The Next Evolution of Marketing Mix: Growing our Company in the Me Generation.

jessica poteet
Aug 3, 2017 · 6 min read

When old marketing frameworks aren’t relevant for a digital age, new ideas must be adopted to reach our multi-tasking, well-connected customers.

tl;dr: Marketing mix frameworks have evolved to place customers first in our marketing strategies. Emphasis should be on our customers’ needs and wants and how our products can help satisfy those desires. Participation should be a new dimension with which we build our strategies. Companies that build participation avenues early will see organic growth through customers’ excitement and intimacy with products.

Step into a time machine:

We all remember sitting in our Marketing 101 classes, learning the basic 4P’s framework. We were taught that if we stepped into our marketing kitchen, customer acquisition and subsequent profits would be as simple as adding our four “P” ingredients. A dash of promotion. A sprinkle of place. Et voila: success!

Dinner is served! Swedish Chef courtesy of GIPHY.

But making a marketing recipe from a combination of product, price, place, and promotion isn’t as viable a formula in today’s connected world.

Let’s look at the formula another way.

The 4P’s v2.0

Created by McCarthy in 1960, the 4P’s were thought to be the most common and necessary variables to the marketing mix plan:

1. Product is WHAT we are selling: a good or a service.

2. Place is WHERE we are selling it: the channels.

3. Promotion is HOW we are selling it: building awareness.

4. Price is HOW much a potential customer is willing to pay: perceived value.

The theory is that if you should be able to build your marketing strategy around these four elements for business success.

But where is the rest of the customer acquisition funnel? What about brand bonding and loyalty? Today’s world has easier flows of information and more informed customers. We must adapt our marketing strategies. We need a more user centered approach.

This is where 4P’s become 4C’s and/or 4E’s.

Image Credit: compilation by the author of frameworks from McCarthy (1960), Lauterborn (1990), and Fetherstonhaugh (mid 2000’s).

New Frameworks: a focus on customers and their journeys

As seen in the diagram above, these new frameworks place a stronger emphasis on our customer and her journey with our company. We are not selling a product and its features, but an answer to our customer’s needs. Who does our customer want to be, and how can our product help her achieve that image?

A best practice is turning our attention from our product initially, and focusing on our customers first. Each of the 4C’s reframes our original “P” metrics to be more applicable and customer-centric.

Moving beyond the user, the 4E’s make the framework more holistic, with a deeper focus on customer experience and journey. Not only should our company be developing a product that fits the market by solving a customer’s needs, but we should be creating continuous pre- and post-sales connections.

Ann Handley, author of “Everybody Writes” and world’s first Chief Content Officer, says,

“Make your customers the heroes of your stories.”

But perhaps we should be helping our customers become the heroes of their own stories.

People buy into Apple’s mission of “challenging the status quo and doing things differently” not because they are happy to be associated with a company that has cool values, but because they too hope to become or be seen as rebellious and innovative.

I swear, I’ve never waited 8 hours in line for an iPhone. Futurama courtesy of GIPHY.

Louis Vuitton gets customers to spend $10,000 for a handbag they don’t need, not because they have a super unique product, but because the company plays into consumers’ fantasies of being glamorous and worldly. They achieve this by using beautifully photographed celebrities holding handbags while they walk through exotic locations, emphasizing the storied heritage of the brand, providing a scarcity of purchasing channels, and offering personalized service throughout the purchasing journey.

For more on this, see Simon Sinek’s Why, How, What mindset TED Talk and Alan Klement’s Jobs to be Done theory.

The 5P’s: Customers are our co-stars

Just as The Beatles had a mysterious, missing fifth member, so too could our trusty 4P framework. There have been many candidates for this role: people, proliferation, permission, personalization, physical evidence. But the word that seems most relevant for today’s social society is participation.

The digital transformation has created a participation revolution:

· We watch, with hundreds of millions of other people, the birth of a baby giraffe.

· We share our vacation pictures with that girl we met once in 5th grade (and hundreds of other people).

· We send 140 character public message to CEOs of our favorite products and lead singers of our favorite bands.

We participate in the day-to-day lives of friends and strangers alike, and consumers expect the same from favorite brands and new companies. Businesses that do not engage customers at all cycles of product life risk dying a quick, lonely death.

So how can companies foster participation with their customers to give them a starring role? Introducing four more “C” words to think about:

The New 4C’s: better, faster, stronger.

Businesses should focus on building excitement and intimacy in their relationships with their customers through both company- and customer-led engagement. We can achieve these more meaningful relationships with (a) communication, (b) creation, (c) care, and (d) community.

Image Credit: Modified from the Marketing through Social Media course at HEC Paris, Jouy-en-Josas, France

a) Communicate: Using social media and content marketing to reach your audience and interact with them in digital spaces they frequent and feel comfortable in

b) Creation: Allow users to create content that sells the product or service for you, making them the stars — influencers, evangelists, and buzz generators

c) Care: Develop customer care avenues that are efficient and effective, so as to nurture loyalty and trust in your product, as well as continuously monitor progress

d) Community: Build a space where like-minded lovers of your product can come together and bond with the company and themselves

Using these new 4C’s to build a strategy for customer acquisition, retention, and referral will allow our audience to participate more authentically, and become the authors of their own product evolution story.

Content Marketing: Is it me you’re looking for?

Now that we’ve built a strategy that focuses on customer participation, we need to maintain engagement. How do we implement these frameworks? Remember: our focus is no longer on product, but on customers’ need and wants and their experience.

One of the best ways to do this is by producing quality content. Lookout for these pitfalls when attempting a digital strategy:

1. Producing content simply to fill space in our channels: A focus on outbound messages and acquisition content, but not enough community building to bolster participation.

2. Not coordinating content across channels: Content is produced randomly and excessively, with little thought to design or consistency.

3. Creating content on a campaign-by-campaign basis: No long-term vision about how customers interact and experience content over time.

4. Not curating content that is channel specific: Mixing up which users frequent what sites, and how they interact with the content; not understanding which content “pops” on each site.

Plan a coherent, thoughtful engagement plan with an emphasis on holistic experience. The hope is that further participation and community building will happen organically if the correct seeds are planted early.

From Strategy to Reality

Frameworks and theories may seem clunky and burdensome as we try to employ them. But they can add value when we understand how to adapt them. It doesn’t matter if there are 4P’s or 4C’s. What matters is how we can build on these concepts to create meaningful stories and experiences for our customers.

What’s the one word you would add to your marketing mix framework? It doesn’t have to begin with “P”!

I’d love to hear your ideas of how marketing strategy is evolving, either in the comments below or at

A big fist bump to Thomas Maremaa, Haomin Xu, and Christine Luc for the thoughtful comments. Props to Elizabeth Braden for editing. And a heartfelt thank you to Tradecraft and HEC Paris for providing me space to learn and grow.


Stories about startups, technology, traction, and design from Tradecraft members

jessica poteet

Written by

I write long sentences in an city that thrives on five cent words and Hemingway prose. The Girl with the Star Wars Tattoo. I have opinions and adventures. ENFP.


Stories about startups, technology, traction, and design from Tradecraft members

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade