Synthesis Marketing Mix

communication customer evidence features goods marketing mix needs people physical price process product promotion ps

The Big Picture…

Let me introduce my Synthesis Marketing Mix. It is built on the foundations of McCarthy’s Product Marketing Mix and Booms & Bitner’s Service Marketing Mix. Though I sprinkle in the service-dominant logic view, which means moving from a sellers’ only view of the mix.

I call it “synthesis” following Coombs and Miles (2000) view of innovation in services. That is to say that rather than service and goods being fundamentally different, they are essentially the same. Yet goods have marketing mix aspects that are perhaps less important.

Really this is the 3C+5P+3E marketing mix; but Synthesis is easier to say!

I take:

  • the 4Cs from Lauterborn’s criticism of the 4Ps in the original marketing mix
  • replace one of thise Cs – customer needs (which itself replaced product) – with service-dominant view of value, i.e. Progress proposed
  • the 3 Ps from Booms & Bitner’s service extension to the marketing mix
  • resolve Kotler’s 8th P as Partnership (rather than performance)
  • wrap the entire mix with the 3Es of Brand Admiration

I’m still contemplating if Booms & Bitner’s contribution to marketing mix needs enhancing to cover all entities that beneficiaries interact with. That’s to say, people (incl AI), systems, and physical goods.


A synthesis view aligns with a continuum view of service and goods. And aligns with service thinking that goods are one component beneficiaries may integrate with in their search for progress. Additionally, it brings up front that beneficiaries are seeking to make functional and non-functional progress. As well as the importance of partnerships (or the ecosystem).

The Idea

The (product) marketing mix is the set of activities and tools that marketers use to get you to buy a product, is a classic of Marketing.

It was introduced by McCarthy and originally had 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Each P covering an area that we could make decisions in to increase are ability to sell the product. We have to have the right product to start with, signal the right value through pricing strategy, determined the place for how and where we are selling, and promote appropriately.

Figure 1: The original Marketing Mix (McCarthy)

However, there is a view that the 4Ps are not sufficient for service (and perhaps that service and goods are fundamentally different). Booms & Bitner introduced 3 additional Ps to create the Service Marketing Mix. And Kotler introduced an 8th P to arrive at the familiar Service Marketing Mix shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The 7Ps Service Marketing Mix (Booms & Bitner’s) and Alternative 8th P

But, the 7/8Ps still is steeped in product dominant logic thinking. Which, as with elsewhere in my thinking, is not a criticism per se. Rather a comment that we can perhaps do better taking the later developed service-dominant view. Along with my updated view of value.

As you’ll see, we end up with the mix shown in Figure 3. The 4C+4P+3E marketing mix; but Synthesis is easier to say!

Synthesis Marketing Mix
Figure 3: The Synthesis Marketing Mix

So, how do we get from Figure 1 to Figure 3? Well, let’s first consider some of the criticisms of the 4Ps.

Criticisms of the 4Ps Marketing Mix

I like Constantinides paper, “The Marketing Mix Revisited: Towards the 21st Century Marketing“. Where he pulls together criticisms of the 4Ps from across 6 different marketing sub-domains and seeks to pull out common cited issues.

He looks at the domains of Consumer Marketing, Relationship Marketing, Services Marketing, Retail Marketing, Industrial Marketing and eMarketing. And you can see how he presents these domains in the example shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Examples of the Various Criticisms of the 4P Marketing Mix found in Constantinides paper

To which he identifies:

Some of the weaknesses of the 4Ps identified in the study are domain-specific: ignoring the human factor, lack of strategic dimensions, offensive posture and lack of interactivity. Two limitations however seem to be common in all reviewed categories: The model’s internal orientation and the lack of personalisation.

Constantinides, E (2016) “The Marketing Mix Revisited: Towards the 21st Century Marketing”

Lets dig into those two common limitations of internal orientation and lack of personalisation.

Internal orientation

Constantinedes reasons the mix is internally orientated due to its roots in “mass-oriented US manufacturing sector of the 60’s, an era when producers could afford to pay much less attention to customer’s voice and needs than today”.

Concluding that “Instead of managing the 4Ps-defined processes managers should focus on the factors underlining customer value as well as building market-oriented, flexible and inventive organisations, able to constantly innovate and adapt to fast-changing market conditions”

This aligns well with my view on value (and its real definition). Where rather than defining products in terms of attributes, we need to find offerings that help beneficiaries make progress with some aspect of their life. And that progress can be functional (job to be done, hindrance to get one) and non-functional (safely, cheap, self-fulfilling etc).

