The Marketing Mix: A New Old Definition

By Colin Scotland

What is the marketing mix and what's more, is it still relevant?

Why do we consider art and science to be at separate ends of a spectrum?

The creativity, fluidity, and magic at one end. And the rigid, methodical, and empirical other.

Is marketing a science or an art? Or both?

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Is it possible to have a perfect blueprint for our marketing? One concept to rule them all.

As humans, we try to make sense of, see patterns and simplify.

We do it in the world around us every day. We generalize, and we make assumptions and judgments. It makes things easier.

Part of this comes from our fear of the unknown and our desire to keep order. It gives us a sense of safety. When we can name something, it is no longer part of the unknown. We strive to tame the beast in everything.

There is no place for mystery and the unknown. We prefer safety, confinement, and the protection we felt in the womb. Before the trauma of birth. (Freud 1900).

As a result, we go through most of our lives re-constructing the womb around us. In our generalizations, assumptions, and beliefs.

We do this in everything. Marketing is no different.

Scholars have conceptualized the aspects of marketing into clear patterns and models. To give us the safety blanket.

Concepts and models come and go like the wind.

All the rave one minute, dead and gone the next.

For a long time, marketers would talk about the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.  E. Jerome McCarthy (1960).

As markets changed and technology grew rampant in society the relevance of the 4Ps declined. Lots of alternatives tried to take its place. Perhaps most notably the 4Cs: Clients, Costs, Convenience, and Communications. (Great article here).

But none of them had the simplicity of the 4Ps. The 4Ps made marketing easy to understand.

Extended to include Physical Evidence, Process, and People. Which breathed new life into the 7Ps. But the internet brought with it whole new categories of business and a new way of thinking. There is a whole new generation of Internet Marketers who consider the 7Ps old hat.

Do we need a new mix? A new model to simplify the world around us?

When we return to the root of the marketing mix, we find something startling. Something that makes it more relevant than ever.

The original concept of the marketing mix was first conceived by Harvard Professor James Culliton. In 1948 he described a marketer as a:
'Decider' and 'artist' - A 'mixer of ingredients' who sometimes follows a recipe as he goes along. Sometimes adapts a recipe to the ingredients immediately available. And sometimes experiments with or invents ingredients no one else has tried.
--The Management of Marketing Costs, Harvard University (1948).

Culliton’s colleague, Professor Neil Borden developed this concept. In his 1964 article ‘The Concept of The Marketing Mix’ Borden introduced the term “Marketing Mix”.

There have been many attempts to create a formulaic answer to what the marketing mix is. This concept was the origin of the 4Ps and later the 7Ps.

All manner of acronyms and models have developed. But none of them quite meet the dynamic and changing nature of the world we live in.

So-called 'modern marketers' scoff at the irrelevancy of the traditional marketing mix. Condemning it to the annals of yesteryear as old hat.

Yet the philosophy behind the concept has never been more relevant than it is today.

This deeper concept behind the marketing mix is timeless. And more relevant than ever.

Before being strait-jacketed into the Ps, Borden talks of the mix as being something that is a lot more useful and relevant.

He describes the perfect marketing mix as:

A list of important elements or ingredients that make up marketing programs.
A list of the forces that bear on the marketing operation of a firm and to which the marketing manager must adjust in his search for a mix or program that can be successful. 

--Journal of Advertising Research (1964)

Think about that for a moment.

Not only does it free your marketing from the shackles and confines of outdated models. It provides you with a timeless concept that you can use to great effect in your marketing.

If we return to the essence of what Borden suggests, there are only two questions you need to ask yourself.

  1. What are the essential ingredients of your marketing?
  2. What forces impact your marketing?

The real marketing artists can mix these ingredients and circumstances with significant effect.

The ingredients (the Ps) are not an important part of the marketing mix. The critical piece is the concept of a marketer being a mixer of ingredients. A chef.

A master chef can mix both ingredients and forces of heat energy to create exquisite dishes.

In accordance with Culliton’s observations, the best marketers are artisans. Masters of mixing the right ingredients.

We could take 100 random people and give them the raw ingredients to make bread. Most would turn out loaves of different standards. Some would be ok, some would be over-baked, and a few might even be good.

Now, put those exact same ingredients into the hands of an artisan baker, a master of his craft. The results will be markedly different.

The artisan can mix the exact same ingredients with such finesse that they have customers queuing down the street to buy their bread.

As with making bread. Anyone can do marketing. The results will vary from dreadful to not bad. Tired of failing to make the perfect loaf, and want great results?

You need to an artisan mentality. Don't throw ingredients into the pot and hope for the best.

This both liberates and threatens at the same time.

You have the freedom and the power to choose the correct ingredients for your marketing. To do that well requires discernment. You must judge the quality of the ingredients you are using. As with food. The choice is widespread.

You must also resist the urge to keep adding ingredients into the mix and ruining the dish.

Imagine the cooking metaphor again for a moment.

It would be folly to throw every single ingredient you can find into a pot. The results would be horrendous. Yet most people approach their marketing this way?

Pinterest, throw that in. The website, Facebook ads, yep sprinkle a bit of that. Pinch of SEO, and hey presto, marketing that no one wants to eat (Read: No Sales).

The best and most successful chefs and marketers have the same thing in common. They discern the best mix of ingredients and use them to great effect.

Your challenge is to do the same with your marketing.

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