Rethinking the Classical Approach to Marketing

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Suffice it to say I am not a real marketer. I read a lot about marketing theories and can debate either side of the art-or-science question, but I skipped the classical training part and didn’t become familiar with the 4Ps (product, price, place and promotion) until midway in my professional life. As old-school marketers know, the marketing-mix framework and most marketing management decisions were shaped by the 4Ps for decades.

The world has changed since the 4Ps debuted in the 1960s, and marketing has evolved, with new-and-improved theories, including the more recent concept of the 4Cs (consumer, cost, communication and convenience) and even the new 4Ps (permission, preference, profile and persona). Whether you prefer the 4Ps or 4Cs, this alphabet soup of building blocks will help anyone create a rational, tactical product marketing campaign today.

Well, not so fast, my friend. I came across comments from the chief product and marketing officer of Dr. Martens footwear the other day that break new marketing ground. Dr. Martens is intent on staying in fashion and in step with today’s consumer mindset. So, according to this Dr. Martens executive, the key to a successful marketing program is “engagement.” As he explained, “Nowadays, commerce is a by-product of engagement. The consumer need might not necessarily be about buying a pair of shoes, it might be about a favorite band…playing in a Dr. Martens store and they need to get there. It’s about giving them that opportunity so then they buy into the brand while not necessarily having to buy into the product.”

I’m confused—isn’t the goal of marketing to sell the product? Must be my lack of classical training. Fear not. We find that when the marketing theories get too deep and disorienting, the end-all solution for relieving stress and better understanding is not the 4Ps or 4Cs but rather the seven M&Ms. When it comes to grasping this new Dr. Martens’ approach, better make mine a double, heavy on the green ones.

mtosh@jobson.com