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Using the 7Ps as a generic marketing mix: An exploratory survey of UK and European marketing academics

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Abstract

McCarthy′s 4Ps mix has increasingly come under attack with the result that different marketing mixes have been put forward for different marketing contexts. Contends that the numerous and ad hoc conceptualizations undermine the concept of the marketing mix and proposes that Booms and Bitner′s (1981) 7Ps mix for services be extended to other areas of marketing. Shows how the 7Ps framework can be applied to consumer goods and reports the results of a survey of UK and European marketing academics which suggest that there is a high degree of dissatisfaction with 4Ps. Also suggests that the 7Ps framework has already achieved a high degree of acceptance as a generic marketing mix among both groups of respondents. Overall provides fairly strong support for the view that Booms and Bitner′s 7Ps framework should replace McCarthy′s 4Ps framework.
Introduction
The marketing mix concept is one of the core concepts of
marketing theory. However, in recent years, the popular
version of this concept McCarthy’s (1964) 4Ps (product,
price, promotion and place) has increasingly come under
attack with the result that different marketing mixes
have been put forward for different marketing contexts.
While numerous modifications to the 4Ps framework
have been proposed (see for example Kotler, 1986;
Mindak and Fine, 1981; Nickels and Jolson, 1976;
Waterschoot and Bulte. 1992) the most concerted
criticism has come from the services marketing area. In
particular Booms and Bitner’s (1981) extension of the 4Ps
framework to include process, physical evidence and
participants, has gained widespread acceptance in the
services marketing literature. The proliferation of
numerous ad hoc conceptualizations has undermined the
concept of the marketing mix and what is required is a
more coherent approach. It is our contention that Booms
and Bitner’s (1981) extended marketing mix for services
should be extended to other areas of marketing. This
article shows how the 7Ps framework can be applied to
consumer goods, marketing situations and demonstrates
the clear advantages that it has over the 4Ps framework.
Also we present the results of a survey of European
marketing academics, that attempts to assess the degree
of dissatisfaction with the 4Ps concept and the
acceptance of the 7Ps framework as a generic
framework.
In order to place the research in context we begin by
outlining the theoretical framework underpinning this
research. We begin with a discussion of the concept of
the marketing mix and the elements that constitute the
mix, as there is a considerable variablity in the usage of
these terms in the literature.
The marketing mix concept
Borden claims to be the first to have used the term
“marketing mix” and that it was was suggested to him by
Culliton’s (1948) description of a business executive as
“mixer of ingredients”. However, Borden did not formally
define the marketing mix; to him it simply consisted of
important elements or ingredients that make up a
marketing programme (Borden, 1965, p. 389). McCarthy
(1964, p. 35) refined this further and defined the
marketing mix as a combination of all of the factors at a
marketing manger’s command to satisfy the target
market. More recently McCarthy and Perreault (1987)
have defined the marketing mix as the controllable
variables that an organization can co-ordinate to satisfy
its target market.This definition (with minor changes) is
widely accepted as can be seen from Kotler and
Armstrong’s definition of the marketing mix:
as the set of controllable marketing variables that the firm
blends to produce the response it wants in the target market
(1989, p. 45).
The essence of the marketing mix concept is, therefore,
the idea of a set of controllable variables or a “tool kit”
(Shapiro, 1985) at the disposal of marketing management
which can be used to influence customers. The
disagreement in the literature is over what these
controllable variables or tools are.
The elements of the marketing mix
Borden, in his original marketing mix, had a set of 12
elements namely:
(1) product planning;
(2) pricing;
(3) branding;
(4) channels of distribution;
(5) personal selling;
(6) advertising;
4 MARKETING INTELLIGENCE & PLANNING 13,9
Using the 7Ps as a generic
marketing mix:
an exploratory survey of UK and European marketing
academics
Mohammed Rafiq and Pervaiz K. Ahmed
The 7Ps framework has clear advantages over the 4Ps framework
Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 13 No. 9, 1995, pp. 4-15 © MCB
University Press Limited, 0263-4503
(7) promotions;
(8) packaging;
(9) display;
(10) servicing;
(11) physical handling; and
(12) fact finding and analysis.
He did not consider this list of elements to be fixed or
sacrosanct and suggested that others may have a
different list to his. Other suggested frameworks include
Frey’s (1961) suggestion that marketing variables should
be divided into two parts: the offering (product,
packaging, brand, price, service) and the methods and
tools (distribution channels, personal selling, advertising,
sales promotion and publicity). Lazer and Kelly (1962)
and Lazer et al. (1973), on the other hand, suggest three
elements: the goods and services mix, the distribution
mix and the communication mix. However, the most
popular and most enduring marketing mix framework
has been that of McCarthy who regrouped and reduced
Borden’s 12 elements to the now popular 4Ps, namely:
product, price, promotion and place (McCarthy, 1964, p.
