the managing director of Accenture Interactive, Marek Rucinski, says the core of what marketing is about – product, place, promotion and price – remains as relevant as ever even as digital disruption changes the entire model itself.
It’s no secret that digital is forcing change at a faster pace than ever before – commercially, socially, politically, economically – and organisations need to adapt. One of the biggest areas to see disruption is within marketing, where strategies need to accommodate change.
Marketing is reinventing itself
As digital redefines marketing, close links with sales and branding functions remain. But digital is increasingly also the driving force behind customer service, user and customer experience, and large elements of IT, PR, product development and more.
This combination of shifting content, channels, customer expectations and technology is forcing a redefinition of the meaning of the four Ps of marketing. While smaller, newer, more agile businesses are often held up as poster children of this movement – such as Shoes of Prey, Sneaking Duck and Combatant Gentleman – the mantra has been that larger organisations are slow to adapt.
But in reality, organisations of all sizes are embracing these specific changes. Consider entertainment company Marvel, which now stretches far beyond film and print, leveraging the disruptive elements of digital and developing multiple marketing-led opportunities.
For example, its products are now available in digital format, from downloadable movies and comics through to customisable products, with a conscious effort to keep retailing at similar pricing no matter where it’s placed – be it Marvel’s own online store or via third-party retailers. There’s also a focus on how digital can support physical products. Case in point; Marvel’s augmented reality app that unlocks exclusive content when enabled against its comic book publications.
Using mobile, Marvel is supporting customer engagement in any place, at any time. Responsive design, apps, podcasts and digital downloads are all available, including the ability to access content without the need to be connected to an internet or phone network.
Digital content is also widely deployed for promotional means, via online video, free downloads (such as computer wallpapers), or through specific campaigns, such as Become Iron Man, the virtual reality showcase deployed in public locations around the world.
Product = Presentation
The success of Marvel’s digital campaigns offer evidence that customers increasingly want digital content and services delivered to them on their terms. Consequently, designing for consumers is not about just aesthetics, but also about human-centricity, which can often define success in the new digital paradigm.
Examples of businesses successfully using digital to shape and promote products around customer experience are readily available – such as publishers who are turning away from print and using digital to distribute content, or FMCG brands who use digital to enable product creation and campaign delivery.
We only need to look to the Cadbury Bring Back Wispa movement or Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke to see how companies are rethinking approaches to marketing products, but less-obvious industries are also reshaping their products around customer experience and presenting this activity via digital communications. For example, in the appliance sector, Fisher and Paykel innovate products around customer-led design principles and market this heavily in the digital space.
In this sense, the presentation of products being designed around customers is equally as important as the end product itself. Marketers need to factor in how to communicate customer-centricity rather than relying on a product or service to speak for itself.
Place = Presence
When thinking about the communication elements of marketing, “place” typically dictates where these should be directed. It can also reflect where customers are, but there is an obvious overlap between the two.
However, smartphones continue to challenge this, resulting in increasingly complex channel management for businesses. Mobile has changed customer expectations and now demands a 24-7, omnichannel approach, given the ubiquitous availability of content and commerce it presents.
This is especially prevalent in finance and retail, where businesses directly interact with customers. There’s further examples where mobile is enhancing the presence of organisations – from the Commonwealth Bank and Neiman Marcus’ customer-based utility apps, through to Subway’s location-based mobile vouchers and Heineken’s Scavenger Hunt Instagram competition.
Of all these instances, plus many others, the theme of focusing on establishing a relevant, non-intrusive presence is visible, resulting in impactful results for the brands involved.
Presence needs to have context and not just be about the medium of communication. Success anchors on ensuring an engaging interaction with customers at the moment that they most need it.
Promotion = Personalisation
Success is also built from ensuring marketing interactions are well planned and executed, but it’s no secret marketing’s broadcast-based messaging tactics are waning. This is due to a shift in consumer attitudes towards rejecting above the line advertising, combined with greater pressures on marketers to demonstrate results-driven activity.
Successful marketing now ensures customers receive personalised communications, but it’s important to achieve the right level of personalisation. The textbook definition of personalisation is to make or alter something, so as to meet individual needs, inclinations or specifications: Which in marketing context means ensuring relevance to customers.
This is not just about getting someone’s name right on an email or text message – it is enabling communications and content to be tailored for them; from age or location, through to interests or previous purchases.
Personalisation is fuelled by content, which increasingly needs to be engaging and creative, as well as adhering to the context of individual customers. For example, to sell winter tyres, BMW sent more than 1,000 customised MMS to customers, which recommended options based on their car models. The campaign reportedly saw outstanding success, with a 30 per cent conversion rate.
Equally, Persil in the UK transformed thinking around laundry detergent by running its Be Mighty campaign, which allowed parents to personalise interactive stories for their children. It also yielded impressive results, including capturing more than 140,000 unique users.
Price = Premise
It needs to be remembered that good results are achieved through thorough planning and execution. The world of payment models, as seen through formats like freemium and micropayments, has led some companies to believe they must deliver the cheapest possible options to customers. As a result, communicating the value and quality of these products can become difficult.
But it is possible to move consumer mindsets beyond pricing, through the development of relationships and improved customer experience. Empowerment can often translate to a willingness to pay for goods and services – as seen when Radiohead infamously allowed fans to pay what they wanted for the download of an album. Although statistics vary, it’s generally agreed the exercise was a commercial success.
Beyond this, developing customer affinity is also important. In a digital context this cannot be underestimated, especially where social media is involved. Ikea China’s decision to allow shoppers to sleep on sofas and beds in-store has apparently had a positive effect on sales; WestJet’s Christmas real-time present-giving campaign reportedly increased sales by 80 per cent; Old Spice’s Your Man advertisements breathed life into an old brand and increased revenue. All of these were showcased and grown through social channels, focusing on brand principles and building relationships with customers.
Keeping marketing aligned to the 4Ps principles
The disruptive elements of digital have changed how marketers approach the 4Ps. Product, place, promotion and price are still important considerations, but they need to be taken into account in a digital context and clearly linked to quality creative and technology capabilities.
By recognising the shifts seen in these four areas, marketers will be able to successfully interact with customers in the digital sphere.
Ensuring a balance of the appropriate channels of communication for customers (presence) and tailoring these to create individual customer relevancy (personalisation) drives engagement and dialogue with customers.
This furthers the opportunities to showcase products or services through different digital means (presentation) and ultimately means that affinity can be developed over time (premise), which can result in achieving highly successful marketing activity. Execution of the four P’s is linked to the orchestration across the technology, creative and strategy.