What is the marketing mix, and how does it fit with your brand strategy?
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What is the marketing mix, and how does it fit with your brand strategy?

Marketing Mix

Have you ever heard of “The marketing mix” before? If you’re a part of the marketing and branding industry, or you’ve worked with brand experts in the past, then you’re probably familiar with this term. However, though many people recognise the marketing mix, few understand what it is, and what it can do for their company’s brand strategy.

For many, there’s an over-arching assumption that the marketing mix is simply a combination of all the various communications in a business. In this scenario, your marketing mix would include everything from brochures, to website content. Contrastingly, if we consider the academic area of marketing, we see that the marketing communications mix is more refined than you might think.

Today, we’re going to explore the often-misunderstood area of the marketing mix. We’ll give you a comprehensive marketing mix definition, explore the four, to seven “P’s” of marketing, and even the “C’s” on the other side of the coin.

Let’s begin.

What is the marketing mix?

So, what is the marketing mix?

The original marketing mix definition came from a man called “Neil Borden”. He used the term to refer to the unique ingredients that he felt were crucial to promoting a brand and helping it to stand out from its competitors. Over the years, experts explored concepts behind Borden’s model until E. Jerome McCarthy used them to make the “Four P’s” of branding.

The concept of the marketing mix is simple enough. Website design and branding agencies use the same fundamental ingredients in different ways to create a specific result. Like baking a cake, you can alter the ingredient levels, add different flavours, and introduce your own flair. However, most cakes use the same basic elements.

Of course, the world of marketing is constantly evolving. We can see this in shifts within content algorithms, changing customer preferences, and the adaptations made to the marketing communications mix. In the past, there were four P’s used to explain the marketing mix. Today, there are at least 7 commonly accepted pillars, and some companies take that development even further.

While the 4 P’s of the traditional marketing mix remain useful and essential to today’s consideration of branding, they’re nothing new. In other words, by themselves, those four pillars are a little outdated. Today, we’re focusing more heavily than ever on customer service, and that means developing our understanding of what the marketing mix really is.

The marketing mix definition: The four initial “P’s”

When it comes to your branding strategy, it’s often a good idea to revisit your plan regularly. We already mentioned that the world of marketing and communications is constantly changing. Analysing each element of your own marketing mix in depth can help you to stay ahead of the competition.

Of course, to conduct a proper assessment, you’re going to need a marketing mix definition for each element, and how these factors link to your branding strategy. Let’s get started by looking at the four traditional “P’s” of the marketing communications mix.

What is the marketing mix? Pillar 1: Product

The first element of the marketing mix is your product. In today’s environment, a product can be an item or service that’s built to satisfy the needs of a consumer group. For instance, you might make running shoes for children, or eCommerce software for other businesses.

The key to an effective product is making sure that you have the right product for the demands of your market. To start with, assess the way that you evaluate your brand offerings. In other words, start looking at your products or services from the perspective of an outsider, determining whether your brand is offering the right solutions at the right time.

Ask yourself:

  • What does your customer stand to gain from your service/product?
  • How will your customer use your product?
  • What features must the product have to meet consumer needs?
  • Have you missed any necessary features?
  • Are you creating unnecessary features?
  • How is the product different from those offered by competitors?

What is the marketing mix? Pillar 2: Price

The second “P” to consider in the marketing communications mix formula is “price”. It’s important to regularly assess the cost of your services and products to make sure that you’re in line with the realities of your marketplace.

One thing that companies frequently forget about branding, is that pricing will always have an impact on your customer’s perception of you. In some industries, a low price will be crucial. In others, a price that’s too low will indicate an inferior product or service. On the other hand, a price that’s too high will alienate some customers, meaning a careful competitor analysis is crucial.

Additionally, in any business, it’s important to be flexible regarding pricing. If you’re noticing resistance in your sales, marketing, or even branding strategy, it might be time to reconsider your pricing solutions. All companies need to be able to revise their prices, when necessary, to stay competitive in a saturated marketplace.