38). Each of these categories consists of a mix of elements
in itself and hence one can speak of the “product mix”,
“the promotion mix”, and so forth. For instance, Kotler
and Armstrong list advertising, personal selling, sales
promotion and publicity under the heading of
promotion.The 4Ps formulation is so popular, in fact, that
some authors of introductory textbooks define the
marketing mix synonymously with the 4Ps (see for
example Pride and Ferrell, 1989, p. 19; and Stanton et al.
1991, p. 13).
While McCarthy’s 4Ps framework is popular, there is by
no means a consensus of opinion as to what elements
constitute the marketing mix. In fact the 4Ps framework
has been subjected to much criticism. Kent (1986), for
example, argues that the 4Ps framework is too simplistic
and misleading. Various other authors have found the 4Ps
framework wanting and have suggested their own
changes. For instance, Nickels and Jolson (1976) suggest
the addition of packaging as the fifth P in the marketing
mix. Mindak and Fine (1981) suggested the inclusion of
public relations as the fifth P. Kotler suggests the addition
of Power as well as public relations in the context of
“megamarketing” (1986). Payne, and Ballantyne (1991)
suggest the addition of people, processes, and customer
service for relationship marketing. Judd (1987) suggests
the addition of people as a method of differentiation in
industrial marketing.
These criticisms and suggestions for change have been
largely ad hoc and have arisen out of consideration of
specific marketing problems. Much more concerted
criticism has come from the areas of industrial and
services marketing. These are considered below.
The need for modification of the 4Ps mix
Industrial marketers have long claimed that industrial
marketing has features that make it unique and different
to consumer marketing. The most important of these
features are product complexity and buying process
complexity that leads to a high degree of interdependence
between buyers and sellers. This has led Webster (1984)
to assert that the essence of industrial marketing is the
buyer-seller relationship which binds the two together in
pursuit of their corporate goals, each becoming
dependent on the other. The focus of industrial marketing
should not be products but buyer-seller relationships
(Webster, 1984, p. 52).
In the buyer-seller interaction process the influence
process is negotiation and not persuasion, as is implied
by the marketing mix approach (Webster, 1984, p. 63).
Industrial marketing has, therefore, tended to emphasize
the importance of building of relationships in marketing
rather than the manipulation of the market through the
marketing mix.The criticism levelled at the 4Ps by the
interaction/network approach is that personal contacts
are rarely discussed and even then only in the context of
salesperson-consumer interaction, where the mass
marketing approach is insufficient (for example the sale
of insurance and cars). Long-term relationships are more
important than obtaining immediate sales, as personal
relationships can be longer lasting than product or brand
loyalties (Gummesson, 1987).
More recently the weaknesses of the goods marketing
approach have been exposed by the growing literature on
services marketing. There is a growing consensus in the
services marketing literature that services marketing is
different because of the nature of services. That is,
because of their inherent intangibility, perishability,
heterogeneity and inseparability (Berry, 1984; Lovelock,
1979; Shostack, 1977) services require a different type of
marketing and a different marketing mix (Booms and
Bitner, 1981). The original marketing mix as developed
by Borden, it is argued, does not incorporate the
characteristics of services, as it was derived from
research on manufacturing companies (Cowell 1984;
Shostack, 1977), and it is also argued that there is
evidence that 4Ps formulation is inadequate for services
marketing (Shostack 1977; 1979).
Various modifications have been suggested to
incorporate the unique aspects of services, for example
Renaghan (1981) proposes a three-element marketing mix
for the hospitality industry: the product service mix, the
presentation mix and the communications mix. A more
recent attempt at reformulating the marketing mix is that
of Brunner’s 4C’s concept (1989), which comprises the
concept mix, costs mix, channels mix and communi-
cations mix. The concept mix is broadly equivalent to the
idea of the product mix idea, although Brunner claims
5
USING THE 7Ps AS A GENERIC MARKETING MIX
that it is better at describing variety of offerings by
various types of organizations.The cost concept includes
not just monetary costs (i.e., the traditional price element)
but also costs incurred by the customer e.g. trans-
portation, parking, information gathering, etc. The
channels concept is essentially the same as the traditional
place element. The communications element includes not
only the traditional, promotional element but also
information gathering, i.e., marketing research.
In essence Brunner’s attempt amounts to a change in
nomenclature, the 4Ps being replaced by 4Cs. Further-
more, his cost and communications concepts do not
strictly adhere to the concept of the marketing mix as a
set of controllable variables used to influence the
customer: cost incurred by customers in obtaining
products such as transport, information gathering and so
forth are not under the control of the marketers and, in
any case, will vary from customer to customer. Also,
marketing research activities per se are not used to
influence buyer behaviour, they are used to calibrate the
marketing mix variables. Further, Brunner does not show
how the 4Cs concept addresses the concerns of services
and industrial marketing mentioned above.
The most influential of the alternative frameworks is,
however, Booms and Bitner’s 7Ps mix where they suggest
that not only do the traditional 4Ps need to be modified
for services (see Table I) but they also need to be extended
to include participants, physical evidence and process.
Their framework is discussed below.
