Marketing mix is a set of variables that can be run and put in place by marketing managers to effectively satisfy the needs of every target customer in a particular selected niche. “A typical marketing mix constitutes a product, offered at a specific pre-determined price, with some promotion to let the target customers know information about the product, and a mode in which the product will be able to reach the customer’s place” (Perreault & McCarthy 2009). This paper delves deeper into description of the four elements that make up the marketing mix; product, place, promotion, and price, normally referred to as the 4P’s in the marketing world. Into the bargain, the four major elements of the marketing mix will be conversed with the intention of making a clearer understanding of its functions. There are different variables in the market that play part solely for the purpose of making a single sale. The customers themselves cannot be manipulated in the making of the sales, but the sales are affected by setting the right prices for the products.
It makes them available to the customers whenever they need the products, advertisement or the product attributes. If these variables are well interpreted and used effectively, the result will be successful. It means that very efficient marketing mixes in a company will improve its sales margins. Scientifically, the variables are interdependent tools that can be used to solve any marketing problem.
2. Elements of Marketing Mix
As I have explained in the introductory phrases of this paper, marketing mix is the terminology commonly used to depict the combination of the four inputs: the product, the price structure, the promotional activities that include advertisement, and the distribution system that a company uses to hunt the necessary level of desired amount of sales in the target market.
The product’s aspects of marketing are concerned with the specifications of the actual goods or services, and how best it relates to the end-user's wants and needs, normally referred to as the consumer or better still the customer. The scope of a product generally entails supporting elements, such as guarantees, warranties and support.
The product mix entails many variables, which include the product line and range. This depends on the companies’ ability to produce a wide range of products for its target customers. This is what ultimately leads to product differentiation since many products will be designed to suit all the customers’ needs. Hence, a wide range of products will be subsequently produced. The style, design, colour, shape, quality and other physical features of a product are also paramount. This will affect the way the consumers will welcome the product in the market and affect its volume of sales. Packaging and labelling of a product are also factors to be considered when it comes to the individual goods. They have to be made in an attractive way as not to compromise the efforts made to boost the sale of that particular commodity. Another factor that is usually never overlooked is the branding attributed to a particular product. Branding affects the target market in a major way, showing how it will relate to the product. A product with a huge and widely acknowledged brand name has a higher sales volume when compared to that with no distinct brand name. The other most important things in the promotion of the products are the production servicing and innovation.
A product can be categorized in any of the following levels:
- The actual product, which has attributes and features exclusively to satisfy the customers’ needs and wants (e.g. iPhone from Apple).
- The core product, which satisfies customers’ needs while providing a benefit in addition to the primary intention for which it was created for (e.g. efficient technology).
- The augmented product offers supplementary services that aid to generate multiple revenues, e.g. accessories for iPhone. This is the non-physical attribute of the product, which adds certain value to the main product. A very good example of an augmented product is an extension of a warranty on a purchased iPhone. This is also a major study area for this paper and I will delve into this issue after I have efficiently exhausted on the four P’s of marketing.
The product element is factored into companies’ marketing mix by answering certain questions that include actual customer’s demands from the particular product or service. What qualities will the product have to meet the consumer’s requirements? How and where will the product be used? What does the product look like and how will it be experienced? What should the name of the product be and how will it be branded? How will the product be differentiated from items of consumption created by competitors (Mind Tools 2011)?
Promotion is the second element of the marketing mix, and could be viewed as the most imperative as it relates to the communication process of marketing a product. What, when and where the consumer hears, knows, or gains knowledge about a product will greatly impact the buying decisions made by the target customers. There are certain aspects of promotional communication that can be put in place and integrated as required for maximum marketing results:
- Personal Selling. A well-trained sales representative acts as an agent of the company and develops personal customer relationships.
- Sales Promotion. This could include coupons, introductory offers, free accessories, or anything outside of personal selling, public relations and public selling.
- Public Relations. This is the predetermined, deliberate, and maintained effort of a company to institute mutual understanding with the general public and its customers.
- Direct Mail. This promotional aspect typically makes use of an informational database to the target customers, and the organizations take time to carefully monitor the responses and effectively act on them in order to ensure almost perfect satisfaction of the customers’ needs and wants.
- Trade Fairs and Exhibitions. Undertaking these activities provide good networking and exposure opportunities, where the company can lay out all its products and highlight on the features that will mostly attract the customers.
- Advertising. Product awareness is effectively achieved through purchased communication avenues, such as newspapers and televisions, as well as magazines. This is very important platform for letting the public in on the products provided by a company. Most, if not all, of the households in every state have access to either a television or radio or daily newspapers, hence these sources are clearly acknowledged as very effective advertising and marketing tools.
- Sponsorship. An organization pays for its name to be associated with a specific event, image or cause.
Whenever a sales manager sits down to draft a promotion plan for a company, there are certain questions that he or she will have in mind before creating the final promotion plan for a certain product. Such questions include, when and where can the message be communicated to the target market? Will radio, TV, or billboard advertisements reach the target audience? Will public relations, direct mailings, or the Internet be effective in communicating to potential customers? When should the promotion campaign begin? Are there seasonal or environmental factors to consider? How will promotion choices be reacted to by competitors, if there is any at all (Mind Tools 2011)?
