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The New 4 Ps of Marketing: Participation, Platform, Personalization, Prediction

July 25, 2018 7:25PM

Participation – One of the New 4 Ps of Marketing

Digital technology has disrupted nearly every segment of marketing, and the classic “4 Ps” are no exception. While traditionally, they have stood for pricing, product, promotion and placement, the power of social media marketing has prompted my development of “4 Ps 2.0,” which are participation, platform, personalization, and prediction. It’s now possible to look at the strategic and analytical aspects of digital marketing using the lens of both the traditional and the new 4 Ps. For example, a traditional P, placement, is no longer exclusively in a store, and also has significant implications for digital search. In the same way, modern promotions must take the power of prediction into account, with reliable ways for marketers to predict who will respond to campaigns and how to target them accordingly.

Connecting with Consumers

Today, we’ll take a closer look at the first new P, participation. Leveraging social media, brands can be closer than ever to their customer base, and savvy organizations are taking advantage of this. Starbucks is one prime example. My Starbucks Idea, an interactive platform where users submitted and voted on recommendations for Starbucks products, was launched almost ten years ago. Though the platform has recently been reduced to a simple submission page, it can take credit for such innovations as the splash stick and pumpkin spice latte-flavored instant coffee. Another fun example of customer participation driving brand innovation in B2C companies is LEGO IDEAS. While LEGO IDEAS retains the capability for participants to vote on product concepts, its approach is more business-like, with tighter guidelines, and compensation from LEGO for chosen ideas.

The Benefits

The benefit of this kind of interaction with customers is clear – engaged consumers become promoters for brands. It's this mindset that helped a small startup like Chobani surge past General Mills to corner the yogurt market in just a decade. Chobani effectively leveraged social media in several ways, including utilizing a far-reaching Instagram campaign.

At Carlson School, we partner with corporations on applied analytics projects and research. During one such project, the Carlson Analytics Lab worked with a mobile gaming app development company looking to increase player retention. To accomplish this, we set out to find an avenue to increase participation. Initially, when using the app, consumers received pre-made decks. However, we found that allowing consumers to co-create their decks reduced user tendency to abandon the app by 14%. This smart, intentional engagement goes beyond brand awareness and increases participation.

The Caveats

Consumer participation seems like a no-brainer in the social media age, but brands and organizations still have a fine line to walk. Opening doors to comments means firms will see some negative feedback. It’s critical that these firms have a strategy and resources to appropriately address this feedback. 

Additionally, too much participation can turn out to be too much of a good thing. At, users could upload their photos and print them on blankets, mugs, phone cases, photobooks, and more. They were given a lot of open-ended options and held complete control over the end product. However, this model didn’t work for every consumer. In fact, Collage found that the users who were uncomfortable designing their own products would not complete the buying process. Upwards of 70% of users who started a Collage did not finish it. To solve this problem, we worked with Collage to design a randomized field experiment to test whether we could instigate social learning. We provided users examples of other users’ designs during the front end of the process. Rather than providing polished examples, we used relatable designs to boost consumer confidence and guide participation. We found that under certain conditions, showing other users’ designs can be highly effective in influencing the purchase and design behavior of the focal customer. However, for this strategy to be effective, firms must choose the right customers and carefully select the type of user design for display.

Upcoming Carlson Executive Education Event

We’ll examine the rest of the New 4 Ps of Marketing on Monday, Sept. 17, when Carlson Executive Education hosts AMA members for a discussion on how 21st century marketers can reframe traditional models in an evolving digital landscape. Register today!