The Booms and Bitner framework
In Booms and Bitner’s framework participants are all
human actors who play a part in service delivery, namely
6 MARKETING INTELLIGENCE & PLANNING 13,9
Table I. The marketing mix
Product Price Place Promotion Participants Physical evidence Process
Traditional
Quality Level Distribution Advertising
Features and Discounts and channels Personal selling
options allowances Distribution Sales promotion
Style Payment terms coverage Publicity
Brand name Outlet locations
Packaging Sales territories
Product line Inventory levels
Warranty and locations
Service level
Other services Transport
carriers
Source: Kotler (1976)
Modified and expanded for services
Quality Level Location Advertising Personnel: Environment: Policies
Brand name Discounts and Accessibility Personal selling Training Furnishings Procedures
Service line allowances Distribution Sales promotion Discretion Colour Mechanization
Warranty Payment terms channels Publicity Commitment Layout Employee
Capabilities Customer’s own Distribution Personnel Incentives Noise level discretion
Facilitating perceived coverage Physical Appearence Facilitating Customer
goods value environment Interpersonal goods involvement
Tangible clues Quality/price Facilitating behaviour Tangible clues Customer
Price interaction goods Attitudes direction
Personnel Differentiation Tangible clues Other customers’: Flow of
Physical Process of Behaviour activities
environment service Degree of
Process of delivery involvement,
service Customer/
delivery customer
contact
Source: Booms and Bitner (1981)
the firm’s personnel and other customers. In services
(especially, “high contact” services such as restaurants
and airlines) because of the simultaneity of production
and consumption, the firm’s personnel occupy a key
position in influencing customer perceptions of product
quality. In fact, they are part of the product and hence
product quality is inseparable from the quality of the
service provider (Berry, 1984). It is important, therefore,
to pay particular attention to the quality of employees
and to monitor their performance. This is especially
important in services because employees tend to be
variable in their performance, which can lead to variable
quality.
The participants’ concept also includes the customer who
buys the service and other customers in the service
environment. Marketing managers therefore need to
manage not only the service provider-customer interface
but also the actions of other customers. For example, the
number, type and behaviour of people will partly
determine the enjoyment of a meal at a restaurant.
Physical evidence in the Booms and Bitner framework
refers to the environment in which the service is delivered
and any tangible goods that facilitate the performance
and communication of the service. Physical evidence is
important because customers use tangible clues to assess
the quality of service provided. Thus, the more
intangible-dominant a service is, the greater the need to
make the service tangible (Shostack, 1977). Credit cards
are an example of the use of tangible evidence that
facilitates the provision of (intangible) credit facilities by
banks and credit card companies. The physical
environment itself (i.e. the buildings, decor, furnishings,
layout, etc.) is instrumental in customers’ assessment of
the quality and level of service they can expect, for
example in restaurants, hotels, retailing and many other
services. In fact, the physical environment is part of the
product itself.
The procedures, mechanisms and flow of activities by
which the service is acquired are referred to as process in
Booms and Bitner’s 7Ps framework. The process of
obtaining a meal at a self-service, fast-food outlet such as
Burger King, is clearly different from that at a full-service
restaurant. Furthermore, in a service situation customers
are likely to have to queue before they can be served and
the service delivery itself is likely to take a certain length
of time. Marketers, therefore,have to ensure that
customers understand the process of acquiring a service
and that the queuing and delivery times are acceptable to
customers.
However, supporters of the 4Ps argue that there is no
need to amend or extend the 4Ps, as the extensions
suggested by Booms and Bitner can be incorporated into
the existing framework. The argument is that consumers
experience a bundle of satisfactions and dissatisfactions
that derive from all dimensions of the product whether
tangible or intangible. Buttle (1989) for example, argues
that the product and/or promotion elements may
incorporate participants (in the Booms and Bitner
framework) and that physical evidence and processes
may be thought of as being part of the product.
In fact, Booms and Bitner (1981) themselves argue that
product decisions should involve the three new elements
in their proposed mix (see Table I). Nevertheless, Bitner,
while accepting that physical evidence, participants and
process could be incorporated into the traditional 4Ps
framework, argues that separating them out draws
attention to factors that are of “expressed importance” to
service-firm managers (Bitner, 1990, p. 70).
Furthermore, Booms and Bitner argue that these new
elements are essential to “the definition and promotion of
services in the consumers’ eyes, both prior to and during
the service experience” (Booms and Bitner, 1981, p. 48).
Furthermore, these elements can be controlled by the
firm and used to influence buyer behaviour and hence
should be included in the expanded marketing mix:
The potential power of these elements results from the large
degree of direct contact between the firm and the customer,
the highly visible nature of the service assembly process,
and the simultaneity of production and consumption
(Booms and Bitner, 1981, p. 48).
