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The 4Cs marketing model

Author's avatar By Annmarie Hanlon 02 Feb, 2015
Essential Essential topic

Two different models with the same acronym

I see the 4C models referenced a fair bit when reviewing student assignments, so we thought it would be interesting both to students and marketing professionals to take a look in a little more detail at how they can be applied in practice.

Background and clarification

Two groups of marketers have created the 4Cs. This often leads to confusion about what’s being discussed and where!

Let’s clarify the two models:

  •  The 4Cs to replace the 4Ps of the marketing mix: Consumer wants and needs; Cost to satisfy; Convenience to buy and Communication (Lauterborn, 1990).
  •  The 4Cs for marketing communications: Clarity; Credibility; Consistency and Competitiveness (Jobber and Fahy, 2009).

4Cs_both models

Lauterborn’s 4Cs: Consumer wants and needs; Cost to satisfy; Convenience to buy and Communication

What is it?

In 1990 Bob Lauterborn wrote an article in Advertising Age saying how the 4Ps (he didn’t address the 7Ps) were dead and today’s marketer needed to address the real issues.

He suggested ‘Consumer wants and needs’ as the focus on being product-led to companies making things customers didn’t want. A good example of this is probably Nokia, making lots of products, but failing to satisfy consumer needs and wants.

His second ‘C’ is ‘Cost to satisfy’ on the basis that price was irrelevant as so many other factors were involved. This is interesting if you consider commodity goods, such as non-brand purchases from supermarkets, where supermarket buyers are forcing down the price they pay with their suppliers. This is likely to be a contributory reason why horsemeat was introduced into ready meals – suppliers having to provide a ‘cost to satisfy’ buyers. The challenge for me is the perception of the terms ‘cost to satisfy’ with a company like Apple.

The ‘cost to satisfy’ sounds more like a lower price offer and Apple products are premium-priced. Perhaps that’s the key, as the cost to satisfy, for a brand like Apple, has to be higher than the competitors, to contribute towards the brand’s DNA as a luxury brand. Interestingly with Apple, taking an iPad Air 2 and looking at the ‘cost to satisfy’ (I really mean price here) across several different locations, the price seems to be universally the same.

The example taken is Apple iPad Air 2 (specifically the Apple A8X, iOS 8, 9.7", Wi-Fi, 64GB, Space Grey) sold at £479.00 at three different stores in the UK. This indicates that price is managed by the brand, to ensure discounting does not take place.

20150131_4Cs_Apple ipad via apple stores

Example A - Apple iPad Air 2 – Prices on website = £479


4Cs_Apple ipad via currys

Example B - Apple iPad Air 2 – Prices on website = £479

20150131_4Cs_Apple ipad via John Lewis

Example C - Apple iPad Air 2 – Prices on website = £479

The third ‘C’ is ‘Convenience to buy’ and admittedly, the ‘P’ for ‘Place’ always felt tenuous as it’s really about access to the product and the letter ‘P’ worked in the alliterative set!

Convenience to buy is an interesting concept as we live in a 24/7 always-on world. The concept of shopping from 9am to 5pm, has gone. Although it’s not that long ago (perhaps 15 years) that I remember working in Italy and the shops closed during lunch hours too. And this included supermarkets – imagine the scene – you arrive at the supermarket at 12.45pm and at 1pm you haven’t completed your transaction, so you literally abandon your shopping trolley, in the store! Today trolley or cart abandonment is more likely to take place in the online world.

Added to this, the development of disintermediation – giving shoppers the chance to remove the middle man and buy direct, as well as reintermediation – the middle men re-inventing themselves online, as Expedia has done (aggregating holiday offers in one place) or Skyscanner (all your flights for specific dates in one place) or the UK insurance broker ‘Compare the Market’ (bringing many car insurance policies to one screen, making it easier to compare). The advent of wearables takes the concept of buying ‘any place, anytime, anyhow’ to another level.

The final ‘C’ in Lauterborn’s 4Cs collection is communication. Lauterborn viewed promotion as manipulative and described it as a one-way system with communications pushed from company to consumer. His view of communication was that it should be about dialogue, a two-way conversation, between company and customer. Applying this in a digital sense, we can see customers creating communications through User Generated Content, so perhaps Lauterborn’s comments were an early insight into the changing nature of customer communication.

How can I use this model?

The 4 elements can be overlaid like a Venn diagram with the customer – or target market – at the centre of the circles.

20150131_4Cs_Venn diagram plus customers

Each circle can be populated with details about where your company is now. What are its current 4Cs? How does this compare with your competitors’ 4Cs? What other action can you take to improve your 4Cs?

This useful template enables you to review your organisation using the 4Cs.


Applying this to Apple, it seems that there are aspects of the overall picture that are missing. Physical evidence, one part of the 7Ps, is a key factor in the Apple proposition. The look and feel of Apple products is an essential part of its marketing mix, yet the 4Cs doesn’t address this fully.


This is perhaps a less complex model to use and works well with smaller organisations.

What to watch for

This model may be too simplistic for larger organisations as its overall focus is narrow and excludes critical service elements such as people, processes and physical evidence.

For more on the original 7Ps of the marketing mix, click here

Original Sources

Lauterborn, B. (1990). 'New marketing litany; four P's passe; C-words take over', Advertising Age, 41, p. 26, Expanded Academic ASAP, EBSCOhost, viewed 31 January 2015.


The 4Cs for marketing communications: Clarity; Credibility; Consistency and Competitiveness

What is it?

The 4Cs (Clarity, Credibility, Consistency, Competitiveness) is most often used in marketing communications and was created by David Jobber and John Fahy in their book ‘Foundations of Marketing’ (2009). Once a business has segmented its marketing and identified the target audience, the next stage is to position the business. To successfully achieve this, the 4Cs is a useful tool to create a positioning statement or to build an online value proposition.

Looking at each of the 4Cs in more detail:

20150131_4Cs_Jobber and Fahy

How can I use this model?

To understand how this works in practice, I’ve looked at four well-known companies and what’s interesting is that their slogans all meet the rules of Clarity, Credibility and Consistency. The Competitiveness element is less clear. And I am not sure how you would convey competitiveness with luxury brands.

Some UK supermarkets do address the Competitiveness element, for example:
• Morrisons’ slogan is ‘Love it cheaper’
• Sainsbury’s slogan is ‘Live well for less’

It seems when the competitiveness element is included, it’s about price, although it could also be about performance in B2B firms such as technology. Competitiveness is also about levels of customer service, such as Avis’s slogan (until 2012) ‘We try harder’.

What to watch for

It’s a great model to use when developing a slogan or online value proposition (see xxx). Not all 4Cs will necessarily be used. It is essential that the slogan provides clarity (don’t make me think) and is credible. If it’s not credible, it won’t work.

Original Sources

Jobber, D. and Fahy, J. (2009). Foundations of marketing. 3rd ed. Published Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

What's your preferred model? 7Ps or 4Cs? And how do you build your slogans? Do share with us!

Auhtor's avatar

By Annmarie Hanlon

Annmarie Hanlon is the Smart Insights expert commentator on online and offline marketing strategies for business. Annmarie is the MD of Evonomie and author of Quick Win Marketing, and co-author of Quick Win Digital Marketing. She runs social media workshops in the UK and Ireland and shares marketing tips and news in her blog, B2B Marketing. You can follow Annmarie on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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