through effectively, we need to craft promotions by the behaviours of the personas who use a particular product or a service, in a particular way or for a particular reason. Which essentially means more than one marketing mix for the same product, differentiated by persona.

While I’m at it, this brings up an argument for another “P” – Profitability. With seemingly endless channels, platforms and promotional opportunities, it would be easy to get tied up in knots trying to be everything to everyone, everywhere. 

Monitoring, analysing and understanding the Profitability of a Product or Service by Persona is an essential tool to help marketers make the best decisions around the marketing mix.

So have we missed the most important P?