From service-dominant logic we know that value is always co-created. And so a lack of interaction and beneficiary-orientation is not helpful. Whether you want it or not communication today is a two-way street. For example customer reviews on platforms such as Amazon or TripAdvisor. Or, customers actively commenting on social media – on your pages or elsewhere.

Lack of personalisation

Similarly, Constantinides identifies the roots of the 4Ps in mass-oriented manufacturing sector as to why it lacks personalisation. But notes that “Significant shifts of consumer behaviour (individualisation, diminishing brand preference, value orientation, increasing sophistication etc.) have undermined the effectiveness of the impersonal one-way communication and the mass marketing approaches”.

From service-dominant logic, we know that value is uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the beneficiary. So this shift in consumer behaviour is not unexpected as we move from mass-production era to the service era.

Here’s Constantinides again: “The quality of the personal relationship between seller and customer and successful customer retention are becoming basic ingredients of commercial performance in all markets, either consumer or institutional ones”.

So what can the first step be? Perhaps we need to ditch the 4 Ps…..

Ditching the Ps for Cs?

Lauterborn wrote a short note – “New marketing litany; four P’s passé; C-words take over” – proposing to replace the 4Ps with 4 Cs (which he saw as out of date). You can see a comparison between these two views in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Comparison of 4Ps and the alternative 4Cs of the (product) marketing mix

(though be careful not to confuse these 4Cs with the 4Cs of marketing communication: clarity, credibility, consistency, and competitiveness – which you can find in Jobber and Fahy’s “Foundations of Marketing“).

So what are these 4Cs and why not use the 4Ps?

Customer Wants & Needs, Not Products

As obvious as it sounds, there are numerous examples of companies generating products that don’t meet users needs (or perhaps needs of enough users)

42% of startups failed because of a lack of market need, according to a 2018 CB Insights report. We need to make sure products meet user needs! Click To Tweet

Take, for example, Nokia. Nokia spent the last few years of its mobile phone incarnation producing more and more phone versions. But none captured the fact that the customer had moved on to have different expectations. Yet another, more extreme, example is the failed start-up Juicero. Perhaps seeing the success of Nespresso, they launchef a $400 device that squeezed pre-packaged sachets of fruit, provided as a service, to make you fruit juice. A product and service that was almost a parody! In fact, we see in a 2018 CB Insights report the top reason, at 42%, of start-up failure, was a lack of market need for the product.

The challenge is that we tend to see prodcts as a set of features (and marketing classes, not incorrectly, even teach this). Lauterborn feels we do not get the right message. Features are great, but what if the customer doesn’t want or need them? To address that, Lauterborn proposes to rename product explicitly as customer wants and needs. In order to keep our focus. Shortly, I’ll suggest we need to go further.

Cost, not Price

Lauterborn says that Price is not the only consideration that users take into account before making a purchase. It is just one component. For example, if I am already invested in an ecosystem of products, then, I am more likely to buy within that ecosystem. There is an extra cost for me to change. Or perhaps can see this as a reduced cost to remain.

The marketing question, then, is not just pricing strategy. We should minimise wider cost or show the beneficiary it is worth it.

Convenience, not Place

The place of 4Ps relates to getting the product into the consumer’s hands. The convenience of the 4Cs focuses on the quality of that experience. How easy is it for your consumer to buy the product. This concept is in the place component of the 4 Ps, but it is hidden.

Pulling out convenience better represents what today’s consumers are after. And goes back to that quote we had from Woolworth at the start of the section on price in my article on the 4Ps: “I am the world’s worst salesman, therefore I must make it easy for people to buy”.

And it loops better into servicescapes, and eservicescapes, I talk about in my article on the 8Ps.

Communication, not Promotion

The original 4P promotion leads us down the path of what can we do to tell the consumer our message. But our modern world is awash with better-informed consumers, market orientation theories, and social media. One-way communication does not work. Even if you do not set up a feedback loop, beneficiaries will use consumer sites (eg trustpilot) or intermediaries such as Amazon to leave feedback. Which can lead to value co-destruction

Lauterborn changes the focus from promotion to communication. As a way of reinforcing you need two-way communication with consumers. Through communicating we get feedback. And feedback can be used to alter our message.

this also aligns with service-first view where we see the original view of define service as poor relative to goods is not the best way of seeing the world. For example, “inconsistent” actually should be interpreted as customisation.

