What Are the 4 Ps?

The four Ps of marketing are the key factors that are involved in the marketing of a good or service. They are the product, price, place, and promotion. Often referred to as the marketing mix, the four Ps are constrained by internal and external factors in the overall business environment, and they interact significantly with one another.

Key Takeaways

  • The four Ps are the four essential factors that come into play when a good or service are being marketed to the public.
  • The four Ps are the product (the good or service), the price (what the consumer pays), the place (the location where a product is marketed), and promotion (the advertising).
  • The concept of the four Ps has been around since the 1950s. Recent additions include people, process, and physical evidence as important components of marketing a product.

Four Ps

Understanding the 4 Ps

Neil Borden popularized the idea of the marketing mix—and the concepts that would later be known primarily as the four Ps—in the 1950s. Borden was an advertising professor at Harvard University, and his 1964 article "The Concept of the Marketing Mix" demonstrated the ways that companies could and do use advertising tactics to engage consumers.

Borden's ideas were influential for many in the business world. The ideas were developed and refined over a number of years. In particular, they were encapsulated by E. Jerome McCarthy, who narrowed them down to the idea of the "4 Ps," a term that is still used today. E. Jerome McCarthy was a marketing professor at Michigan State who popularized the term "the 4 Ps" in the 1960 book he co-wrote, Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach.

Before the internet and greater integration between businesses and consumers, the marketing mix helped companies account for the physical barriers that prevented widespread product adoption. Extensions of the Ps include people, process, and physical evidence as important components of marketing a product. All of these concepts are still put to use in marketing today.

How the Four Ps Work

The 1st P: Product

Product refers to a good or service that a company offers to customers. Ideally, a product should fulfill a certain consumer demand or be so compelling that consumers believe they need to have it. To be successful, marketers need to understand the life cycle of a product, and business executives need to have a plan for dealing with products at every stage of their life cycles. The type of product also partially dictates how much businesses can charge for it, where they should place it, and how they should promote it in the marketplace.

The 2nd P: Price

Price is the cost consumers pay for a product. Marketers must link the price to the product's real and perceived value, but they also must consider supply costs, seasonal discounts, and competitors' prices. In some cases, business executives may raise the price to make a product seem more like a luxury or lower the price so more consumers can try the product.

Marketers also need to determine when and if discounting is appropriate. A discount can sometimes draw in more customers, but it can also give the impression of the product being less exclusive or less of a luxury than when it is at a higher price.

The 4 Ps are used by businesses to identify key factors such as what consumers want from them, how their product or service meets or fails to meet those needs, how their product or service is perceived in the world, how they stand out from their competitors, and how they interact with their customers.

The 3rd P: Place 

Place decisions outline where a company sells a product and how it delivers the product to the market. The goal of business executives is to get their products in front of the consumers most likely to buy them.

In some cases, this may refer to placing a product in certain stores, but it also refers to the product's placement on a store's display. In some cases, placement may refer to the act of placing a product on TV shows, films or web pages to garner attention for the product, but this placement overlaps with the promotion.

The 4th P: Promotion

Promotion includes advertising, public relations, and promotional strategy. This ties into the other three Ps of the marketing mix as promoting a product shows consumers why they need it and should pay a certain price for it. In addition, marketers tend to tie promotion and placement elements together so they can reach their core audiences.

For example, In the digital age, the "place" and "promotion" factors are as much online as offline. Specifically, where a product appears on a company's web page or social media, as well as which types of search functions trigger corresponding, targeted ads for the product.