the new book from Noah Elkin and Rachel Pasqua

The Responsive Brand

In 1960, a professor at Michigan State University named E. Jerome McCarthy introduced his students to a concept he called the “Marketing Mix”. He proposed that marketing was governed by a set of interdependent variables—Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion and that success was predicated on a striking harmonious balance between all four. Five years later, Gordon Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corporation, published a paper in which he made a very different but equally interesting observation; that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit was doubling approximately every two years. His hypothesis was fascinating to his fellow scientists but caused little stir with a general public still getting used to color TV.


Over fifty years later, our lives are influenced by Moore’s Law to a degree even Moore himself could not have foreseen. Every year screens get thinner, wireless data gets faster, and the technology around us becomes increasingly complex. Most telling of all, Moore’s Law, a concept once only understood by engineers, is readily grasped by the average consumer. McCarthy’s 4Ps have enjoyed similar longevity, still taught in business schools and still seen as guiding principles for today’s marketers. But the technological advances that Moore’s Law made possible have also made modern marketing hopelessly complex. We’re faced with an ever-expanding array of devices, interfaces, and touchpoints and no clear blueprint for how to navigate such a fast-evolving landscape. The original paradigm still matters—Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion are relevant as ever—but now, thanks to Moore’s Law, we have a new 4Ps to contend with—Portability, Personalization, Proximity, and Presence.


  • Portability is the most familiar and readily accepted concept in the framework of the new 4Ps. It’s common knowledge consumers move fluidly between desktop, tablet and smartphone screens throughout the course of a day and content that is useful, usable and engaging across all three screens has become simple table stakes. However, just being present is no longer enough; true portability necessitates utility and context that facilitate the subtle nuances in behavior we observe on these devices. It’s about starting a video on screen and continuing it on another and paying with the device of your choice. But it’s also about website content that changes according to where—and who—you are, in-store touchscreen kiosks that present you with detailed info on products trending in your location, and shoppable out-of-home placements that take the store out of the store.
  • Personalization: As consumers, we’re increasingly aware of the fact that we produce data and increasingly comfortable with the idea of sharing it in a quid pro quo exchange for something of value. Mobility (courtesy of Google Maps) trained us to give up a little non-PII for better content—location was our gateway drug. Now, the quantification of the self is in full swing and brands have a growing opportunity to use the data they collect and that we share to create superlative experiences. Personalization, based on preferences explicitly stated by the user as well as those implied through analytics, is leading to development not only of more targeted campaigns but also more complex, personalized content, and services. The one-size-fits-all experience is a thing of the past.
  • Proximity: Marketers talk about location, location, location but the real value is not just in latitude and longitude but one’s proximity to other people, places, and things—all the many layers of criteria that influence a consumer’s choices. Proximity is the strongest indicator of intent and stimulus of action, so content that is relevant to where the customer is, both physically and metaphorically, in his or her unique journey, is essential. True proximity is about creating timely, localized content as well as messaging, advertising and offers that enhance the real-time customer user experience. And of all the four pillars, proximity may have the greatest impact on consumer behaviour since it is teaching us to expect content—and products and services—to become more bespoke by virtue of our physical presence.
  • Presence: The new frontier of marketing lies in integrating digital interactivity into the physical aspects of the everyday world because in the Internet of Things, everything has potential to be a screen. For the next generation of users, the idea of an object or interface or media of any kind to not be fully interactive will be a completely foreign concept. Wearables, the connected car and home, in-store screens, social machines and digital tools and interfaces of all kinds are teaching consumers that the most valuable of experiences may often come from the most unassuming object. The idea of any object—from a mannequin to a pair of sunglasses not being connected will soon be unthinkable. Products—and media—with a static and unchanging interface out of the box are destined for the dustbin of history.


It’s human nature to try to retrofit new things into a familiar context and we’re consistently guilty of this in marketing—remember the original websites of the early 90s that looked like PDFs? It takes a while for us to accept that a new platform or technology is different and even longer to understand how to use it. Eventually we figure it out but it’s inevitably a painful process so it’s essential that we think less like marketers and more like anthropologists, looking not so much at the technology but at the changes the technology is triggering in human behavior. Because while the connected world around us is making our lives easier in some respects, it’s making things much more complicated on others. Never have we faced so much potential friction in the customer journey and smart brands understand that the key to success is reducing that friction in an increasingly frenetic world. The 4Ps are the key to doing so and brands that understand how the original paradigm is activated, augmented, and amplified by the new one are the brands that will thrive.


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