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Research Propositions, and Managerial Implications

Morgan, in Riding the Waves of Change (Jossey-Bass, 1988), suggests that one of the greatest limitations of the 4 Ps approach “is that it unconsciously emphasizes the inside–out view (looking from the company outwards), whereas the essence of marketing should be the outside–in approach”. An inside-out approach is the traditional planning approach where the organisation identifies its desired goals and objectives which are often based around what has always been done. Marketing’s task then becomes one of “selling” the organisation’s products and messages to the “outside” or external stakeholders.[46] In contrast, an outside-in approach first seeks to understand the needs and wants of the consumer.[47]

From a model-building perspective, the 4 Ps has attracted a number of criticisms. Well-designed models should exhibit clearly defined categories that are mutually exclusive, with no overlap. Yet, the 4 Ps model has extensive overlapping problems. Some of the Ps are only defined in vague terms. Several authors stress the hybrid nature of the fourth P, mentioning the presence of two important dimensions, “communication” (general and informative communications such as public relations and corporate communications) and “promotion” (persuasive communications such as advertising and direct selling). Certain marketing activities, such as personal selling, may be classified as either promotion or as part of the place (i.e. distribution) element.[48] Some pricing tactics such as promotional pricing can be classified as price variables or promotional variables and therefore also exhibit some overlap.

Other important criticisms include that the marketing mix lacks a strategic framework and is therefore unfit to be a planning instrument, particularly when uncontrollable, external elements are an important aspect of the marketing environment.[49]