Despite this, introductory texts on marketing, which
while propagating the notion that services marketing is
different, continue to use the 4Ps framework for services
marketing (see for example, Kotler and Armstrong, 1989;
and Stanton et al. 1991). However, there is some
recognition of the need for change as evidenced by that
fact the one of the leading marketing texts in the UK has
added people to the traditional 4Ps of the marketing mix
variables (Dibb et al., 1994, p. 5).
The need for generic marketing mix
Booms and Bitner in their original article clearly intended
the extended marketing mix to be limited to services
marketing.This position, of having a separate marketing
mix for services, is difficult to maintain, however, when
one can find statements in the services literature such as
those by Levitt (1981) that:
Everybody sells intangibles in the marketplace no matter
what is produced in the factory…
Also that:
…there is no such thing as the service industries. There are
only industries whose service components are greater or
lesser than those of other industries. Everybody is in service.
(Levitt, 1972, p. 41).
7
USING THE 7Ps AS A GENERIC MARKETING MIX
This is similar to Shostack’s view of goods and services
as a continuum with goods being tangible-dominant and
services being intangible-dominant (Shostack, 1977). In
fact, there being few if any pure goods or services as
products are usually an amalgam of goods and services.
Similarly, Foxall (1985, p. 2) contends that what is
exchanged in a marketing transaction “is a service (or a
bundle of services) which may or may not involve the
transfer of a physical entity”. Cowell goes even further
and contends that there are no fundamental differences
between marketing of goods and services:
What differences there are, are of the sort often drawn to
distinguish between “consumer marketing” and “industrial
marketing” that is differences of degree and of
emphasis…the same principles and concepts are of
relevance to all fields” (Cowell, 1984, p. 36).
If that is the case then why should the marketing mix be
different for goods and services? As Enis and Roering
(1981) point out, if the product is defined as a bundle of
benefits (with tangible and intangible elements) then the
call for a unique services marketing strategy is
inconsistent with such a definition of the product.
In light of the above, what is needed is a marketing mix
which cuts across the boundaries of goods, services and
industrial marketing, i.e. a generic marketing mix. It is
contended here that the Booms and Bitner framework can
and should be extended to goods and industrial
marketing and that there are distinct advantages in doing
this. Below it is shown how the 7Ps framework can be
extended to goods marketing.
7Ps and consumer goods marketing
In the goods marketing framework the product,
promotion and pricing of the product is controlled by the
manufacturer, but distribution is normally delegated to
marketing intermediaries. One has to ask what services
the distributor provides to the manufacturer and the
consumer. It is quite evident from the reference to the
distribution function as “place” in the 4Ps framework that
the distributors’ role in providing somewhere for the
consumer to obtain goods is well accepted and
understood. Intermediaries also provide people to explain
product features and to market the products, and the
demeanour and training of these staff can be crucial in
the selling of goods. Furthermore, presence or absence of
other customers can be a factor in buyer-behaviour. For
example, long queues at check-outs in supermarkets put
many customers off from shopping there. Intermediaries
also control the process to some extent of obtaining
goods. This relates not only to queuing at the check out
but may also include, packing, delivery, maintaining
waiting lists and ordering goods from manufacturers on
the customers’ behalf and may include membership
schemes as in the case of warehouse clubs. Inter-
mediaries, such as retailers, are also responsible for the
physical evidence of the environment in which consumer
products are sold. Department stores and warehouse
clubs, for instance, are distinguishable from each other
from their retail environments alone.
Figure 1 illustrates the fact that in goods marketing, the
participants, physical evidence and process parts of the
extended marketing mix are normally delegated to
distributors. This is because normally these elements
make very little difference to the quality of the delivered
product in consumer goods marketing and what is
important is wide distribution. Where quality, or the
image of the product is affected, intermediaries may be
eliminated. This is particularly likely to occur if the
manufacturer produces a deep range of products.
Examples of this process include, Thorntons (a UK
manufacturer and retailer of quality chocolates),
Benetton, and Disney stores.The case of Thorntons is
instructive: the chocolate manufacturer has its own retail
outlets to emphasize the exclusivity of Thorntons’
chocolates and to ensure that chocolates are of the high
quality that customers expect from Thorntons. The
elimination of intermediaries, or at least the shortening of
the distribution channel, is also likely to occur where the
product requires a high degree of service (cars, for
example).
In contrast, in services marketing, all parts of the mix are
normally under the direct control of the service providers
(see Figure 1); i.e. services are less frequently distributed
through intermediaries. Some services are, however,
distributed through intermediaries (for example package
holidays, and insurance, etc.). This is most likely to occur
where a standardized, prepackaged service can be
8 MARKETING INTELLIGENCE & PLANNING 13,9
Product
Price
Promotion
Place
Participants
Process
Physical evidence
Product
Price
Promotion
Place
Participants
Process
Physical evidence
Place
Participants
Process
Physical evidence
Customer
Physical goods
Producer
Intermediaries
Services
Producer
Key
Normal route
Less frequent route
Figure 1. The extended marketing mix and the relationship
between producers and intermediaries in goods and services
marketing
offered. McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dominos
Pizza provide good examples of where a standardized
product is distributed via an intermediary (namely a
franchisee). In all these examples the producers maintain
strict control over the product, promotion, the prices
charged, the physical location, look and layout of the
outlet, and operating procedures and standards. This is
only possible because the producers are able to lay down
exact specifications for their products. Hence, where
service delivery can be standardized and the quality of
service easily controlled and monitored, services
marketing resembles goods marketing. In fact, service
marketers should be actively seeking to standardize their
services or “industrialize” services as Levitt (1976) puts it.
