The 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix

Kampala, Uganda-“Hope, I was in a meeting with someone from our company’s marketing department a few days ago,” an engineer told me. “She mentioned something called ‘marketing Ps;’ can you tell me what this is?”

This marketing professional was referring to the elements of the marketing mix. Today, I’ll share some insights on this important concept in marketing.

History of the Marketing Ps

In 1948, Harvard University Professor James Culliton wrote a paper called “The Management of Marketing Costs,” in which he proposed that the marketer is a “decider, an artist—a mixer of ingredients.” Like chefs, marketers invent new recipes, follow the recipes of other marketers, and modify existing recipes based on availability of ingredients.

Culliton’s colleague, Harvard Professor Neil Borden, liked this concept. In “The Concept of the Marketing Mix,” Borden noted that marketers are “constantly engaged in fashioning creatively a mix of marketing procedures and policies in the effort to produce a profitable enterprise.” Instead of establishing patterns and processes, marketers take many elements and combine them in unique ways to increase profitability.

In 1960, Professor Jerome McCarthy, author of Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach—one of the most important textbooks on marketing—summarized these marketing “ingredients” into four elements: product, price, place, and promotion. Because they all start with the letter “P,” they became known as the “four Ps of the marketing mix.”

The Four Ps

Let’s take a moment to explore the four Ps:

Product (or Service) 

The product is an item that fulfills the consumer’s needs and desires. Marketers must examine the product’s life cycle—the rate of sales and profits over a period of time; its development potential—how to enhance its value; and its role in the product mix—the other products or services offered by the company.


The price is how much the customer pays for the product. Prices need to be high enough to make a profit, while also being in a price range that is affordable for your target markets and appropriate for the competitive environment. The consumer’s associated costs—such as transportation to the store and training fees—need to be considered as well. Marketers must ensure that the consumers’ perceived value of the product—how much they think the product is worth—is in sync with the price.


Place—or distribution—is focused on making it convenient for consumers to access the product. Marketers consider where the goods are sold, how they are transported, where inventory is stored, and the processes pertaining to this.


Promotion includes all of the communication methods that marketers use to interact with consumers about the product.

The goal of promotion is to share information about your product or services so that your target markets respond in the desired manner—such as making a purchase.

Marketers must make sure that all six elements of the marketing mix work together for the greatest impact. The six elements of the marketing mix—which I addressed in more detail in my September 9 article, are:

– Advertising

– Interactive/Internet Marketing

– Publicity

– Direct Marketing

– Personal Selling

– Sales Promotion


The Other Marketing Ps

In Professor Borden’s article, he listed 12 elements that he considered to be vital to manufacturing. Most of these were included under the four broad marketing Ps that we know today. However, there are marketers—myself included—who feel that the four Ps are insufficient. Another theory proposes that there are seven Ps of marketing: they include the four Ps listed above, as well as people, processes, and physical evidence:


People consists of the company’s stakeholders. In the past, marketers focused on the company and the client. Today, we focus on all stakeholders, including the public, industry, partners, government, media, shareholders, and employees. These diverse audiences create unique challenges and opportunities for marketers in defining and delivering consistent, appropriate messages.


The processes and systems that affect marketing include the promotional interactions and convenience of purchase mentioned earlier; they also include the purchasing experience, customer service, training, delivery, and value-added benefits. Marketers examine ways to build relationships with customers and create great experiences that will make customers excited about doing business with the company on a long-term basis.

Physical Evidence

Physical evidence includes the elements that customers see, such as packaging, signage, employees’ appearance, and the store’s appearance. This element is very important for service-based companies: With product sales, the consumer may be able to view and test the product before making a purchase, or return the product for a refund. With service-based companies, however, consumers rely more on the employees’ appearance, physical environment, and evidence of past success (such as awards).

Currently, mature marketers are practicing the four Cs, even though they may not recognize the terminology.  Updating this theory may help new marketers to adjust to this trend and become more successful earlier in their careers.

As e-commerce, social media, and global trade grows, it affects the way that marketers engage with consumers. It is helpful to understand the history of our existing theories, and it is important to welcome innovative methods that are more suited to our current business practices.

Hope Wilson, CPSM, is president of Wilson Business Growth Consultants, a firm that provides international business strategy and communications services. Specializing in infrastructure development, Hope has received 12  international awards for her work. Have a question about marketing? Email: [email protected]