The Marketing Mix Shifts from Ps to Cs

The paradigm that ruled supreme in marketing theory and practice since 1960 was the Four P’s: Price, Product, Promotion and Place. These were the hallmarks of the marketing mix, created by the marketer E. Jerome McCarthy. The framework served marketers well when the practice was essentially a one-way mass market approach, trying to interrupt prospective buyers with a marketing message – whether radio, TV, print or billboard.

In 1990, Robert Lauterborn proposed a Four Cs classification, which is a more customer-oriented version of the four Ps. It aims to shift focus from mass marketing tactics to niche marketing. The Four Cs are Customer, Cost, Communication and Convenience. In devising a strategy, it can be useful to think about your product or service in this framework.


4 P's - Seller's View
4 C's - Buyer's View
-Customer Solution
-Customer Cost

But what about the 5th C – Competition? Having robust competitive intelligence is an often overlooked component of the marketing planning process. Some top strategy luminaries like Michael Porter believe that competition is what drives your business success, not what you do or how you do it. It’s the competition that sets the price, the profit margins, the ideal positioning in the market.

Marketing Strategy vs. Tactics

Up to this point we’ve been talking about marketing strategy. That’s not to be confused with the marketing plan that includes tactics, which is informed by your strategy. 

A few strategy questions:

  • What’s your positioning in the market relative to competitors?
  • What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), are you truly differentiated?
  • What specific segments of the market are you targeting and which are most profitable?

Marketing plans include the tactical things we do to execute on the strategy. Often times organizations get the tactics and the strategy confused or conflated. A few examples of tactics that might show up in a marketing plan are:

  • Write one blog post per month on topics that align with the most common customer issues.
  • Run a LinkedIn campaign with sponsored content posts to drive lead generation and brand awareness; test, measure, repeat.
  • Conduct quarterly webinars for a market segment that wants to learn more about a relevant topic that you have domain expertise in.

Vital Assets Marketing believes that sound marketing strategy must support the overall business goals and does not exist in a vacuum. One of my most admired academics said this and we, too, treat this as a guiding principle.

"You can't manage what you don't measure"

-Paul Argenti, Tuck Professor of Communication

If you need help addressing any of those “big picture” strategy questions, or you need help bringing a marketing plan together based on your existing strategy, contact us for a consultation and draw on our experience in strategy and planning.