Marketing mix 4P’s by McCarthy

4P's Marketingmix McCarthy- toolshero

This article explains the marketing mix, also know as the 4P ‘s of Marketing by E. Jerome McCarthy in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful marketing strategy tool.

What are the four P’s of marketing?

Organizations often wish to use the marketing mix in order to deploy their marketing strategy as effectively as possible. In the 1960s, the American marketeer, E. Jerome McCarthy, provided a framework by means of the marketing mix: the 4 P’s. The 4P ‘s include Price, Promotion, Product and Place. According to McCarthy, marketeers can draw up a good marketing plan and improve operating results visibly by using the right combination and variables. The 4 P’s are also know as the basic marketing mix.

Marketing mix 4P ‘s are multi usable

McCarthy’s 4P ‘s are especially relevant in the marketing of consumer goods (B2C), such as supermarket products or durable goods like white goods and cars. Nevertheless, the marketingmix (4P ‘s) are also used for B2B marketing. For example, stationery supplies for companies, in which the 4P ‘s are used in the best possible way. However, it is a fact that the 4P ‘s mainly target the sales of products and apply to the sales of services to a lesser extent. As the terms product, price, place and promotion also start with the letter ‘P’ in many languages, the marketing mix (4P ‘s) are known all over the world and they are therefore a much-used marketingmix model.

4P Marketing Mix Model by Jerome McCarthy - toolshero


This ´P´ is called the ‘product mix’. This applies to both physical products and services. Sometimes the product is split up into:

Physical product

The basic product. It is purely about the functional and aesthetic-al characteristics such as dimensions, function and life.

Extensive product

The physical product with added qualities such as packaging, brand name, service and guarantee.

Total product

The extensive product plus emotional, instrumental and expressive qualities and/or values that the consumers attach to this. The product is final for the short term. Changing the product by changing the packaging or new innovations, however, takes time.


The price is an important factor for both the supplier and the consumer and is mainly determined by the proportional relationship between supply and demand. The price can be adjusted quickly, as a result of which this marketing instrument is frequently used. This involves costs. In micro-economics they are referred to as menu costs; whenever a price increase has to be implemented this has to be changed on the menu card. A food example is a soft drink. The price in the supermarket differs hugely from the one that is paid in an outdoor café:

Product: 1 bottle of soft drink Price € 1.30 for 5 glasses. Promotion: – Place: supermarket
Product: 1 glass of soft drink Price: € 2.25 a glass. Promotion: – Place: outdoor café


Place includes both the geographical location where the product is offered and the (type of) distribution channel. Shopping centres are places where commerce is dominant. Besides location, the place where the product can be found in the shop is also a relevant factor; suppliers pay to have their products placed at eye-level in supermarkets, at the outer ends of the aisles and at the cash register (bargains). Distribution can be divided into direct and indirect distribution. Direct distribution means that the product is delivered directly from the supplier to the end user (insurance companies, outlet stores and sales through the Internet). Indirect distribution means that the product is sold to the end user by means of an intermediary such as a wholesale or retail business.


All communication of a company that is aimed at stimulating sales comes under promotion. Promotion is a broad concept and can therefore be divided into different sub-categories (promotion-mix):

Public relations

This is aimed at a good relation with public groups such as customers, competitors, suppliers and financiers.

Free publicity

This creates familiarity for instance by press releases and/or by publishing favourable user reviews. Unfortunately, complaints made in public also come under free publicity.


This is commercial non-personal communication aimed at large groups of consumers. Its main objective is to generate sales (e.g. advertising leaflets, radio and television commercials and bus shelter advertising).

Personal sales

An effective but expensive sales tool. During interactions with the customer any objection or preconception can be responded to. Personal sales bring about customer relations; a bond of trust is created with the customer.

Sales promotion

Here the emphasis is on price reduction such as 3 for 2, promotional price or a sale. The price reduction itself comes under the ‘P’ of price.

Cold calling

This is about approaching random or selected individuals or companies by telephone with the objective to sell products.


In the long term all four variables can be adjusted by marketeers. In the short term, however, the variables product and place/ distribution channel are difficult to influence and/or change. Within the marketing mix strategic long-term planning is very important, because it is only then that the product and the distribution channel can be adapted. When marketeers want to change or adapt something within the marketing mix, they are almost forced to limit themselves to half their instruments. Therefore, they need to sell at record low prices and the consumer will be inundated with advertising.


Throughout the years the 4P ‘s of McCarthy have been adjusted and extended multiple times. Personnel are often mentioned as the fifth ‘P’. Personnel are the key players of an organization and without good personnel the other ‘P’s’ do not work well. Periphery is also seen as an extra ´P´. By periphery is meant the external factors such as economical, technological and political factors that can have an influence on an organization. In addition Periphery can be cleverly deployed as a marketing means for instance by laying out an expensive canalside house as an office building to brush up its image. The ´P´ of Partners is mentioned as an important aspect in marketing. By entering into partnerships, companies can benefit from one another and offer a more powerful concept.

Criticism on the marketing mix (4P ‘s)

Apart from the fact that the marketing is often used by organizations, McCarthy’s marketingmix model is also criticized, The marketing mix (4P ‘s) would only apply to the consumer market and would not emphasize B2B enough. In addition the marketing mix model would aim at products too much and would fail where service provision is concerned. It would be based too much on the perspective of the organization rather than on that of the consumer. Notwithstanding the fact that companies want to sell their products, it is important to include the ideas of the consumers in the marketing concept.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is the theory of the 4P marketing mix still applicable in today’s modern economy and marketing? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have additions? What are your success factors for a good 4P marketing mix set up or check?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Needham, Dave (1996). Business for Higher Awards. Heinemann.
  2. McCarthy, E. J. (1975). Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. Richard D. Irwin, Inc.
  3. Borden, Neil H. (1965). The Concept of the Marketing Mix. In Schwartz, George. Science in marketing. Wiley marketing series. Wiley. p. 286ff. Retrieved 2013-11-04.

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