Even in these examples, however, the channels of
distribution tend to be short. Similar analysis can be
extended to other types of marketing.
As far as we are aware, there is no empirical research
available to date that tests the satisfaction of marketing
academics with either the 4Ps or 7Ps framework. It was,
therefore, decided to conduct a survey to find out which of
these frameworks marketing academics were using, and
how and why they were using them.
Methodology
The target respondents of this survey were the delegates
of the UK’s Marketing Education Group (MEG)
Conference held in Salford in 1992 and the European
Marketing Academy (EMAC) Conference held in
Aarhaus, Denmark in May 1992. The two conferences
were selected because they are probably the two largest
annual marketing conferences in Europe. Also the two
conferences provided the opportunity to compare the
views of the participants of one conference with a
national reputation (MEG) with those of the participants
of a conference with an international reputation (EMAC).
It was believed that the participants of the two
conferences had different profiles and that this may be a
factor in the opinions held by the respondents.
To maximize the response rate a modified-mail-survey
approach was used. For the UK respondents: the
questionnaires were handed out at the MEG Conference
in July 1992 and in mid-September a follow up letter and
questionnaire were sent. A total of 46 usable questionn-
aires were received giving a response rate of 24 per cent
for UK marketing academics.
A postal questionnaire was also sent out to all non-UK
academic participants of the EMAC Conference in
Aarhus in Denmark in 1992. To prevent overlap between
respondents, the delegate-lists were carefully compared
before sending out the mailed questionnaires and UK
participants of the EMAC Conference were systematically
excluded. The first mailshot was sent out in July 1992. A
follow-up letter and questionnaire were sent in mid-
September 1992. A total of 59 replies were received, a
response rate of around 26 per cent which is a fairly
typical response rate for postal questionnaires. The
majority of the respondents were from European and US
institutions, with a few from other parts of the world. The
profile of the respondents, in terms of the place of origin,
was fairly representative of the (non-UK) delegates
present at the 1992 EMAC Conference.
Of the EMAC respondents: 17 were professors, 17
associate professors (30 per cent of the sample), 18 (32 per
cent) assistant professors, and four were research
students. The average number of years of teaching
experience was 13.4 with a minimum of one and a
maximum of 34 years (95 confidence interval of 10.57-
15.72). We believe this to be a representative profile of
EMAC delegates and that it reflects the international
standing of the EMAC. The UK sample, on the whole, was
less experienced with an average of 8.73 years of
experience in teaching marketing (95 confidence interval
of 7.7-9.77). The sample included only five full professors
(11.6 per cent of the sample), 17 associate professors (i.e.
senior lecturers) equivalent (39.5 per cent), 17 assistant
professors (i.e. lecturers) and four research fellows/
students (9.3 per cent of the sample). This is also believed
to be a representative picture of MEG delegates and that
it reflects the national standing of the conference.
Results
Dissatisfaction with the 4Ps
A large majority of the respondents (78 per cent of EMAC
delegates and 84 per cent of the MEG delegates) felt that
the 4Ps concept was deficient in some respects as a
pedagogic tool. (The difference in the proportions of MEG
and EMAC delegates’ dissatisfaction is not statistically
significant.) In fact, 75 per cent of the EMAC respondents
had used modified versions of the 4Ps concept at some
time or other. Of these, 82 per cent (or 62 per cent of the
total sample) said that this was a regular occurrence.
Similarly, 84 per cent of MEG respondents had used a
modified version of the 4Ps and of these 84 per cent had
found this to be a regular occurrence. Examination of the
data showed that the level of dissatisfaction expressed
did not appear to be influenced by length of experience in
teaching marketing or the status (i.e. the seniority) of the
respondents; i.e. full professors were just as likely to be
dissatisfied with the 4Ps as junior marketing academics.
The respondents were further probed as to how adequate
they felt the 4Ps were for various types of marketing
situations, as it was felt that the dissatisfaction probably
varied across subjects. This was largely borne out (see
Tables II and III).
