The evolution of the Marketing Mix: the meaning of the fifth P, People

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On the occasion of the start tomorrow in Milan of the 4th edition of Philip Kotler Marketing Forum, this article wants to highlight the value of the fifth P of the marketing mix, that of People. To do this I would like to start from shared terms and formulas to rediscover the deeper aspects, proposing an inclusive revision through the listening-centered methodology that has been applied for years in TSW.

Let’s start from the origins: the 4Ps of Kotler’s Marketing Mix

The 4P of Prof. Kotlers Marketing Mix (although perhaps the first wording should be attributed to Jerome Mc Carthy) they have been the basis of every successful strategy or business for over 50 years.


For this reason I don’t think it is necessary to go into further explanations, even if, from a certain point of view, especially because of the diffusion and “secularization” of the terms, it could be worthwhile, perhaps in another place, to discuss how these concepts, which originally were large and stimulating, too often were reduced in widespread simplifications.

The 5W of Anglo-Saxon journalism enter into marketing


These are the Five W’s, the questions of the Anglo-Saxon journalistic style, often used also for a good formulation of the speech, in the problem solving or in the planning of the processes.

The 5Ws constitute an argumentative rule of oratory that has classical origins, but finds its most frequent application in journalistic summary or in the rationalization of marketing projects.

For now, though, let’s put them aside for a second and go back to Kotler’s Marketing Mix and the evolution of 4Ps. We will then re-weigh the 5W to understand how they can fit into one evolutionary perspective of marketing levers.

The evolution of Kotler’s 4Ps

The original classification of the marketing mix has been extended over time. First it was added a new P, People. Later, in an attempt to adapt them to the new conditions of the market, of technology and communications, they became seven, with Process and Physical Evidence to represent the sixth and seventh P.

Actually, a further P was added to the marketing debate: the Purple Cow by Seth Godin, which identifies a product or service that is unique and extraordinary thanks to its intrinsic qualities, allowing it to advertise itself for its originality.

But back to the fifth P, People

In classical and scholastic literature the fifth P is represented by the persons of the company. All companies depend on the people who manage and work there. Everyone is important: from sales staff to the administrative director. Having the right people is essential, because, like the products or services sold, they are part of the company’s offer. This vision was important for the humanization of companies, but probably still represents a reductive reading of the People of prof. Kotler.

Perhaps right from the start People meant people: people, not personal or human resources.

By reading the word people in this way recalls the value of people and their involvement in the activities of companies, helping them to rediscover their true and original goal: generate added value for people.

How Kotler’s 4P model has evolved: from 4C to 7C

One can only admire the freshness and lucidity of thought of Prof. Kotler, who still today continues to evolve his discourse on marketing, updating it to the changes of contemporary society.

Those who followed it will surely have recorded a first step from 4P to 4C in the Marketing Mix:

Customer value
Communication (Customer – Company interaction)

These are the items that initially formed the 4C model, in which the focus of marketing was shifted from the product to the consumer.

However, the model as it was still focused on the company, which communicates and offers products.

Instead, since the advent of Web 2.0, we have begun to feel the need to change our approach to the market, thus arriving at reformulation of the 4C model, to really shift the focus from the company to the customer:

Customer wants and needs
Customer value
Customer convenience
Customer communication

But Prof. Kotler was certainly one of the first to realize the impact of the so-called digital revolution on marketing, thus arriving at a more recent formulation, that of Marketing 4.0 and its pillars defined by the 5C:


Finally, we come to the model that includes 7C, which want to represent the necessary and very contemporary “social” extensions:


Really appreciating the attempt to update and extend the appeal to People and find them again in many of the last C’s, in my opinion this model lacks in continuing to consider marketing as a study of the customer, still seeing it as a customer, target or prospect, and therefore aiming at the consumer and not at the whole person.

Professor Kotler also had the credit for being the proponent of the consumer- centric marketing and the inspirer of the consumer obsession dominant which, however, probably due to the simplistic interpretation of the originally proposed theories, still failed to establish itself as a universally shared vision.

A vision in which the object of study are people in all their dimensions and not just a standardized consumer.

People and non-consumers, because:

There are no users and customers.

There are people, with their wishes,
their fears, their own stories.

Let’s return to the 5W of journalism and introduce the sixth W

Something essential is missing from the essential elements of every good project.
The sixth W.

The sixth W is With. “With” means together.
With people.
With researchers.
With companies and institutions.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph and the above two represent the first and the two concluding points of the Manifesto for the WITH by Christian Carniato, founder and CEO of TSW, acronym of: The Sixth W. For 21 years the company has been dealing with Tech and Digital solutions and in the last 11 years it has studied the behavior of people in relation to interfaces, has recorded and made live live the different facets of experience marketing and the possibilities of applying a listening with mixed quali-quantitative method that takes a lot from the human sciences.

The sixth W is WITH. This means that to the classic 5W rule we add WITH, which means with, together, but that for TSW means care, relationship, listening.

Listening to people and reconnecting with people, attention to the quality of experiences.

Perhaps most important of all our work lies in the fact that the path was built together with the people. The sixth W includes the fifth P (People), integrates the five Cs (Customers, Company, Collaborators, Competitors, Context) and understands them perhaps in the fuller sense of the term.

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29 November 2018 Bernardo Lecci

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TAG: digital marketing antropological marketing The Sixth W approach