Appropriate selection of the right time, target audience, and venue for promotions is indispensable to marketing triumph. Preferring an integrated combination of internet, TV and radio advertisements, sales promotion and direct mail, Verizon has again proven its strategic marketing intelligence by becoming the first of its competitors to promote nation-wide broadband network, successfully establishing the Verizon brand (Verizon 2011).
Price is the third and definitely defining element of the marketing mix. There are various ways to apply pricing strategies to make a product scintillating to the consumers; however, there are the four main pricing strategies that I will describe in depth;
- Premium pricing. This strategy makes use of an elevated price on the basis of the uniqueness of the product or when there is a significant competitive advantage for the seller of that particular commodity.
- Penetration pricing. This is the type of low-balling strategy that is often used to gain a certain niche of the whole market share. Subject to product success, the product price increases to improve profitability margins for the seller.
- Economy pricing. The seller keeps the manufacturing and marketing costs at a regulated minimal level and offers a “no-frills” low price for the product. The seller is not bent on making a large amount of profit, but just enough as to recover the inputs put in the production of the goods or services.
- Price skimming. When a seller has a substantial competitive advantage, the introductive price is high; however, as the product draws more competitors, pricing decreases due to increased product availability (Semenik & Bamossy 1995).
In estimating price of a product or service, an organizational manager develops a pricing strategy that attempts to answer crucial questions that include the value of the product or service to the customer. Have prices already been established for the product or service in the area of business? Is the set price competitive with other sellers in the same business line? Is the set price sensitive to suit the economic needs of the consumers in a particular market niche? How can the selling cost be best managed to make the product reasonably priced to customers and at the same time guarantee profitability for the company (Mind Tools 2011)?
Other strategic approaches to pricing include psychological pricing, which elicits an emotional consumer’s response versus a rational one. Verizon’s “can you hear me now?” campaign was triumphant in tackling cell phone customers’ dissatisfaction with dropped calls. Product line pricing is yet another effective approach that emphasizes the benefits of a range of related products or services. Pricing is of prime importance since it gives the consumer a clear mindset on the quantifiable value of the product in question. Thus, if it is underpriced, the consumer may discard the product as being of little or absolutely no value.
The fourth and certainly defining element in the marketing mix is place or placement. This is the mechanism and modes put in place to move products or services from the producer to the customer. It can also be referred to as the distribution channel, or intermediary. The products can get to the customers through various channels. Nevertheless, there are six basic channel decisions that include selling directly to customers or indirectly through a distributor or wholesaler or both. The producers can also sell through single or multiple channels of distributions depending on the target market. The producer should consider the number of intermediaries that he or she is willing to work with in order to put multiple channels into effect. There are certain distribution considerations that should be made in response to the placement of a product. Such queries include where exactly are targeted consumers looking for the product or service? What type of venue would be best to avail the products; in what kind of store, shop, online, or as representations in a catalogue? Is the consideration of whether a sales force is direly needed of prime importance? Should samples be distributed in order to try to direct the client’s attention to the target market? Would the attendance of trade fairs and exhibitions be beneficial to the company? These are some of the very crucial questions that a marketing manager should have looming in their thoughts while coming up with an effective product placement (Armstrong & Kottler 2005).
With help of the augmented product model, I will use examples of two companies to illustrate the importance of the segmented product model. The core product of Lipton Peach Ice Tea is a soft drink with a benefit to quench thirst. It also has a fundamental benefit of social acceptance as there may be a national perception that those who drink Lipton Peach Ice Tea are ‘cool’ and awesome. Also, the ice tea is very convenient as it is easily bought and managed. The augmented product of Lipton Peach Ice Tea provides a number of additional services. The most obvious is the Lipton website that contains nutritional details and the health benefits of the product. There is also ‘Lipton’s tea and health club’ where club members can have a newsletter sent to their home addresses or even emails detailing information about tea and health (Kottler et al. 2007). In addition to this, there is also the E-store which organizes specific Lipton Peach Ice Teas to be home delivered for extra convenience. Lastly, there are deals at supermarkets with special discounts, such as ‘2 for 1’ or savings on the purchase. These are some of the benefits that the Lipton Ice Tea tags along with its consumption. The other company I will closely analyze is the corporation known as American Express Platinum Credit Card, which involves many additional services. With the use of its credit cards, the customer is in a position to use travellers cheques, which makes international travels more convenient as it allows the customer to avoid the tiresome and overwhelming hassle of exchanging money in each country. Another additional service is travel insurance as there is increased financial security for the customer with regards to property safety, accommodation, etc. Lastly, the American Express Platinum Credit Card is able to be personalized with different images for gift cards.
In conclusion, it is quite clear that when developing marketing strategies, all decisions affecting the four P’s should be made subsequently since they are all interdependent. The four elements are the most important. This is because the products, places, prices, and promotions of an organization surround the most significant element: target consumers (Perreault & McCarthy 2009). Apparently, every marketing manager should put all the four P’s into consideration in order to coin the best marketing mix that can be used effectively as a tool to penetrate different target market niches. This is the secret weapon behind the success of each company.