The 4 P’s of Marketing are lame.

Not that they were a bad idea at the time. So before I rip them apart, let me give you some background where they came from.

E. Jerome McCarthy

Edmund Jerome McCarthy was an accomplished marketing professor in the 50’s and 60’s at several influential universities, such a Notre Dame and MSU. He had a long educational career and actually just left us in December of 2015.

With Perrault Jr and McCann, he co-authored Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach in 1960. This work is where the 4 P’s of marketing where outlined and explained- Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. This had been coined as the marketing mix by a previous intellectual, Neil Borden.

Here’s you’re takeaway: 1960!

We are teaching a marketing principle from a day and age where color television was still new!

Back then it was easy, here’s the product: a color RCA TV. The price of a color TV was around $500. The place was the local store. The promotion was print, radio, and TV ads. That was it.

Fast forward to today: a Visio 4K TV. The price is… well… how many inches? Is the store local, regional or online? How did you learn about it? Social media? Online reviews? Their website? A blog? It’s much more complicated.

Do the 4P’s really do modern marketing justice?


First of all, the service sector accounts for 80% of our entire economy. That’s a pretty good indicator that the word product is inadequate. Especially with software, the line between product and service is blurry.

It’s simply not a good word for marketing terminology. “Offering” is a much more inclusive word.


Remember when people flipped out when Netflix increased their prices?

Meanwhile, the average cost of a 2 hour movie in 2000 was $5. In 2016, it’s over $8. One single movie. If you watch 4 Netflix movies a month, the same time spent costs less than $2.

Maybe the reason is that Price does not matter. Value does. People value a cinematic movie more than a movie on their TV so they are okay with paying way more.

Price simply is not the only factor when it comes to purchase decisions.


Another inadequate word. Yeah, you could say, the internet is a “place.” But read McCarthy’s book and you will see it just talks about product distribution channels. It’s not a bad read, just not something from which to base modern marketing education.


Again, the book is mostly about personal selling and advertising. This was a day and age when “content” was what you found in a bag.

Back in the TV golden age, the pitch was king. You didn’t have to court people or hold their attention for long periods. You showed your product, made it sexy, had a cool catchphrase or jingle, and sold products.

Seth Godin’s TV Industrial Complex

Promotion as advertising and selling is only a portion of what marketing is about.

So what should we use instead?

Many marketers have just added to the list of P’s. Because innovation is adding new parts to an old vehicle… oh wait, it isn’t. For a group of professionals that constantly write about being “creative,” we sure are bad at introspection.

I’m not a marketing professor with a PhD. I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve done marketing for many businesses and I do consulting as well. I’m proposing we drop the 4P’s entirely and move on to something better.

I’m writing a book about it if you are interested, but that’s not my main goal of this post.

My hopes are that marketers can move on from an antiquated system of P’s propagated by their catchy consonance.

So that’s why I think the “marketing mix” is lame. Not in the uncool lame, but the broken, inadequate, limping lame.

Add me on twitter or comment if you think you’ve found a better marketing mix.