Marketing is at its best when it’s perfectly aligned with the needs of its audience. In the years right up to the end of the last century the marketing bible followed Jerome McCarthy’s 4Ps, where the path of any product or service from its point of origin to the consumer was determined by the mantra of Product, Place, Price and Promotion.
This is a fundamental truth and in reality it has not changed. A product or a service are still important. The consumer’s ability to find it is crucial. The price plays a critical role in uptake. And promotion helps create the necessary buzz, brand recognition and brand value that can lower impulse buy resistance and augment sales.
But though things are the same they are also different. The years up to the end of the last century were marked by a top-down approach where the message of what to buy, how to buy it and why was controlled by the supplier. Set-up costs were always so high that anything that did not scale and could not scale could not be brought to the market. In that world volume sales were required just to break even and controlled scarcity was used to exact premium prices.
None of this applies now. In a social media driven world where consumers are knowledgeable, empowered and vocal, any product that attempts to tell them why they need it or how good it is, is doomed to fail from the start. The traditional 4Ps of marketing have given way to what Ogilvy advertising has called the 4Es of Experience, Everywhere, Exchange and Evangelism.
Products that cannot be experienced in some way (free trials, workshops, tasters and samples) are now at a disadvantage as consumers are reluctant to put their faith in untried products. If you’re not simply ‘everywhere’ (Google+, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or if you’re not visible on Google search) you will find it hard to capture the attention of your target audience. If you cannot clearly show the value that your audience will get for their money then no amount of advertising and promotion is going to help you.
Provided you have done all of the three steps above correctly however you then have at your disposal an army of evangelists of your product or service, willing, unpaid participants in its promotion. Google, Apple and Amazon to name but three are companies that have successfully made the transition into the new 4Es economy and they’re not looking back.
Is it easy? Heck, no. But in the 21st century there is also no other option.