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Great Scott! The Future of Marketing is…The 4 Es

Last Updated April 26, 2021
⏱️ This post is part of a blog series, “Great Scott! The Future of Marketing is...” that will answer questions about marketing trends from emerging technologies to changing views about the role and purpose of marketing.

From the Four Ps to the Four Es: Time to Remix the Traditional Marketing Mix

In 1960, Xerox introduced the first photocopier, minimum wage was $1, and cassette tapes were on the verge of being invented. Our phones were rotary, our news was delivered by hand, and milk men were heartily employed. 

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It was also the year that marketer and academic E. Jerome McCarthy introduced the Four P’s—product, price, place, and promotion—in his book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. This foundational text has been taught in university marketing courses ever since, leading to widespread acceptance of the Four P’s as the pillars of a solid marketing framework. 

Considering milk men and cassette tapes feel several lifetimes behind us, it’s not hard to fathom that this paradigm might be in need of a face lift (which interestingly, has been around since 1916).

The Four Ps of Marketing

McCarthy’s first P, product, refers to the tangible good or intangible service being sold to consumers. Marketers must have a solid grasp on their product’s value, strengths, and weaknesses. What makes your product unique? Can you find it on every street corner? How will you stand out from the competition? 

Long considered to be the primary driver of sales, price impacts everything from profit margins to perception and is particularly important if you’re entering into a crowded market, which almost everyone is. 

Place is the physical or digital location where your product can be purchased, and promotion refers to the ways in which you disseminate information about your product.

In 2009, thought leader and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, proposed a new formula that replaces the Four P’s with the Four E’s—experience, exchange, every place, and evangelism—repositioning the marketing framework to center around delivering meaningful value to the customer. 

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The Four Es of Marketing

In Fetherstonhaugh’s new model, experience is the new product. It’s no longer enough to simply fill the need provided by the product itself. Today’s consumer is looking to buy an experience, and every moment they invest in your brand factors into their ultimate satisfaction. This is especially true for e-commerce and SaaS companies, whose interactions and customer service form the basis of the product itself. 

Fetherstonhaugh posits that price has been replaced by exchange. So much is offered for free today that brands cannot depend on price alone. Price now represents an exchange for value, and that value includes the entire customer journey experience, before and beyond the point of purchase.

Thanks to the most transformative invention of our lifetimes (hint: you’re holding it), place becomes every place. We live in an era of immediateness, where almost anything is obtainable from the palm of our hand and deliverable to our doorstep within hours to days. Brands need to meet customers where they’re at, whether that be a physical location or online via your website, social media, or other channels. 

In 1960, promotion meant utilizing various channels controlled by large media organizations. Today, promotion is replaced by evangelism. Depending on their following, any one of your customers holds the same power to reach the masses. Social media has granted word-of-mouth marketing unlimited potential. Marketers must embrace customers’ power and inspire them to be ambassadors for the brand.

The silver lining to this new power dynamic? If marketers provide a valuable experience with a meaningful exchange and meet customers where they’re at, placing a megaphone in their hands is a good thing. Transparency is welcomed by those who have nothing to hide. And similar to earned versus paid media, positive testimonials carry more weight. One study found that online reviews impact 67.7% of respondents' purchasing decisions. 

What’s the takeaway here? The future of marketing can be summed up with an age-old mantra: the customer is king. Scratch that: customer-generated content is king, and if you execute the Four E’s correctly, you’ll reign supreme. 

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