Why it’s time to ditch the 4Ps and embrace the 4Cs of modern marketing purpose

Ric Navarro

In his role as global director of marketing and communications for professional services consultancy, NDY, Ric leads the strategic and tactical delivery of the firm's marketing and communications objectives across the organisation's global footprint. His strategic, results-driven approach contributes to the firm's commercial outcomes, operational performance, client centricity programs and business growth. Ric started his career as a journalist with one of Australia's leading publications. He subsequently took these skills to successfully manage communications for the Prime Minister's 'Supermarkets to Asia' program. Over his career, Ric has advised a number of leading firms including mining, FMCG, infrastructure, retail, manufacturing and build environment organisations. This has seen him implement and manage communications, marketing, corporate affairs, digital strategic, corporate social responsibility, stakeholder management and client programs.


There is a very simple and fascinating experiment you can conduct in your own organisation: Ask 10 of your colleagues to define ‘marketing’. I can guarantee 10 widely varying definitions.

This disparity has its roots in the broad-brush misuse of the term ‘marketing’ – something that’s not experienced by other core business functions. Ask to define the role of a chief executive officer, and there will be a strong alignment among responses. It’s a similar case for the chief financial officer or head of human resources.

Many people, including executive teams and board members, will also define marketing through the lens of outputs such as advertising, events, websites and brochures. In today’s business world, this is a very narrow, and somewhat inaccurate view of the marketing function.

Today’s senior marketers should instead be defined by their inputs. These include input to an organisation’s strategic direction, to the customer experience, to technology and software purchases, and to the brand content strategy.

It’s particularly important to build the right understanding of marketing across the c-suite as it feeds into strategies for competitive advantage. It also provides clarity about how critical brand and brand purpose are to business success.

Any number of studies confirm consumers place a greater priority on brand perception and brand value today than in the past. Consumers are more likely to make their purchase based on their perception of a brand, for example. This comes down to their experiences, their interactions with the brand, and what others are saying about the brand.

What’s more, customers in the past came to a brand to make a purchase of a product or service. Today, technology enables brands to go to their customers. The dynamic between the consumer and the brand therefore has been transformed.

All of this has ramifications on the marketer and how they are not only perceived by the c-suite, but how they go about performing the job of marketing.

Satisfying customers

I recently came across a definition of marketing as ‘ the creation of value by aligning organisations assets’ with consumer demands such that the latter is satisfied’ (McDonald & Kolsaker, MBA Marketing, 2014).

The problem with this definition – aside from being somewhat narrow and esoteric – is the notion of a ‘satisfied’ customer. In today’s economy, it’s no longer enough to satisfy: Brands must delight their customers. Brands must provide a customer experience that leaves the customer feeling brand affinity.

Many senior marketers feel overwhelmed trying to make sense of the new world order using the older definition: The four Ps of marketing principles – product, pricing, place and promotion. This definition was the bedrock of marketing created from the middle of the 20th century until today. Unfortunately, this is the equivalent of turning up to a Formula 1 race with a horse and buggy.

The key here is understanding customers aren’t just ordering off the menu. They want it served at a time and place that suits them. They want it personalised because the brand knows their wants and desires. In brief, they want – no demand – an experience.

Meeting customers where they want to be is the new normal. And trust is the foundation of every business.

The CMO is the lynchpin and catalyst to ensure this trust is earned and enduring. As a result, it’s incumbent on marketing leaders to get the promise right.

Hold the Ps: Here come the four Cs

It’s time to ditch one of the sacred cows of the traditional marketing mix used by generations of marketers: Those 4Ps of effective marketing.

Yes, these 4Ps expanded in the 1980s to the 7Ps with process, people and physical evidence added into the mix. But already you can see the problem emerging: Physical evidence and process add unnecessary layers and dilute the focus on CX.

These Ps no longer work. So what does? The model that has best resonated with me for brand success throughout my career, and one that has yielded sustainable results, has been Robert Lauterborn’s four Cs. Developed in the 1990s, his classification is a more consumer-orientated version of the 4Ps. In particular, he places a greater focus on targeted marketing and moving away from mass marketing.

Lauterborn’s four Cs are:

  • Consumer
  • Cost
  • Communication
  • Convenience

Based on my personal experience, therefore, I propose a reinvention of Lauterborn’s model to fully capture the role of a 21st century, customer-obsessed marketer. My 4 Cs are:

  • Customer
  • Content
  • Channels
  • Consistency

At the heart of these 4 Cs then lies brand purpose.

What do I mean by these? Put simply:

  • Customer: What people experience is what they remember. Their perceptions are formed – and reinforced – through every brand interaction. Customers are more than just consumers.
  • Content: Brands are now publishers. Storytelling is key and content marketing is a formidable component of the marketer’s toolkit. Personalised content is the new black.
  • Channels: Reaching customers where they live, play and work. This is about targeting your audiences with crafted content for different customer segments via relevant channels. It’s also about listening.
  • Consistency: To be considered an authentic and trusted brand, the delivery of your product or service, along with the incumbent messaging and experience, must be a consistent experience.

However, these 4Cs only function when the brand purpose is at the heart of all strategic and tactical decisions. And a successful implementation of the 4Cs erodes the focus on cost, which is why I do not include it in my model. If your organisation delivers all the 4Cs and has a clear purpose, customers will pay based on perceived value and not cost.

The professional services sector is a good example. It’s a competitive industry and using my own experience here, I can say that we ticked off the 4Cs in a way that gives our clients an understanding that working with us is more than just about the financial figure on the last page of the tender. It’s everything else that is in the tender that leads up to that.

There is a necessary co-reliance between the four Cs and brand purpose to achieve success, which is why I constantly reference customer obsession in my book.

For CMOs, customer obsession is the North Star, and valuable marketing is obsessed about CX. These 4Cs are the roadmap to effective customer centricity.

This excerpt comes from Ric Navarro’s recently published book, Marketing with Purpose: A c-suite guide to being truly customer-centric (2018, printed by Waratah Group). Find more details and order you copy at: www.marketingwithpurpose.solutions

Tags: digital marketing, customer engagement, CMO role, marketing strategy, brand strategy

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