Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Exploring the Fifth and Sixth P of Marketing

For years I’ve written about how the 4 Ps of Marketing, Product, Place, Pricing, and Promotion represented a dated perspective of customers and markets. In an era of connected consumerism, one could argue the merits of any of “Ps” and whether or not they’re still relevant. I suppose that’s a debate for another time. Instead, I’d like to introduce of two additional Ps that will propel a decades old concept and modernize it for a social economy.

Truth be told, there are many words that can find their way into this discussion. I’m sure we can find words that begin with the same consonant. But we now live in an era where customers are more connected, informed, and empowered, and as a result, their expectations amplify and modify. To adapt, new pillars are needed whether or not they start with the letter P. Rather than run through the dictionary, I would like to share two words that I believe are more important than ever before—people and purpose.

For those who’ve followed my work over the last decade, you’ll note that I’ve often referred to “people” as the “5th P of Marketing.” It wasn’t until recently however that I finally put all of the pieces together to consider a 6th P, in this case adding “Purpose” to the mix.

While on stage at the Pivot Conference, I had an opportunity to interview Leslie Gaines-Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist at Weber Shandwick, about the real world risks and opportunities of reputation warfare in a digital age. Somewhere in the middle of the conversation people and purpose emerged as key pillars to help businesses rally teams and build communities around common interests. The importance of purpose resonated with me. I’d always pushed leaders to consider purpose as they pursued innovation, transformation and inspiration. It didn’t dawn on me until that moment however that its place amongst the other P’s was in fact overdue.

People as the 5th P

In a social economy, it’s practically absurd that this requires explanation. People should be or should have been at the center of everything. It’s been argued though that people are already at the core of each of the existing 4 P’s. But I disagree.

If we measure actions rather than intentions, it’s easy to overlook the importance of people in the mix. See, for the most part people are largely lumped into market segments, spoken to as audiences, and serviced as tickets. Honestly, we can do better. We must do better.

Understanding the needs and expectations of people inspires an important element often missing in day-to-day business strategy…empathy. It is empathy after all that unlocks ambition to do something that goes beyond the ordinary. It offers clarity to help see beyond routine roadmaps and reports. Empathy also channels aspiration to help teams strive to always do better. The result? Businesses will possess the means to develop more meaningful products and services as well as the procure confidence and resources to truly engage customers to build thriving communities.

Once you feel, really feel what people experience and what it is they need or do not know to need, innovation follows. And this is a time for innovation as people and how they connect, discover, communicate and share, is evolving. Technology continues to influence behavior and as behavior shifts, decision-making, preferences, expectations, and influence also progress. Understanding and appreciating people, and the individuals that make up our markets, teaches us how to in turn become more human…especially at a time when brands are becoming people and people are becoming brands.

At the end of the day, we are the very people we are trying to reach. You, me and the scores of people like us form the 5th P.

Purpose as the 6th P

When you work in the business of change, you eventually notice that regardless of the technology you adopt or the trends you pursue, one of the key things that’s often missing is a sense of direction or aspiration. I’m not referring to a common vision or mission statement though. Actions for the most part speak louder than words. Here, motive, objective, and resolve are paramount and they’re manifested in the leadership and its decrees to bring about real change.

I spend my time in the throes of digital transformation and as you can imagine, there’s a great deal of politics, emotion, and anxiety at work. In many cases, efforts to lead change are done so in the absence of bearing or alignment. Steps are taken simply because that’s what is supposed to happen not because a course was defined. As such, existing processes, philosophies and communications channels sometimes work against the quest to pursue the 5th and 6th P. In order to unite teams and decision makers around a common vision, that vision must be defined and it must resonate.

I’ve done my fair share of developing business transformation initiatives and seeing them through for longer than I care to count. Part of that work involves helping executives visualize and vocalize the future of customer engagement and experiences and translate this new direction as a matter of purpose. It’s imperative that this edict and the mission come from the top. For without it, change is stunted. It’s at this very point where I often see the difference between management and leadership rear its true colors. The reality is that not every executive is a leader. But like empathy, leadership is also a fundamental pillar in articulating a vision for transformation. Someone must rise to the occasion.

