A Beginner's Guide to the 4 Principles of Marketing – The Motley Fool

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by Robert Izquierdo | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 – First published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
Every business needs a marketing strategy. It introduces the company’s goods and services to potential customers, and informs existing ones of additional opportunities to buy.
Forming the foundation of that strategy are four core marketing principles that enable the effective execution of a marketing strategy. Understanding each of these marketing terms is the key to building a strong strategy.
These basic marketing principles, often referred to as the four Ps or the marketing mix, are a framework that underpins marketing 101.
By mixing these four ingredients in different ways (hence the term marketing mix), you can produce a synergy between all four that drives product adoption within your target markets.
The marketing mix concept was introduced in the 1950s and was refined into the four Ps framework in the 1960s. It identifies the key high-level areas to address as part of any marketing plan, such as a go-to-market strategy for launching a product.
The elements that make up each area form the tactical components of a marketing strategy.
It’s important to note that the customer is the focal point of each area in the marketing mix. Also, these areas are interdependent; they work together to complement and align all the parts of a marketing plan.
Moreover, the marketing mix is fluid, allowing the marketing team to emphasize any one area in the strategy as needed based on market conditions and what’s best for the targeted customer segment.
Because the labels in the marketing mix are so broad, it’s helpful to examine each in detail to understand these four principles and how they work together.
The marketing mix starts with the goods or services offered by the business. Anything sold to generate revenue can be classified as the product part of the marketing mix, from manufacturing razor blades to providing legal advice.
The product should solve a problem or need for the customer. The benefits of the product should be communicated through the lens of the customer.
You might think your product is fantastic, but a skeptical customer wants to know what makes it different from that of your competitors, and how it will meet their needs.
This means you’ve got to understand the customer as well as, or even better than, the product.
A real world example is the Happy Meal product sold at McDonald’s. The Happy Meal combines food and a beverage with a toy, and is designed for customers who are children, down to its name and packaging.
This part of the marketing mix is about determining the price for your goods or services.
There are many different strategies for pricing that can be employed here, but ultimately, it’s about lining up your business and marketing objectives with an understanding of what price the market will bear.
You’ll want to align pricing with the value customers perceive for the product. This means you understand the value of your offering from the customer’s perspective, which also includes their time and effort to acquire the product.
If customers view your offering as unique or high value, you can charge more. If customers view the product as on par with competitors’ products, you may need to discount your price below the competition to earn customers.
In the case of the Happy Meal, McDonald’s uses a pricing technique called bundling. The price of the combined food and beverage is less than the price of buying the items individually, which encourages customers to buy the Happy Meal.
This component of the marketing mix speaks to where and how easily customers can acquire the goods or services.
Is a purchase possible online? For a service, what’s the geographic area being served? If you sell your product to businesses, distribution considerations like the logistics to get shipments to your business clients fall into this area.
Always provide an online destination, even if you offer a service. Customers generally perform research online to help them discover buying options and make a decision. Without an online destination like a website, you’re giving competitors an advantage.
McDonald’s uses a variety of methods to distribute its Happy Meal product. As part of its restaurant marketing strategy, the company has a mobile app where customers can order a Happy Meal and pick it up in person or have it delivered. Even in the restaurant, customers can choose the cash register as the place to order or skip the line and order at an in-store kiosk.
This area encompasses the tactics used by the business to communicate with customers across all of its marketing channels.
Included in this principle are tactics like advertising, direct marketing methods, public relations, email marketing, social media, database marketing, special promotions, communications strategies, and in-person appearances (such as at a trade show).
Given all it includes, the promotion piece of the marketing mix contains perhaps the largest number of elements to juggle. Because the choice of tools is so vast, it’s helpful to peruse reviews like the best email marketing software.
Your choice of marketing tactics and tools should complement your marketing plan, which is driven by your product positioning.
Create a product positioning statement that will serve as the heart of promotion efforts. It encapsulates all the elements in the marketing mix in a sentence or two, so that it can serve as a kind of north star guiding your marketing ship.
Going back to our McDonald’s example, the company frequently leverages partnerships with corporations like Disney to tie its Happy Meal toy to a movie that appeals to children.
Its most recent Happy Meal promotions included tie-ins with Disney’s Frozen 2 movie and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. McDonald’s used commercials on television and YouTube to spread the word.
While the four Ps model lives on today, other frameworks have emerged, such as a seven Ps version for businesses selling services.
Personally, I found these other models added unnecessary complexity, and the traditional marketing mix stood the test of time for the products I launched. The key is to remember that the end goal is to have a happy, satisfied customer.
By aligning the marketing principles to the target customer markets, you’ll be able to achieve this goal, and grow your business.
Robert Izquierdo is a software expert writing for The Ascent and The Motley Fool.
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
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