In the article “Re-thinking and Re-tooling the Social Marketing Mix”, Ross (2012) contends that the traditional four Ps (product, price, place, promotion) marketing mix model has failed to deliver the intended outcomes in social marketing, hence the need for the model to be re-thought and re-tooled to include other marketing mix elements that are critical to the social marketing domain. The author heavily relies on documented research studies not only to demonstrate the shortcomings of the four Ps model in the contemporary marketing arena but also to conceptualise a more open-minded social marketing approach that takes cognisance of the realities on the ground.
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All the arguments included in this article seem to demonstrate that, although the four Ps marketing model has so far predominated the marketing thought and practised particularly due to its pedagogic orientation, it has already been stretched beyond breaking point and is no longer feasible for use by marketers who are more into social marketing than commercial marketing (Ross 2012).
From the onset, the article highlights the incomplete nature of the four Ps marketing mix model particularly in its explanatory authority over the facets of social marketing interventions, with evidence being adduced to the fact that many techniques and intervention approaches used in the social marketing domain do not fall under the four Ps marketing mix categorisation. The main premise is that social marketing is informed by more than just ideas from mainstream marketing; hence there is a need to re-think and re-tool the four Ps model to fit current social marketing trends. In brief, the traditional marketing model is criticised for
- its simplicity and naivety in solving complex marketing problems such as service provision, business to business networking or social marketing,
- its focus on short-term, sales and transactions orientation hence undervaluing the significance of strategic, long-term relational thinking and brand equity,
- its bias to time-specific media channels such as TV advertising at the expense of less-time specific media with capacity to provide segmentation, targeting and behaviour change interventions that form the basis of social marketing,
- its incapacity to cover the various tools and strategies used in modern-day marketing,
- its inbuilt orientation towards the seller rather than the customer (Ross 2012).
The author cites several scholarly debates to demonstrate why an effective social marketing tool needs to move away from one-off transactions involving the aspects of product, price, place and promotion, to a more focussed approach that entrenches the value of developing relationships with consumers and other stakeholders to develop trust and loyalty. Such an approach, according to author, must not only have the capacity to initiate long-term interventions required to change or modify behaviours, but must more willingly identify and gratify customer needs and preferences by developing and implementing “solutions rather than just products, providing information instead of only focussing on promotion, creating value instead of obsessing with price, and providing access wherever and whenever and however the customer wants to experience the solution offered to them” (Ross 2012, p. 124).
These observations demonstrate that the traditional four Ps marketing approach is a narrow and deterministic model that may be increasingly deficient in contemporary social marketing environments due to lack of the mentioned components.
In re-thinking and re-tooling the social marketing mix, the author acknowledges that the four Ps and others Ps documented by other scholars (e.g., policy and people) are still important and in fact have a role to play in the contemporary marketing environment. However, the author stresses that “other strategies such as stakeholder and community engagement, relational thinking, co-creation, advocacy, lobbying, public and media relations, and engagement in the policy agenda are often equally as important” (Ross 2012, p. 124-125). What is of importance in social marketing, therefore, is identifying what strategies can be employed and what will work in particular contexts to deliver optimal marketing interventions. The author is also keen to stress that a feasible social marketing approach focuses on consumers, relationships, and value creation in addition to other marketing components and strategies as required.
The author draws on previous marketing research to propose a social marketing model with six components that are all interconnected to consumers as the central component. In brief, these marketing components include circumstances (social and structural environment influenced by political trends, social values, media and other external environmental factors), organisation and competition (structure of stakeholders delivering interventions and relations between them, aims and objectives, competition to the desired behaviour, policy agenda), cost (costs associated with customer behaviours, costs associated with non-intervention), consumer (consumer-oriented, community-owned, co-creation of value, research-driven, evaluation), process (theory and design, relational thinking, consumer-oriented, strategic, holistic, long-term, co-created, value-driven, stakeholder and community involvement, and channels or strategies (product, price, place, promotion, people, policy, advocacy, lobbying, public relations and media, relations, information) (Ross 2012).
Overall, the author lays a solid framework for a more expanded approach to social marketing that recognises strategies such as customer orientation, value creation, and relational thinking in the development of feasible interventions for contemporary social marketing environments, implying that the multiplicity of strategies, channels and interventions employed in social marketing can no longer be housed within the traditional four Ps marketing model.
Gordon, R 2012, ‘Re-thinking and re-tooling the social marketing mix’, Australasian Marketing Journal, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 122-126. Web.