9
USING THE 7Ps AS A GENERIC MARKETING MIX
The 4Ps were thought to be most inadequate for services,
not for profit and industrial marketing. Of the respondents
51 per cent felt that the 4Ps were either problematic or
unusable for services. Similarily, the figures for not-for-
profit and industrial marketing were 63 per cent and 62 per
cent respectively.These are the areas that have generated
most criticism of the 4Ps marketing mix. Conversely, the
areas where the 4Ps are thought to be most useful are
10 MARKETING INTELLIGENCE & PLANNING 13,9
Table II. A comparison of the dissatisfaction of UK and European academics with the 4Ps framework for various types of
marketing course
Degree of satisfaction/dissatisfaction
Totally Just about
adequate Adequate adequate Problematic Unusable Number of
Type of marketing % % % % % respondents
Introductory UK 34 48 7 7 2 46
European 27 44 15 9 4 54
Consumer UK 5 52 21 21 2 44
European 18 29 31 18 4 55
Retail UK 0 27 27 42 5 41
European 11 28 33 22 6 54
International UK 2 19 26 45 7 42
European 8 21 27 37 8 52
Strategic UK 0 18 24 47 11 45
European 9 20 27 35 9 55
Industrial UK 2 27 23 43 5 44
European 7 13 27 46 7 55
Not-for-profit UK 2 13 18 51 16 45
European 5 9 28 44 13 54
Services UK 2 11 16 64 7 45
European 6 9 25 51 9 55
Average UK 7 26 20 41 7 100%
European 11 23 27 33 6 100%
Note: Row percentages may not add up to 100 owing to rounding
Table III. Overall dissatisfaction with the 4Ps framework for various types of marketing courses among the entire sample
Degree of satisfaction/dissatisfaction
Totally Just about
adequate Adequate adequate Problematic Unusable Number of
Type of marketing %%%%%responses
Introductory 31 47 11 8 3 100
Consumer 12 39 26 19 3 99
Retail 6 27 31 31 5 95
International 5 20 27 40 7 94
Strategic 5 19 26 40 10 100
Industrial 5 19 25 44 6 99
Not-for-profit 4 11 23 48 14 99
Services 4 10 21 57 8 100
Percentage of all
responses 9 24 24 36 7 100
Note: Row percentages may not add up to 100 owing to rounding
introductory marketing and consumer marketing.
Consumer marketing is, however, ranked significantly
below introductory marketing in terms of satisfaction: 78
per cent of the respondents thought that the 4Ps framework
totally adequate or adequate for introductory marketing
against only 51 per cent for consumer marketing. This is a
surprising finding as the 4Ps concept has its roots in
consumer marketing and introductory marketing texts in
the main concentrate on consumer marketing and a smaller
difference might have been expected (see Table III).
Comparing the EMAC delegates with MEG delegates it
appears that the general direction of satisfaction/
dissatisfaction is the same, with the exception of industrial
marketing. Also the UK (MEG) respondents were more
likely to be satisfied or dissatisfied than to express a neutral
opinion. EMAC respondents were more likely to express a
neutral opinion than MEG delegates (see Table II).
The acceptance of the 7Ps framework
While we suspected that there was a great deal of
dissatisfaction with the 4Ps framework it was more
difficult to assess how well Booms and Bitner’s framework
was accepted as a general framework for marketing as we
were not aware of any research that has been conducted in
this area. In order to gauge the acceptance of the 7Ps
framework, respondents were asked to rate the relevance
of the 7Ps mix variables for a list of marketing situations.
This allowed us to gauge not only the acceptance of the
7Ps framework but also how well the new variables of
participants, process and physical evidence were
accepted. An examination of Tables IV and V show that
all of the 7Ps variables were regarded as having at least
some relevance for all types of marketing, including
introductory and consumer marketing, where one might
have expected stronger adherence to the 4Ps framework.
However, as might be expected, there is a difference in
emphasis in the usage of the mix variables for different
types of marketing. For example, there is strong emphasis
on the traditional 4Ps in consumer marketing and less
emphasis on other mix variables. Similarly, participants
and process receive more emphasis in services marketing
than they do in other types of marketing. Note that for
industrial marketing Table V provides strong support for
our contention that the 7Ps should be used as a general
framework.
Pairwise t-test comparisons were carried out to establish
whether or not the differences in the overall averages for
the mix variables in Table V were statistically significant.
These tests showed that there is no statistically significant
difference between product, promotion and participants,
but they are significantly different from place, price and
process. Physical evidence is significantly different from
11
USING THE 7Ps AS A GENERIC MARKETING MIX
Table IV. A comparison of UK and European academics’ relevance rankings of mix elements for various marketing situations
Mix variable
Type of marketing Product Place Promotion Price Participants Process Physical evidence
Consumer UK 4.5 4.5 4.8* 4.4 3.7 3.3 3.7
European 4.2 4.2 4.4 4.2 3.5 3.1 3.4
Retail UK 4.2 4.4 4.5 4.4 4.1 3.7* 4.1
European 4.0 4.4 4.3 4.2 3.7 3.2 3.5
International UK 4.4* 4.4 4.2 4.2 3.8 3.5 3.0
European 3.9 4.0 3.9 3.8 4.0 3.7 3.0
Strategic UK 3.9 3.7 3.7 3.8 3.7 3.7 3.3
European 3.8 3.4 3.4 3.6 3.8 3.8 2.7
Industrial UK 4.6 3.8* 3.7 4.2 4.1 3.9 3.1
European 4.4 3.3 3.4 3.9 4.3 4.1 3.1
Not-for-profit UK 3.8 3.4 4.0 3.1 4.1 3.9 3.4*
European 3.5 3.2 3.6 2.9 4.0 3.6 2.8
Services UK 4.0 3.8 4.1 3.9 4.5 4.3 4.1*
European 3.6 3.8 3.8 3.9 4.3 4.0 3.1
Average for
all variables 3.9 3.7 3.8 3.8 3.9 3.6 3.1
Notes:
*Statistically significant at 95 per cent level
Respondents were asked to rate the 7Ps according to the critera : 1 = no relevance; 2 = little relevance; 3 = some relevance; 4 = quite
relevant; 5 = highly relevant
Introductory marketing is excluded from this table because, the respondents were asked about the relevance of mix variables for
various marketing situations rather than courses
all the other variables. What this tells us is that product,
promotion and participants are ranked highest in terms
of relevance for all types of marketing and that place,
price and process are ranked below product, promotion
and participants. Physical evidence, on the other hand, is
ranked below the other six variables. It is significant that
the participants variable is rated as high as the product
and promotions variables and that the process variable is
rated as high as the place and price variables.
Factor analysis shows in fact that the seven variables
form two groups. The first factor consists of the
traditional 4Ps with factor loadings as follows: product
(0.865), place (0.858), promotion (0.863) and price (0.846).
The second factor consists of participants, process and
physical evidence with factor loadings of 0.739, 0.879 and
0.764 respectively. Similarly, cluster analysis reveals that
product, price and promotion cluster first, followed by
place, participants, process and finally physical evidence.
This confirms the fact that the respondents regard the
4Ps as highly important and that the three new variables
of the extended marketing mix make a positive and
somewhat different contribution to the traditional 4Ps
mix.
Respondents were also asked whether they thought the
7Ps concept was a useful extension to the 4Ps framework
with respect to its general applicability; i.e. across a wide
spectrum of marketing subjects and not just to services
marketing for which Booms and Bitner had originally
meant it to be applied. Over half of the respondents (58
per cent) thought that it was a useful or very useful
extension to the 4Ps framework (see Table VI). Around 22
per cent of the respondents thought that it was neither
superior nor inferior to the 4Ps concept. The remaining 20
per cent of the respondents thought that the 7Ps concept
was of little or no use as an extension to the 4Ps
framework.The MEG respondents tended to be more
enthusiastic than their EMAC counterparts, as 66 per
cent of them (compared with 52 per cent of the EMAC
respondents) thought that the 7Ps framework was a
useful or very useful extension to the 4Ps framework.
The fact that 52 per cent of the EMAC respondents and 66
per cent of the UK respondents thought that the 7Ps
framework was a useful or very useful extension as a
general framework is a significant and novel finding.This
information combined with the information on the
frequency of the modification of the 4Ps framework
implies that a significant proportion of the marketing
educators are using the 7Ps mix as a general framework
rather than confining its use to the teaching of services
marketing.
12 MARKETING INTELLIGENCE & PLANNING 13,9
Table V. Relevance rankings of mix elements for various marketing situations for the entire sample
Mix variable
Type of marketing Product Place Promotion Price Participants Process Physical evidence
Consumer 4.33 4.33 4.55 4.33 3.59 3.15 3.51
Retail 4.06 4.39 4.39 4.32 3.86 3.42 3.77
International 4.15 4.16 4.03 3.97 3.87 3.58 2.96
Strategic 3.84 3.53 3.56 3.73 3.74 3.71 2.99
Industrial 4.47 3.50 3.56 4.08 4.21 4.02 3.08
Not-for-profit 3.60 3.31 3.75 2.99 4.04 3.70 3.09
Services 3.78 3.80 3.94 3.88 4.40 4.13 3.60
Average for all variables 4.04* 3.88* 3.98* 3.90* 3.99* 3.71* 3.35**
Notes:
*No statistically significant difference between these variables. However they are significantly different from the other variables.
**Significantly different from all the other variables at 95 per cent confidence level.
Respondents were asked to rate the 7Ps according to the criteria : 1 = no relevance; 2 = little relevance; 3 = some relevance; 4 = quite
relevant; 5 = highly relevant
Table VI. Usefulness of the 7Ps mix with respect to its
general applicability (i.e. across a wide range of subjects)
Respondents
UK European All
Degree of usefulness % % %
Very useful extension 17.4 1.9 9.2
Useful extension 47.8 50.0 49.0
Neither superior nor inferior 17.4 26.9 22.4
Of little use 17.4 11.5 14.3
Of no use 0.0 10.7 5.1
Total (per cent) 100 100 100
Number of respondents 46 52 98
Strengths and weaknesses of the 4Ps and 7Ps mixes
Further insight into the reasons for the differences in usage
of the two mixes is provided by content analysis of what the
respondents thought were the strengths and weaknesses of
the two frameworks (see Table VII).