When pricing, consider:

  • How much it cost to make the product?
  • What the perceived product value is for the customer?
  • Whether a slight decrease in price could improve your positioning?
  • Whether the current pricing can keep up with competitors?
Marketing Communications Mix

What is the marketing mix? Pillar 3: Place

Placement is often an overlooked aspect of branding and marketing. However, when it comes to the marketing mix, placement is essential. You need to make sure that you’re equipped to position and distribute your product in a format that’s accessible to potential buyers. This requires an in-depth understanding of your target market.

The more you know about your audience, the more you can design the perfect placement for your product. Remember to consider a range of channels, both common and uncommon, to speak to your market and enrich your marketing communications mix. Consider:

  • Where your customers look for your product.
  • Where your customers spend their time (supermarkets, online, regular brick and mortar stores, markets, etc).
  • How your distribution strategy is similar and different to your competitors.
  • Whether you need a stronger sales force.

What is the marketing mix? Pillar 4: Promotion

Finally, one of the most essential elements in the traditional marketing communications mix is promotion. Promotion includes all the different types of communication you use to tell customers about your services or products.

Even minimal changes to your promotion and sales strategies can introduce dramatic changes to your engagement and profits. Writing more marketing articles, changing the subject line on your emails, or switching out a colour in your branding materials can all lead to instantly higher sales. In fact, in every industry, companies both large and small are frequently experimenting with advertising and promotion.

The unfortunate truth of the sales and marketing world is that eventually, you’re going to need to evolve. Sometimes, the strategies that work for you today won’t work tomorrow, and you’ll need to make changes if you want to stay ahead of the competition. When it comes to promotion, ask yourself:

  • How can you speak to potential buyers in their own language?
  • Where can you find your potential customers?
  • What’s the best time to promote your product or services?
  • Can you benefit from a range of cross-communication solutions?
  • What promotional strategies do your competitors use?

The extended marketing communications mix

It’s clear to see why the four traditional elements of the marketing mix are still respected and used today. Created almost four decades ago, the original marketing communications mix has proven to be invaluable to many branding experts. However, to answer the question “what is the marketing mix?” we need to look further, into the additional elements used to support a more modern audience.

Following are some of the new pillars in today’s marketing mix, and how you can use them in your branding strategy.

The extended marketing mix definition: Pillar 5: People

People is a very broad part of the marketing mix. It can refer to the people you design your branding for or the people who are directly involved with your business. Obviously, thorough research is crucial to ensure that you’re communicating to the right people. However, it’s important to think beyond your customers too.

It’s shocking how many businesspeople and entrepreneurs work themselves to the bone thinking about each element of their branding strategy, but forget that every policy and plan they put into place needs specific people to implement it. Your ability to recruit and connect with the right people in your industry is fundamental to running a successful business.

Remember, when it comes to branding and marketing, your company’s employees are the ones that deliver your service or product to your customer. You need to hire and train the right people if you want to be competitive, whether you’re recruiting for the sales desk, or the marketing team.

Marketing Communications Mix

The extended marketing mix definition: Pillar 6: Process

The “Process” pillar for the marketing communications mix responds to the concern that the original mix didn’t account for businesses that sold services. In the past, the marketing mix was all about delivering a product to a customer. Now, the processes and systems that a service-based company has in place can have a huge impact on the end results.

Examining the “process” part of the marketing mix means making sure that you have a system in place that maximises value, while simultaneously minimising costs. This means looking at your payment systems, distribution solutions, and sales funnel to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

Tweaking part of the process can help to streamline your company, and even help your customers to perceive your service as reliable. Showing a dependable company is crucial to any branding strategy.

The extended marketing mix definition: Pillar 7: Physical evidence

Finally, this element of the marketing mix is all about delivering absolute customer satisfaction. In the service industries, it’s crucial to make sure that there’s physical evidence of a delivered service. What’s more, physical evidence can also relate to the way your products and services are perceived in the marketplace.

Perhaps the easiest way to explain “physical evidence” in relation to the marketing mix, is the evidence of your existence as a brand. More than just a website, or a few brochures, physical evidence helps you to make a mark in your industry.

A great example of physical evidence is McDonald’s. When you think of fast-food, the chances are that you think of those golden arches. You know exactly where that brand’s position is in the marketplace, and their customers recognise them, wherever they are.

Will the P’s keep growing?

For now, the 7 P’s of the marketing mix are the most widely recognised standard. However, there are companies out there that are adjusting their branding strategy and marketing plans to add more “P’s” to the mix. For instance, some people focus on “Productivity and Quality”, which helps them to determine if they’re offering a good deal for their customers, and boosting productivity in the workplace.

Just as the original marketing mix has evolved over the years, the chances are that our current marketing mix definition will change with the times too. Now, more than ever before, businesses are focusing on adjusting their strategies to the needs of their customers. In fact, this focus on customer-first marketing has led to the development of an alternative approach to the “P’s” of marketing.

The marketing mix: The four C’s

As we’ve covered above, the traditional approach to the marketing communications mix was all about the 4 P’s. Over time, some companies developed additional “P’s” to meet their needs. Other experts, however, decided to flip the “P’s” onto their heads, and look at them from a new perspective.

The 4C’s model is the other side of the coin for the 4 P’s marketing mix. While the “P’s” are more business-oriented, approaching branding from the side of the seller, the “C’s”, are buyer-oriented, examining the perspective of the customer. By looking at the marketing mix from the 4 C perspective, you might be able to enhance your branding strategy by evaluating your company through the eyes of your customer.

So, what are the four C’s?

1. Customer

The first pillar of the customer-centric marketing mix is the actual customer. Basically, this element looks at the wants and needs of the consumer in relation to the product or service offered. For instance, you might look at the value of your product to your customers, the advantage they can gain from it, and how you can adjust your strategies to target specific groups.

When adjusting your branding strategy for your customer, remember:

  • To position service and profits to suit the existing needs or pain points of your customer. Think about who you’re trying to sell to, and why they need your product, rather than the other options on the market.
  • The position of your product or brand in any market comes from the value assigned to it by your customers.
  • Customers should drive the decisions you make in your business. Before adjusting your brand strategy, evaluate how each change will affect your customer.
Marketing Communications Mix

2. Cost

Cost and price might seem like the same thing. However, the truth is that with “cost”, the aim is to focus on more than just the amount of money your customer is willing to pay for your product or service. In other words, you’ll need to consider how the benefits of your products weigh up against the risks of doing business with you. It’s also worth evaluating exactly how much you must pay to put this product on the market.

There’s a common misconception among businesses that price is the main motivation behind any purchase. However, though price is important, there’s more to brand success than a sale sticker. When considering price, think about:

  • How much research you’ve done to inform your pricing. Is your figure reasonable for your target market?
  • Is your product/service going to be profitable at the rate your customer is comfortable paying?
  • What’s the customer’s total cost of obtaining your product/service? Will shipping costs add to their bill, will regulations have an impact, will your customer need to purchase additional services to make the most of their first purchase?
  • Does the benefit your brand is offering your customer support your prices?
Marketing Communications Mix

3. Communication

The man behind the four C’s of marketing, Bob Lauterborn, felt that “promotion” was all about manipulating the audience. He introduced “communication”, as a part of the marketing mix that could be more co-operative, and customer-driven.

Communication is about connecting with your audience in a meaningful way. Rather than just placing the evidence of your product or service in front of a customer, you start a conversation, and build a link that encourages loyalty and trust.

At Fabrik, we often prefer to look at communication, instead of simply “advertising”, as communication can help brands to better understand their market, and enhance the results of their marketing strategies. Remember, in communication:

  • A plan is crucial: Make sure that you think carefully about how and where to speak to your audience.
  • Answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” in everything you do.
  • Use social media: Build your understanding of customers, and enhance on-going relationships.
  • Adapt your marketing communications mix to suit the needs of different segments. What you say, and how you reach out might different from one user persona to the next.

