If you believe, as we do, that good marketing exists to help people, then by definition, everything starts with a purpose

Finally a fifth ‘P’ worth adding

If you believe, as we do, that good marketing exists to help people, then by definition, everything starts with a purpose.

After twenty years in marketing, you get used to people trying to improve or replace E Jerome McCarthy’s beautifully simple Four Ps of the Marketing Mix, set down in 1960 – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. We’ve had an extra three Ps for services marketing – People, Process and Physical Evidence, though I’ve always thought of these as sub-divisions of ‘Product’, in this context.

Others have added extra Ps like Packaging or Positioning. Some have given up on Ps altogether and gone with Cs. Recently I was asked what the Five Is are! All these extras certainly help inform the conversation about what marketing and its process is, but as a result, suddenly McCarthy’s beautiful simplicity becomes overly complex and confusing. To my mind, it’s never been beaten.

However, perhaps finally we’ve found another P worthy of addition, and placed at the top of the deck too: Purpose. If you believe, as we do, that good marketing exists to help people, then by definition, everything starts with a purpose, which can’t simply be to make money – get everything else right, including a meaningful mission, and the money should follow.

In a world where marketing is accused of everything from wasting the world’s resources to creating problems to drive demand, it’s our duty, our responsibility, to start any project by asking ourselves why a product should exist in the first place. How does it genuinely help its identified customer, individually and collectively?

Fast Company magazine recently ran a cover story called ‘Find Your Mission’, showing how this philosophy has helped such companies as Chipotle, Apple and Google, and for good strategic reasons. Indeed, the next generation of executives, it suggests, aren’t interested in simply picking up their cheque, they are looking for employers who have a purpose they can relate to and help advance, which benefits all. And, if true, then this provides plenty of reason to be optimistic.

Of course, the focus of the article is on defining the raison d’etre at the corporate level, but as the voice of the customer inside the organisation, and the key driver of business strategy, the marketing function is instrumental in championing the role of ‘purpose’ in the organisation, and hence promoting responsible business.

By Martin Williams