Comprehensiveness was the most frequently mentioned
strength of the 7Ps model. It was also thought to be more
refined and detailed than the 4Ps model and was seen as
providing a broader perspective. Some respondents
explicitly mentioned the inclusion of participants/people as
a strength. The process variable was also mentioned but not
as frequently as the participants/people variable. The 7Ps
mix was also thought to be more of a model than the 4Ps
mix. The standardization of the mix by extending the 7Ps
framework to areas other than services was also mentioned.
The strengths of the 4Ps framework mentioned are those
that are traditionally suggested by most textbooks. The
most frequently mentioned strength of the 4Ps mix was its
simplicity and ease of understanding, closely followed by
ease of memorization. It was also thought to be a good
pedagogic tool for introductory marketing. Parsimony and
its adaptability for various problems were also mentioned.
Although the comprehensiveness of the 7Ps framework was
thought to be a strength, this was also a source of weakness
as the most frequently mentioned weakness of the 7Ps
framework was the fact that it was more complicated than
the 4Ps framework. Some respondents thought that the
extra elements could be incorporated into the existing 4Ps.
Others expressed doubts about the controllability of the new
variables. The 4Ps framework, on the other hand, was
thought to be too simple and not broad enough. The
omission of the participants/people, process and physical
evidence variables was also thought to be a weakness,
although the participants/people variable was the most
frequently mentioned variable of this group. The lack of
relationship marketing and service aspects of marketing
was also thought to be weakness. A few respondents also
mentioned lack of integration and the static nature of the
4Ps variables.
The above findings suggest that the major reasons for the
use of the 7Ps framework (or at any rate, modifications of
the 4Ps mix) by marketing academics is because they find
the use of the 4Ps mix too simplistic and that it does not
cover the areas that are of increasing interest to them (e.g.
relationship marketing). At the same time, while they
appreciate the comprehensiveness of the 7Ps mix, they find
that it is more complicated than the 4Ps mix.
Conclusions
The results presented here suggest that there is a high
degree of dissatisfaction with the 4Ps framework among
European academics. The 4Ps framework is thought to be
most relevant for introductory marketing and consumer
marketing. The result also suggests that the 7Ps framework
has already achieved a high degree of acceptance as a
generic marketing mix among our sample of respondents.
However, although there is general support for the 7Ps mix,
there is not uniform support for the three new variables.
The participants/people variable is the most widely
accepted element of the new variables and the process
13
USING THE 7Ps AS A GENERIC MARKETING MIX
Table VII. Strengths and weakness of the 4Ps and 7Ps mixes as perceived by the respondents
7Ps 4Ps
Strengths More comprehensive Simplicity and ease of understanding
More detailed Easy to memorize
More refined Good pedagogic tool, especially for introductory marketing
Broader perspective Parsimony
Includes participants/ Useful conceptual framework
people and process Ability to adapt to various problems
It is a model
Standardizarion
Signals marketing theory
Weaknesses More complicated Too simple, not broad enough
Extra elements can be incorporated in 4Ps Lacking people, participants and process
Controllability of the three new elements Physical evidence
Relationship marketing
Service
Lack of connection/integration between variables
Static nature of 4Ps
Note: The responses are listed in order of frequency that the respondents mentioned them
variable also has reasonable support. The physical evidence
variable is the least well-supported of the new variables.
This is probably because physical evidence is not as well
conceptualized as participants/ people and process. The
participants/people and process variables are frequently
discussed in the literature on relationship marketing which
provides a strong rationale and conceptualization of these
variables. The physical evidence variable, on the other hand,
is not discussed much outside the services marketing area
and this may be one reason for the weak support for it in
this research. Overall these results provide fairly strong
support for our contention that Booms and Bitner’s 7P
framework should replace McCarthy’s 4Ps framework as
the generic marketing mix. Among European academics, at
least, this is already happening in practice.
While these results are based on a relatively small number
of respondents, we believe that they are representative of the
views of marketing academics. However, it is quite possible
that the non-respondents in this survey were quite happy
with the 4Ps framework and therefore did not feel the need
to respond and, hence the results presented here may be
highly skewed. However, we believe this not to be the case,
as the results are based on two independent samples of
respondents. Furthermore, the examination of the
background of the respondents revealed no systematic bias
in the samples. The fact that 22 of the respondents were full
professors of marketing also lends considerable credence to
the results. Even if it is accepted that the sample of
respondents is biased towards those who were dissatisfied
with the 4Ps framework, this constitutes a significant
minority of marketing academics. Either way, the results
provide empirical support for the theoretical reasons
advanced for the extension of the 7Ps mix into a generic
marketing mix. Nevertheless, further research is necessary
to confirm the results of the exploratory research reported
above.
References and further reading
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15
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Mohammed Rafiq is a Lecturer in Retailing and Marketing at Loughborough University Business School, Loughborough,
UK. Pervaiz K. Ahmed is a Lecturer in Strategic Management at the Department of Economics and Management,
University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland.
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