It’s not easy of course. It takes courage to see what others can’t and do what others cannot or won’t. You’re setting out to shock and reshape your company’s culture and to do so takes leadership, vision, and alignment to bring about sustainable change.

Start by asking and answering a few important questions:

1. What does are business stand for and what does it mean to a shifting consumer landscape now and five or ten years from now?

2. How does evolution in customer behavior and expectations affect our current business priorities and investments?

3. What are the challenges that hold back the organization from pursuing our existing and emerging goals?

4. What initiatives are underway within the organization that we can plug into, align, or reassign to pursue transformation?

5. What does the future of exemplary relationships with people (employees and customers) look like and what it is we want them to do, feel, share, and love about us?

I often think about a conversation that I had one night with good friend Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. When I asked him about his inspiration for “delivering happiness” to customers, he turned and in a calm but assertive voice explained, “Companies that focused on customers and on a higher purpose outperformed those that focused on market leadership and profitability in the long run.”

I then asked him about the importance of vision and creating a supportive culture as he set out to deliver happiness. “Your culture is your brand. Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company,” Hsieh revealed. He then shared the importance of unity in bringing about change and marching collectively in a new direction, “Customer service is about making customers happy, company culture is about making employees happy, so let’s just simplify it and at the same time, amplify our vision for our customers, employees, vendors, and peers.”

Whether or not you agree that People and Purpose officially earn a place among the traditional set of Ps is certainly open to discussion. But the impact of these two pillars in undeniable. By investing in People and Purpose, we will spark a revolution in not only business philosophy and supporting processes but more notably in the shift from a culture of management to leadership.

Originally appeared in AMA’s Marketing News magazine

Connect with me: Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+

The End of Business as Usual is officially here…

Image credit: Shuttestock (edited)

exploring the Fifth and sixth Ps of marketing by Brian Solis

52 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Exploring the Fifth and Sixth P of Marketing”

  1. Dara Khajavi says:

    In school, the 4 P’s were drilled into our minds. However, the market has continued to grow and evolve. I completely agree with your concept of the fifth and sixth P of marketing. It is important for a business to be empathetic and remember its purpose. Thank you for this amazing post.

  2. David Mattichak says:

    Having spent my professional life working in hospitality I learned early on that the first ‘P’ of every business is people. A business isn’t the products that it sells or the services that it provides it is the people that are the business. Customers aren’t just faceless entities that spend an average amount per head with your business they are people that you develop relationships with as they engage with the people in your business.
    Businesses that can’t define their purpose are sure to founder, the purpose has to exist before the business starts.
    Thanks for the great poit of view, it is very thought provoking, as usual.

  3. Pascal Beucler, SVP & CSO says:

    Thanks Brian.

    Couldn’t agree more with you!

    People & Purpose as the 5th and 6th P of Marketing: couldn’t agree more with B. Solis! This is what we actually name PurPle (Purpose & People) @MSLGROUP and I know that the whole PurPle Dream Team in our network will joyfully approve:)

    Pascal Beucler

    SVP & Chief Strategy Officer MSLGROUP

  4. Great insight! One could also make a case for yet another “P”… Payment. The global payment system is at the cusp of undergoing enormous change, with retailers creating their own payment options and systems, in effect locking out banks and the rest of the payment system (read interchange), they stand to forge a direct relationship with the consumer. Directly captured customer data, purchase behavior and financial information/access become the goldmines of the future. Walmart’s Bluebird, Target’s Red, and the potential of MCX are all emerging examples of how retailers are taking control of the payment system and disintermediating a long-established payment system process. Going to be fun to see how this one plays out!

  5. Dr. Rae says:

    Bravo Brian… The fifth, and sixth P of marketing are, and have been our signature marketing strategy, and vision. Thank you for adding your perspective with your exploration!

  6. Martin James says:

    I recall Danny Brown talking about this – or a version of it – back in 2010:

    It’s not that the Four P’s are outdated – they just need to be fluid to change.

