What Is a Marketing Mix?

A marketing mix includes multiple areas of focus as part of a comprehensive marketing plan. The term often refers to a common classification that began as the four Ps: product, price, placement, and promotion.

Effective marketing touches on a broad range of areas as opposed to fixating on one message. Doing so helps reach a wider audience, and by keeping the four Ps in mind, marketing professionals are better able to maintain focus on the things that really matter. Focusing on a marketing mix helps organizations make strategic decisions when launching new products or revising existing products.

Key Takeaways

  • A marketing mix often refers to E. Jerome McCarthy's four Ps: product, price, placement, and promotion.
  • The different elements of a marketing mix work in conjunction with one another.
  • Consumer-centric marketing mixes incorporate a focus on customers into their approaches.

Understanding Marketing Mix

The four Ps classification for developing an effective marketing strategy was first introduced in 1960 by marketing professor and author E. Jerome McCarthy. Depending on the industry and the target of the marketing plan, marketing managers may take various approaches to each of the four Ps. Each element can be examined independently, but in practice, they often are dependent on one another. 

Product

This represents an item or service designed to satisfy customer needs and wants. To effectively market a product or service, it's important to identify what differentiates it from competing products or services. It's also important to determine if other products or services can be marketed in conjunction with it.

Price

The sale price of the product reflects what consumers are willing to pay for it. Marketing professionals need to consider costs related to research and development, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution—otherwise known as cost-based pricing. Pricing based primarily on consumers' perceived quality or value is known as value-based pricing.

Placement

The type of product sold is important to consider when determining areas of distribution. Basic consumer products, such as paper goods, often are readily available in many stores. Premium consumer products, however, typically are available only in select stores. Another consideration is whether to place a product in a physical store, online, or both.

Promotion

Joint marketing campaigns also are called a promotional mix. Activities might include advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, and public relations. A key consideration should be for the budget assigned to the marketing mix. Marketing professionals carefully construct a message that often incorporates details from the other three Ps when trying to reach their target audience. Determination of the best mediums to communicate the message and decisions about the frequency of the communication also are important.

Value-based pricing plays a key role in products that are considered to be status symbols.

Special Considerations

Not all marketing is product-focused. Customer service businesses are fundamentally different than those based primarily on physical products, so they often will take a consumer-centric approach that incorporates additional elements to address their unique needs.

Three additional Ps tied to this type of marketing mix might include people, process, and physical evidence. People refer to employees who represent a company as they interact with clients or customers. Process represents the method or flow of providing service to the clients and often incorporates monitoring service performance for customer satisfaction. Physical evidence relates to an area or space where company representatives and customers interact. Considerations include furniture, signage, and layout.

Additionally, marketers often study consumers who frequently will influence strategies related to service or products. This also requires a strategy for communicating with consumers in terms of obtaining feedback and defining the type of feedback being sought.

Traditionally, marketing commences with identifying consumers' needs and ceases with the delivery and promotion of a final product or service. Consumer-centric marketing is more cyclical. Reassessing the customers' needs, communicating frequently, and developing strategies to build customer loyalty are the goals.