The New Four Ps of Marketing

By Amanda Powers-Han, Chief Marketing Officer at Greater Than One

Do you still have your Marketing 101 textbook? If it devotes a chapter to the “Four Ps of Marketing,” it’s time to throw it out. There is a whole new P-centric marketing mix that is poised to shake up the marketing landscape. 

Concocted by Edmund Jerome McCarthy in his 1960 textbook, Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, the original Four Ps of marketing refer to Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. They were adopted, applied, discussed, and respected for quite some time. So, what were they? A Product is an item a consumer either needs, wants, or is otherwise convinced to buy to solve a problem. Price is more than just what a product costs, it’s also its perceived value. The last two are rather straightforward—Place is where a product is accessible, and Promotion is how it is marketed. 

A New Wave of Challengers

Many others have attempted to push new marketing philosophies over the years. In 2015, Facebook’s Atlas research division came up with the Four Cs: Choice, Convenience, Cross-Device, and Creative Sequencing. Surprisingly, “Community” was not one of them. This was an attempt to shift the market mix from being product-focused to being customer-focused. Regardless, this was more of a soft upgrade and not quite an overhaul of McCarthy’s Four Ps. There is a need, however, for a whole new set of Ps, especially in the healthcare space, as markets begin to embrace technology and innovation.

Why now? In a year where a global pandemic and yearlong lockdowns have out-disrupted anything technology could have done alone, we need to better understand what is connecting brands and customers now, and what is driving adoption and loyalty.

We Are the Disruption

What we are starting to understand is that it’s people that drive transformation. According to Thales S. Teixeira, author of Unlocking the Customer Value Chain, customers drive disruption across multiple industries and “changing customer needs led to the evolution of an industry.” An example in the healthcare space is PillPack online prescription fulfillment. 

This all changes what our perception of the Four Ps should be. Place no longer has the same meaning when everyone’s shopping from home. Promotion doesn’t quite pack the same wallop across an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Product is still important, right? Not according to waves of Millennials and Gen Zers who prefer experiences over tangible things. And Price? It matters much less than value today.

These Are Not Your Father’s Ps

The new Four Ps are less concrete and more ethereal. Less quantitative and more qualitative. They reflect the new reality of consumers less driven by price or promotional gimmicks. People are seeking more authentic connections with brands through aligned values, consumer-centric engagement, and a personalized experience delivered through content and media. The new categories are Personal, Purpose, Power, and Performance. 

Personal

The increasing empowerment of the consumer calls for a more personalized approach. This goes beyond shifting from traditional channel marketing to cross-device campaigning, and way beyond delivering relevant marketing at the right time on the right screen. It starts with carefully created content that directly addresses audience needs. At a high level, we foster open conversations around topics concerning medicines and illnesses and combat stigma. That’s how we initially capture attention and build trust. It’s how we overcome brand centricity to start putting the customer at the center of our efforts.

The fact is, HCPs and consumers are besieged in a world of vast information—a good chunk of which is ever-growing spam risk—which often leaves them bewildered, frustrated, even angry. Additionally, medications are becoming more niche and less of a blockbuster. They appeal to more focused customer segments and are truly transformative for the customers they serve. 

It’s the same notion as following a blizzard line to safety when you’re in a whiteout. It’s that personal connection that guides you to the exact information you need amid the white noise of today’s marketing. The key to Personal lies in customer segmentation, or more specifically, micro-segmentation. The days are long past when you can consider a single message for all; explore narrow groups to identify unmet clinical needs.

Purpose

Consumers are not just invested in products or services as much anymore; these days, they tend to connect to brands as a whole, prizing authenticity above pushy and/or interruptive messaging. Balázs Kovács, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale, made this observation: “As society becomes more digital, connected, and modern, researchers are seeing a demand for greater authenticity that spans all walks of life.” For brands, this means being original, trustful, and transparent. Being true to their purpose.

Going further: A global study conducted by Zeno Group revealed that consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase and champion purpose-driven companies. Increased consumer demand for authentic, purposeful, and hyper-personalized experiences means brands need to be more targeted, granular, and agile as well. This goes beyond the segmentation touched upon earlier; what’s needed is a holistic, comprehensive understanding of the different segments to better understand how to reach them.

With all the new advances in emotional, behavioral, and cognitive sciences, it’s easier now to test your work and truly understand what aspects, if any, of your brand resonate with prospective customers. And draw on emotional intelligence—use social listening, fine-tune your brand voice, act on feedback—to help put your purpose into practice.

Amanda Powers-Han

Power

Ten-plus years ago, smartphones helped liberate content and media. Now we have smartwatches that track sleeping patterns, blood pressure, oxygen levels, heart rhythms, and body temperatures. We have voice-enabled AI that track symptoms, manage prescriptions, lead exercise classes, and help regulate diet. Telehealth is becoming mainstream. And soon, autonomous vehicles will be providing on-demand healthcare services, transporting patients to and from appointments, enabling persons with disabilities to travel safely independently, and more. 

All this means that the availability of data is exploding and opportunities are awaiting. However, brands must be able to extract value from the exponential rise of data to not only defend their sales but to accelerate new growth. Being able to draw on the interconnected power of data, content, and media to build and distribute brands is not a nice-to-have, but an essential skill.

Performance

Performance must now be a focal point, early and often, with the data we have at our fingertips and as a constant compass for meaningful customer and brand connection.

The way we consume media and engage with brands is vastly different from McCarthy’s era. So is the way we measure success. Beyond sales, performance is defined and measured by marketing objectives, such as disease awareness, brand awareness, increase in social and key customer influence, content engagement, and opt-ins. 

When you’re choosing leading indicators that measure traffic, engagement, conversion, and so on, it’s important to choose metrics that align with your business goals. This is true whether you’re marketing the first FDA-approved treatment for a disease that affects only 81,000 Americans or promoting one of many treatments for a medical condition that over 7 million Americans have.

Long Live the New Four Ps!

With the accession of a new set of marketing rules comes the assurance that marketers can maintain more control over their audience’s experience in a time of disruption. Whether you’re at the top of the sales funnel (disease awareness), middle of the funnel (drug consideration), or bottom of the funnel (sales), the new Four Ps provide relevant guidance for today’s world.

Between the rise of technology and the state of the global pandemic, we’re interacting more and more virtually. So, it’s natural for people to want to crave something tangible and intimate. The empathy of an experience that feels personal. The authenticity of a brand with purpose. Marketers are now enabled to deliver through the power of data, technology, and creativity. And performance is fueled by a new approach to understanding and application of data. These are the new Ps that will help agencies deliver better healthcare marketing and communications.