When the gods of marketing sent down their stone tablets (since they were marketing gods, they expensed the marble and had a lavish party; Kanye showed up) to illuminate the basics of all marketing, they were simple: Product, Place, Promotion and Price. For all the talk and writing and cocktail party stories after that moment, it seems to always come back to the fundamentals. Everything else serves as footnote to the Four Ps.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of parallels between marketing and strategy. The goals are about capturing territory or market share. Marketers are expected to use brute force and cunning to capture that territory. Many control armies of sales reps or distributors that perform orchestrated maneuvers on the battlefield to control as much territory as possible and get the most out of that territory.

The Price and Product are means of Positioning, they spell out how and where you intend to fight. Let’s say you were fighting a battle with a great navy, you could build your own navy and fight on the seas. That would be a positioning strategy. Of course, you could not build an navy and instead send your army to attack and control the ports of your enemy, rendering their navy useless (which, is what Alexander the Great did when taking on the Phonecians).

When Apple wants to expand beyond laptops and get people to try their interface, they could just lower the price of the laptop, or introduce a lower model at a lower price (which would be like building a navy to fight their navy). Instead, they moved into the consumer electronics market, embedding a version of their software into smaller devices, avoiding doing battle with low-end laptop makers.

The final marketing P is Place. In marketing, place is where a customer can buy your product. If you sell alarm systems, trying to get into grocery story checkout lanes to be an impulse buy is a pretty bad idea. But if you’re a candy manufacturer, it makes a lot of sense. Understanding where people will want to buy your product helps you claim the battlefield. You’ll notice fast food joints congregate around highway exit ramps, because people who want food fast will be travelers. This where the ground war if your strategy might happen. For example, Apple used to be available on the phone, online, and in a select number of computer stores. That MacBook, when sitting next to a Dell laptop, which similar features and size, will look very expensive. It’s hard to communicate the fundamental differences between a Mac and a pc in the 5×7 card in front of the model, especially since Apple didn’t control the message on that card. So they shifted the battlefield. Where as most computer makers were battling to see how many stores they could get their products into, Apple walked away and built their own store chain. Now, they have virtually unlimited room to define themselves and the differences between them and everyone else. They have products that are diverse enough that different people will come in and look at (your average iPod nano buyer is very different than your MacBook Air buyer), but while there, they will look at other things. 

So in strategy, instead of talking about about the four Ps, we talk about Power and Positioning. Power is the ability you have to do what you desire. Within power is your size, your ability to get a product to market faster or to more outlets, your industry cache (for example, if you called a press conference tomorrow, would anyone come?), your brand and your brand promise.

Above that is your ability to wield those items to achieve victory. That’s your ability to be strategic and implement effective tactics. 

Part Two tomorrow. Comments: open. Twitter like you got something to say!