4. Convenience

Last, but not least, we come to convenience. Today’s customer has the benefit of being able to choose exactly how and when they spend money. They don’t have to go to a physical store to buy something, instead, they can use their credit cards on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

It’s the role of a modern brand to make sure that their solution for sales is as simple, and convenient as possible. This means finding out where and how your customers shop, and streamlining the process for them. Think about:

  • The barriers your customers might face when trying to access your product or service (e.g. a complicated checkout process, no mobile support, issues with customer service).
  • Whether you have multiple options for purchasing – customers often prefer a choice.
  • How you’re responding to customer concerns: Do you have a customer service channel available to respond to queries instantly?
  • How you’re directing people towards the sales process (content marketing, social media, emails, offline resources, etc)

The advantages of marketing mix models for brand strategy

Whether you use the four C’s, the 7 P’s, or a combination of both, choosing the right marketing mix is all about considering the choices available to you as a company when it comes to branding and promotion.

When you know how to use the marketing communication mix properly, you can access a standard that makes it easier for you to allocate resources within your company. A good marketing mix can also give you a better foundation from which to plan marketing and branding solutions to suit your specific goals.

Other advantages of marketing mix models include:

1. Help with product development

While designing the marketing mix, you can get a better understanding of the pricing strategies, placement, promotion, and processes involved in developing each product. This means that every time you design a new product, you have an existing framework to help guide your decisions.

2. Value creation

Fundamentally, the marketing mix can help you to better understand how to build and sell value to customers in your marketplace. Ultimately, your consumers will generally buy whatever they consider to be the best value for their money in a specific purchasing situation. Implementing new marketing campaigns that allow you to show off incredible products at low prices will help to boost your brand, and increase your chances of success.

3. Improving your business

“Physical Evidence”, is an important element in the new marketing mix. If you can give your business real presence in your industry, and build upon the loyalty of your customers, then you’ll have everything you need for success. In other words, the marketing mix can help you to pinpoint areas that you need to improve to get ahead of the competition, and upgrade the outcomes of your business.

4. Boosting differentiation

Often, examining the marketing mix for the benefit of branding will involve an analysis of your competitors. The more you look at how other brands in your industry are working to deliver great customer experiences and products, the more you can differentiate yourself from them by creating better promotions for your own product. Competitors might have poor placement solutions or inefficient processes that even allow you to take advantage of their vulnerabilities and snag yourself some extra customers.

Marketing Communications Mix

5. Clarifying your message

Finally, by using the right marketing mix in your branding and promotion strategies, you can make sure that you’re getting the right message to your audience, in the right places, at the right times. The more you understand your business, and your customers through an assessment of the marketing mix, the more you can determine which formats and messages to use to persuade your customers into action. The right media, emotions, and even timing can all have a crucial impact on your bottom line.

Using the marketing mix to support your business

Your marketing mix is a unique collection of marketing tools, resources, and understandings used to satisfy your goals as a company, and your customers. Some consumers even call the marketing mix “the business offering”, because it helps them to see the full collection of strategies that exists behind a brand.

Developing a successful marketing mix for your company requires a lot of market research and experimentation. There are lots of different methods to use, and many factors to think about, from the needs of your customers, to your own personal goals.

Ultimately, finding the right marketing communications mix is crucial, because your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. All companies and brands rely on the needs and wants of their customers. If you consider the various components of the marketing mix, you’ll learn more about how to promote your services and products effectively. After all, though they’ve been in place since the 1980s, the P’s of marketing, and the newer C’s of branding are still widely commended.

Just make sure that however you approach your own marketing mix, you take the time to coordinate each element to ensure that the prospective customer doesn’t get any mixed messages. Examine the cross-communication between each strategy you use, and prepare to change with the evolving nature of marketing as the years pass by.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these too:

— How to write a brand positioning statement

— How to conduct a competitor analysis

— How to create a differentiation strategy

— How to conduct a marketing audit

Steve Harvey
Steve Harvey
Our co-founder, Steve Harvey, is also a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, a flagship publication covering topics relevant to anyone in branding, marketing and graphic design. Steve shares his enthusiasm for brand naming through his articles and demonstrates his knowledge and expertise in the naming process.

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