In 1960, a then-prominent marketer, E. Jerome McCarthy, proposed a marketing mix approach, which became famously known as the four P’s. As everyone who has ever read a marketing textbook – or has studied how General Motors managed to reduce their share from a one-time high of nearly 50% to 15% — knows the elements of the 4 P’s were Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. The theory was that a marketing manager able to manage the 4 P’s more adroitly than his competitor, would do better, i.e., have greater share, sales, and/or profits, than less skillful competition.
This approach worked pretty well until the early 1980’s when most of the companies managed these rationally-based 4 P’s pretty well, but couldn’t figure out how or what to offer that went beyond those basics. The 4 P’s became marketing table stakes; you could manage them to your heart’s content, but they weren’t going to provide real differentiation or engagement, or a sense that the product/service was going to better meet what was emotionally driven.
Traditional marketers didn’t let that stop them. If 4 P’s weren’t enough to successfully manage the brand, they would find other P’s to manage. This philosophy brought us the 5th P, People, the 6th, Process (the way services are used), and the 7th P, Physical Evidence, aka “satisfaction” (yet another 20th century cost of entry). But these too were rooted in rational category features, and you could manage the heck out of them but that really didn’t create real consumer engagement or loyalty. Alas, so many P’s, so little engagement!
Last week, yet another P was offered up for our marketing consideration. It came from Mitchell Markson, the Global Chief Creative Officer and President of Brand Consulting for Edelman, the Public Relations firm. Mr. Markson, apparently unaware of the already existent P’s 5 through 7, and noting that the holiday season heralded a wave of cause-related projects for brands offered up “Purpose” as his 5th P of marketing. This speaks to “Consumer Citizens, Citizen Brands, and Corporate Citizenship,” and he is recommending that “corporations integrate good causes into their everyday business.”
Cause Marketing has been part of most corporate reputation marketing toolboxes for more than two decades. And while direct questioning will always reveal folks saying it’s important, only below-the-radar metrics will tell the truth about how much corporate social responsibility really matters when consumers are making increasingly-emotional decisions about brands. If we really need another P, let’s try Passion on for size. Maybe then brands can start to really understand how social responsibility really plays with consumers.