So that’s the 4 Cs, and I prefer to use those over the original 4 Ps. But with one update.

Customer needs. Or progress being sought and proposed?

To me, customer needs, whilst better than product, can be further improved by linking in our evolved view of value. That is to see we should talk of progress – both functional and non functional – that the beneficiary is seeking to make. And so, I change it back to a P. But a P that reflects a service-first view of value – progress.

Figure 6: 4C Marketing mix with a sprinkling of service-dominant logic thinking

But, there are three types of progress. Progress is sought by the beneficiary. Various actors integrate together to propose to help a beneficiary make progress. And there is the progress the beneficiary actually achieves on a particular attempt to make progress. And these can all be different. So which should we have in the mix?

Well, Marketing is all about getting a customer (one of the only two reasons Drucker sees why s form exists – the other is innovation). And so it makes sense that the Marketing Mix leads with progress proposed. But that needs to be grounded by knowledge of the progress sought to avoid offerings that not enough beneficiaries want. Here we explicitly acknowledge that progress offered may more (or less) than we identify the beneficiaries are seeking. But we cannot be too far out of sync.

What about progress achieved? That needs to be captured through the Communication C..

However, adopting 3Cs and a P, still misses attributes that are important for service. So let’s tackle the “problem” of service next.

Embracing Service – four more Ps

Constantinides summarises the subdomain of Services Marketing in his paper by highlighting the common theme in the reviewed papers that services are different to tangibles (goods). And that most papers proposed either enhancements or replacements for the 4Ps. Three key areas, he noted, that stand out as missing in the 4Ps across the reviewed papers are:

  • human element
  • interaction and quality
  • one-one communication and relation building

Booms & Bitner’s 7Ps has become the de facto service marketing mix. Adding People, Physical Evidence and Process as 3 additional Ps.

Figure 7: Booms & Bitner’s 7P Service Marketing Mix

And I’ll also add them to my synthesis Marketing Mix. You can read the details of them in my Service Marketing Mix article. In that article I also mention an 8th P of performance or Partnership.

Performance or Partnership?

Kotler added an 8th P of performance. But this is not performance of the service, rather performance of the enterprise in the market. And, yes, this is important, but I address this in my definition of innovation – where the survivability of the enterprise needs to be maintained. So having it directly in the mix is less important to me.

However, I see ecosystem as important in service. We know from service-dominant logic that actors co-ordinate to create value. And it is becoming common that a service is no longer a one-one activity. Take an online shop. Often there is the sales actor (owning the website), the payment processor actor and a selection of delivery actors. And so Partnership is a key aspect of the marketing mix.

Now let’s think a little more on the P of people…

Interacting with service components

Booms & Bitner’s introduced people into their service marketing mix. Which at the time was not unreasonable. Given the prevailing view that there were good and then services delivered by people.

But today we see that service is eating the world. And that service involves the beneficiary interacting with more than just other actors’ people. They interact with other actors’ systems and physical resources. And as we take a service-dominant logic view then goods are service frozen to allow distribution – goods are a subset of physical resources.

I therefore propose updating Booms & Bitner’s people with people, physical resources and systems.

And that we look at people and process in the way described by Gallouj and weinstein’s service as characteristics model.

In doing so, we tie back to service-first view of their being a service-service continuum wher the mix of people, systems and physical resources alters as we float across that continuum.

I’m nearly done. I just want to look at something that wraps the whole Mix.

Wrapping with the 3 Es

Park, MacInnis and Eisingerich looked at brand admiration. In particular, building a brand that people love. Their work contains a deceptively simple message. People admire brands that entice, enable and enrich them.

Figure 14: The 3 Es of Brand Admiration

And whilst this article is about marketing mix rather than building an admired brand, I believe we can take those 3 Es and reuse. In all of our marketing mix activities/tools, we want to be enticing, enabling and enriching the customer. Of course, I’m hiding a lot of detail in this very short section. The book is a very interesting read, full of examples and tools. And I propose we wrap our marketing mix with those 3 Es.

This brings us to the image you see in Figure 15. Introducing the Synthesis Marketing Mix.

Figure15: The Synthesis Marketing Mix

Wrapping Up

So now we have a Marketing Mix that build out from value (how we are helping a beneficiary make progress they are seeking). That reflects the service nature of our world, including two-way interactions and that service is some combination of integrations with people, systems and physical resources (including goods). And those aspects might be provided by partners.

We can compare our resulting synthesis marketing mix with the original product Marketing Mix as follows.

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