  7. Great article! I so agree that not only should People be included, but Purpose is an important part of marketing and one that is often overlooked. Purpose is important both internally and externally. Internally to help your staff understand where they fit in the whole picture and why they are there and what value they bring. Externally, the more transparent our actions are with social media and the internet, the more important it is to understand your company purpose so that it comes out organically in what you do rather than being artificially engineered and executed.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I thought there was 7 already, are we going backwards…

    Everyone forgets the importance of People, Process and Physical Evidence. This concept has been around since I started studying marketing in the early 00s.

    We could also add Positioning as another P. Which brings us to 8!

    And just like this article others have proposed Purpose as another P. That makes 9!

    Others have have proposed Personality, Performance and Presence. I think that makes 12!

    Product – Place – Price – Promotion – Process – People – Physical Evidence – Purpose – Positioning – Personality – Performance – Presence

    Which is Your favourite? and Why?

    • briansolis says:


      The others are functions of the above…
      Process – Physical Evidence – Positioning – Personality – Performance – Presence

  9. Dave Crenshaw says:

    Definitely agree to include People and Purpose on the P’s of Marketing. Excellent post, Brian!

  10. Farky Rafiq says:

    Chartered Institute of Marketing UK defines the following as 7,
    Product, Place, Price, Promotion, People, Process and Physical evidence (CIM 2005)

  11. Katy M says:

    As a current student, I hear about the 4P’s all the time. You bring up such great points with the 5th and 6th P’s and I think that as marketers and students, we need to be talking about these more. Thanks for a great article I can share with my professors.

  12. Ellen Murphy says:

    Along with the rest of the comments, I couldn’t agree with you more. People and Purpose should be the FIRST components taught in any marketing (and business in general) courses. Business is nothing without people to support it, and you can’t expect to effectively engage people unless the actions of your business are deliberate and consistent in implementing a specific purpose.

  13. BenParis says:

    Again, thank you Brian for bringing up the subject. And I appreciate Pascal’s good point: the color as a result of primary colors mix (purple), like in your “5P’s”circles overlapping in order to make the “people” appear…nice! The new retail frontiers have moved forward with the development of digital marketing, and this “re-appeared” transparency is beneficial to customers. Having a purpose has always been at the core of any successful business, even before modern marketing, and hopefully empathy will be the key driver.

  14. Darragh Mulryan says:

    You wouldn’t believe the stuff the still teach in the colleges, I’m studying marketing in Spain for the year and I’m still learning about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from a book published years ago. Of all the courses I’m taking only one had one chapter on online marketing and the use of social media

  15. Sheetal Sharma says:

    The extended P’s of marketing or to be more precise the services industry talk about the same elements listed in this post,And i couldn’t agree more as I work for Synechron – a company providing IT solutions to financial services sector where the 5th and the 6th P of marketing holds immense importance.

  16. Greg Beckett says:

    I thought the 7p’s of Marketing (People, Process, Physical Evidence) have been around since 1981 with Booms and Bitner. Is there any reason why you’ve decided to replace the latter two with purpose?

    • briansolis says:

      There are so many variants of this…hence the word “exploring” in the headline. I’ve looked at this over and over since the early 90s. People to me was always missing from popular takes on the 4Ps…but purpose, it’s overdue. In an experience economy, purpose becomes paramount.

  17. Arushi Gupta says:

    This was a very interesting read, I agree with you that the 5th and 6th Ps of marketing are essential to its success. I’m guessing it will only be a matter of time before textbooks are revamped and these elements are added as well. I know in some of my classes profit is taught as a ‘P of Marketing” as well but I think that people and purpose seem to fit much better with the overarching theme and objective of the marketing function.

  18. Zahid Zia says:

    Good article , Agreed with your 5th and 6th P

  19. disqus_Ixm7ZB40ul says:

    Genius. Here’s the resonant part for me: Understanding and appreciating people, and the individuals that make up our markets, teaches us how to in turn become more human…especially at a time when brands are becoming people and people are becoming brands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Stay Connected