The Marketing Mix of the Digital Age

– Prof. S Ramesh Kumar

Professor of marketing at IIM Bangalore

The point to be noted is that the marketing mix elements (traditional) are led by the contemporary 4Ps relevant to this digital age.

Let us visualise a scenario, in a decade ahead, with the rapid onset of machine learning and AI and their applications in marketing. Detergent powders have penetrated, into the households and there are
several brands, in the category, that advertise and innovate in order, to build brand equity. Detergent pods
are perhaps the state of the art, detergent offering in developed markets (used in washing machines).

In India, it is not common to find washing machine brands advertising and endorsing detergent powder brands. Futuristically, the consumer may just be interested in the service of fabric cleaning as opposed to brands of detergents or washing machines. She may pay for the customised service of obtaining fabric care service. Detergent types and offerings, along with wash cycles will determine the price for the consumer as she uses the service in a customised manner. There is likely to be service brands in the fabric care category.

An article published in Harvard Business Review provides a refreshing perspective on consumer relevance, in the digital age. The updated digital age compatible 5Ps of marketing (that will substantiate the traditional 4 Ps of Product, Price, Place and Promotion) are Purpose, Pride, Protection, Partnership,
and Personalisation.

This will be a very useful perspective of establishing consumer relevance when so much is being discussed on consumer relevance. Except personalisation, the other Ps according to the authors of the article have been drawn from the Maslow’s hierarchy model, published in 1943 on human motivation.

Personalisation will connect with the other Ps. Incidentally, the article also reflects the need for marketers to think on digital marketing with a behavioral lens, while focusing on coming to grips with strategic marketing as appropriate to the changing environment.

The need for consumer relevance to the brands in the Indian context

The article quotes a source that has established that brand loyalty programs, do not benefit 71% of the consumers surveyed. If we consider the Indian context, the freebies and price discounts offered by e commerce majors and large retailers have been instrumental in brand loyalty with respect to not only brands but also the respective retailing mode (online or offline).

With profits being under pressure in conventional categories, companies and brands have opened up several niches at the higher price segments (biscuits , chocolates, cars, two-wheelers, watches, smartphones, hotels , entertainment on-demand services, organic products, health and fitness services , health care services and credit cards are just some of the categories that are examples of the premium and profitable niches) .

While the contemporary Ps of marketing may not be used “overnight “, it provides a trigger of the things to follow as a next logical progression of digital marketing. This would require appropriate planning within the organisation as well. And services may be forerunners in adopting the strategy.

Relevance of the contemporary Ps that can harness digital marketing

Let us consider an example, where a product-centric company, had used to signal to the consumers that the product can be an offering as a part of the service.

Over time, more consumers are likely to shift to the service (with the product), instead of just buying the product as a stand-alone brand. Nike, the “Just Do it” brand has used the contemporary 4 Ps to become a formidable brand.

In 2006 , it introduced Nike + with in iPod , that enables runners to track their fitness initiatives, communicate with others in the community , compare their performance and use the service in many ways to monitor their fitness .In 2017 , Nike introduced its Nike Consumer Experience strategy .

It is slowly gathering millions of online -strategy and at the same time ensuring that brick and mortar retailers are not left out. It has the differentiated retailer group (selectively and this includes both online direct to consumers and off- line retailers). Nike App, connects with 100 million signed up loyal consumers to offer them several benefits that also get differentiated through the app usage. Nike is aiming to bring in 300 million consumers by 2023 (Forbes issue of Dec 2018).

The point to be noted is that the marketing mix elements (traditional) are led by the contemporary 4Ps relevant to this digital age.

The five Ps are Purpose (purpose of improving the fitness) , Protection (trusted transactions that are risk free ), Pride (consumers take pride in their membership and this also carries a symbolic appeal associated with the brand), Partnership (the brand literally is a partner in the consumer’s lives and its constant interaction with its consumers , provides an opportunity to know their preferences and usage patterns) and finally Personalisation that obviously connects with the other Ps.

Importance of consumer behavior

The classics of consumer behavior associated with the subject has not changed; it is the context that has changed. While the context is western, the example of Nike provides an indication of the things to come.

The challenge for brands in emerging markets is to adapt to the context, using digital marketing as appropriate. Yet another important point from the example is that, while nurturing brand equity, organisations need to not only adapt to external environments. They need to also ensure that strategic
planning that includes internal restructuring also should take into consideration, the, changing consumer behavior.

Theodore Levitt, the well- known economist, several decades back had predicted that products will become a part of services and the service economy is likely to get strengthened with digital marketing.

Will the new Ps spell the end of brand positioning and advertising with or without celebrities? The answer is “NO” (in the author’s opinion). Ads like Lux’s (soap) double celebrity ad with the nostalgic “Chand Sa Roshan Chehra”, will continue to target the mind of the consumers but not at the cost of digital marketing.

Source: The Economic Times