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An alternative to the 7 P’s of the marketing mix?

Author's avatar By Simon Swan 25 Jan, 2016
Essential Essential topic

A new whitepaper proposes the Customer Mix as a replacement for the 7 P's marketing mix

Global eCommerce and Multichannel consultancy, Practicology have released a new paper for 2016 putting forward their case that the classic 7 P’s marketing mix needs a fundamental overhaul and in its place, the Customer Mix, or the 6 W’s, should be welcomed which is a more fit for a modern marketing, customer-centric framework. You can download the paper here (no registration required). Let us know your views. Do you think the time is ripe for change, or does the 7Ps still have it's place.


Source: Practicology

The traditional marketing mix framework was created in the 1960’s, a bygone era when organisations held the power based on the size of the marketing spend and how they controlled the limited range of media channels used to market their products and service. TV was seen as the channel of choice for marketing spend and became the leading advertising medium delivering $3.5bn worth of ads in 1969.

For brands such as Coca-Cola, Kraft and Proctor & Gamble they were in the dominant position.

These global brands controlled the mediums they chose to advertise their products purely by the amount they were willing to spend and, in turn, eliminated much of the competition or new entrants. It was a bad deal for the consumer, there was little variety or alternative products catering for niche need or price-points.

The marketing mix was the classic framework for such organisations. It was a framework based around the organisation itself, rather than the audience.

Are the 7P’s still fit for purpose?

Simply put, No. And the giveaway is the People element. As Practicology state, “Within the classic marketing mix framework, people refers to how the organisation plans to use its people within the framework”.

To succeed in a digital future, the People element needs to fundamentally be re-positioned as the guardian of the voice of the customer. The digital landscape has fragmented the traditional channels to drive reach and awareness of your brand, removing the barriers.

It has been the catalyst in causing disruption within many industry sectors where organisations have not shifted their mindset or adapted to a customer first approach.

It’s alarming to still witness a number of organisations that have embraced digital tactics but executing them still using the marketing mix framework, a similar approach as to broadcasting their messages to anyone and everyone, trying to appeal to the masses.

Customer’s are experiencing an information overload fuelled by brands eager for their attention by offering up non-personalised offerings in search for that short term return on investment, rather than thinking about nurturing their customer existing relationships.

But the digital economy has flipped the agenda – organisations are no longer calling the shots, it’s the customer.

The Age of the Customer

A recent post by Forrester heralded the arrival of “the age of the customer” where the research company found that customers are now more mobile, consume more reviews and buy online more than ever before. To keep up, brands will need to adapt their way of thinking and working internally to ensure their brand is remaining relevant, trustworthy and authoritative to customers where brand loyalty is in decline. It needs a shift in focus for organisations away from the traditional marketing mix and to the customer mix as defined by Practicology.


Source: Practicology

It’s time for organisations to stop obsessing over acquisition and shift their focus to retention. Econsultancy, reported that ‘attracting a new customer can cost up to five times as much as keeping an existing one’. The retention of the customer lifecycle is the most profitable one where the greatest level of relationship value is experienced so take time and ensure you have a defined strategy in place that listens and builds communication with your existing customer base.

But to embrace retention, it needs a fundamental shift in an orgnisations set-up. This is where I see the “What’s next” part of the Customer mix playing an important role:


Source: Econsultancy

What’s Next – should be considered an objective that drives the retention agenda for organisations and brands, where a team is created with a remit to investigate new opportunities and ways to engage with customers and where they may be migrating (to new channels or new competitors and why).

The majority of organisations do not do enough of what’s next – and if we’re really moving to the age of the customer, we need to be.

What’s next is about having a vision and digital mindset to predict future shifts and changes to be aware of to continue to retain and enhance your customer relationship. It’s also about data mining your existing customers and understanding their lifetime value e.g. do they make a purchase with you just because you ran a seasonal voucher campaign at Christmas and then churned?

I’m always amazed when my bank and mobile network offer fantastic introductory promotions to new customers but not to someone who has shown loyalty for a number of years! Surely it’s easier to invest in your existing customers?

It’s a fundamental shift for many organisations as it requires a retention mindset rather than acquisition.

The challenge in embracing a retention mindset for organisations is how to measure and monitor such a strategy? Retention is not about delivering an instantaneous return on investment for the organisation as acquisition does, but is it truly delivering long term value for the organisation and growing customer loyalty?

What’s Next – is a team out in the field, that is competent in delivering a multi-functional role across the digital mix using a T-shaped marketing approach. Objectives would be based around getting to know their audiences and competitor audiences through ethnographic studies – what they do, how they make decisions.


Tactics to embrace would be around customer and user experience, and conducting surveys, quantitative and qualitative analysis and feeding actionable insights back into the organisation on the latest shifts in technology and how this could be interpreted for the strategic element and future steering

For example, is there a USP that could be created, how could launching on this new platform, engaging with this new audience enhance the brands value or help to retain a specific group of customers?

There are some great examples of brands who have already embraced this mindset by adopting an approach known as Youtility, a phrase coined by author Jay Baer who suggests that brands needs to be asking the question: “Am I being useful to my audience?” For example Hotel company, Hilton launched a twitter handle called @HiltonSuggests which helps to provide anyone looking for advice, recommendations or help when visiting a city or town in the USA.

What Hilton have realised is due to their multiple locations across the US, they can help twitter users (whether a Hilton customer or not) with advice and help by jumping into twitter conversations. Their logic is that some day that individual may be seeking a hotel room and will remember how @HiltonSuggests were so helpful.

Another great example of understanding their audience through a “What’s Next” approach is from online music platform, CDBaby. The company was created to provide a solution to the thousands of independent musicians who were at the mercy of the large music distribution labels if they wanted to get their music in large chain record stores.


By providing a platform for independent musicians, CDBaby took to Social Media to provide an industry leading example of how to create and build an engaging platform that provides musicians useful “how to” tips on building their network, and promoting their music.

A classic example of not using social media as yet another sales channel but used as a channel to support their followers with the aim of retention and understanding their audience.

I applaud the 6 W’s approach especially if it means it prompts organisations with a framework to shift their focus on retention rather than acquisition. To survive in the connection economy doesn’t just mean connecting with the right devices, it means connecting with your audiences, learning from them and providing them with a truly remarkable experience.

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By Simon Swan

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