The 3 R’s and 5 W’s of the 4 P’s

6 Nov

The 4 P’s of Marketing are:

Price, Product, Promotion, and Place

Unless you add Purpose to the marketing mix. Then it’s the 5 P’s.

Price, Product, Promotion, Place, and Purpose

Unless you drop Purpose but add Packaging, Positioning, People. Then it’s the 7 P’s.

Price, Product, Promotion, Place, Packaging, Positioning, and People

Unless People is good but you should drop the other additions in favor of ProcessPhysical environment, and Productivity and quality to get the 8 P’s.

But at least we all agree that the governing principles of marketing all begin with a voiceless bilabial plosive.

Unless, of course, if you subscribe to the 4 C’s of Marketing instead, which are Cost, Communication, and Convenience. Or was that Commodity, Cost, Communication, and Channel?

Numeric mnemonics

Lists are a form of semi-structured data. They can be immensely useful in Natural Language Processing. People will often group related items in lists, especially so if they are using alliteration to tie list elements together.

I’ll call alliterative lists like “The 4 P’s” numeric mnemonics since they package information for easier retention and recall. In the case of marketing, the idea is that as you think through how to sell something, you want to quickly consider what sort of levers and knobs you can adjust: maybe something comes up that constrains distribution (“Place”)—to offset that, you could think about changing the price, what you’re selling, or how you’re promoting it. The 4 P’s also suggest that companies can innovate in more than just the products they offer.

This post gives an overview of the most popular numeric mnemonics since 1800 and tells you which number/letter combinations are ripe for the picking. It’s about the power of synthesizing fundamentals. If you want to create your own mnemonic, the most popular choices of letters and numbers are a good starting point.

The numbers here are from the Google Books Ngram Corpus, pulling out all occurrences of “the {number} {letter}’s”. The counts we’ll be using are not total occurrences of the patterns but distinct books that mention use the construction. I’m going to collapse digits and spelled-out numerals (“3” and “three”), but just so you know, there are about 12 times as many of the spelled-out numbers as digits.

The most popular numeric mnemonics

Here are the most popular—in terms of the total number of books that mention them:

  • The 3 R’s: Mostly Reading, (w)Riting and (a)Rithmetic; but also Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and sometimes Respect, Responsibility, and Results (or Rules); Relief, Recovery and Reform; Revenue, cost Reduction, Regulations; and Brazil’s soccer stars Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho
  • The 3 C’s: Choice, Chance, Change; you didn’t Cause it, you can’t Control it, you can’t Cure it; the Customer, the Competitors, and the Corporation; Capability, Consistency, Cultivation
  • The 4 P’s: of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place, though the first 4 Four P’s come from the 1569 title of a farce involving a Palmer (~pilgrim), a Pardoner, a Poticary (~pharmacist), and a Peddler. McCarthy’s 4 P’s of marketing don’t appear on the scene til 1960 and don’t really start appearing in other books until the early 1970s.
  • The 5 W’s: What, Who, Where, When, and Why
  • The 3 P’s: Pleasure, Power, and Possessions (attention Marketers!); Permission, Protection and Potency; Patience, Persistence, and Praise; Personality, Presence, and Presentation, Profligacy, Petulancy, Purse; Peace, Plenty, and Prosperity; Pulse, Pace, and Pattern; Paperwork, Personnel, Politics


Why so many 3 R’s

The 3 R’s are old—you’ll find mention of them in 1821 and they were probably kicking around well before that. But the era of data-driven marketing means they are still relevant—even crucial—for answering any of the 5 W’s about any of the 4 P’s. That is, we live in a time when we can actually Read what people are saying about products, services, and experiences. Nothing beats getting your hands dirty with the language of customers and potential customers. And of course, (w)Riting to them is part of the way you attract, retain, or win back customers.

But there’s so much data now, that it is important to be able to move back and forth between the qualitative experience of reading and writing and the more quantitative abstractions of giant patterns. That’s where (a)Rithmetic comes in. At the basis all kinds of analytics have to do with counting: under condition A, something good happens 10 times, under condition B, it happens 100 times. All the numbers and stats you might recruit to answer or innovate come down to counting things and determining if they really count.

The most popular letters

In terms of counts, the letters up above (R/C/P/W) take the prizes. But what about in terms of how many different numbers letters are paired with? At first, it looks like there are eight different numbers that pair with “O”, but have you ever heard of “the 193 O’s”? No, a number of these are OCR errors (that should’ve been “the 1930’s”).

The real winners are C’s, M’s, and P’s, which combine with 6 different numbers, each. Only six, though. No one talks about “the 8 C’s” or the “17 M’s”. Although I guess if something is really delicious it might qualify for the latter (see also, affective lengthening). Here are the counts for the top letters in this construction since 1800:

Letter # of books
R 44,794
C 8,566
P 7,546
A 4,287
W 3,603
B 2,943
S 2,904
M 2,414
F 2,330
E 2,244

The most popular numbers

2/two combines with 24 different letters but it only appears in the “the two/2 {letter}’s” construction in 11,828 books. Meanwhile, 3/three appears in 61,722 books with 20 different letters. The numbers 6 and 10 are rarely used; 8 and 9 aren’t used at all for numeric mnemonics.

Number # of books
3 61,717
2 11,814
4 10,929
5 7,165
7 787
6 466
10 48
8 0
9 0

The fastest risers

Over the last 30 years, the number “7” and the letter “V” are the two biggest growers (respectively at 1.55% and 1.52% year-over-year).

If these forces continue and come together, then we are witnessing the ascendance of THE SEVEN V’s.

Now, the Seven V’s have been proposed a couple times. First, Le Corbusier proposed dividing cities by seven different kinds of ways/roads (voies in French). A little more related to marketing are Mark van Rijmenam’s 7 V’s of Big Data, which build upon the normal “3 V’s”—that is, one of the standard definitions of Big Data is volume, velocity, and variety; van Rijmenam proposes that you also have to consider variability, veracity, visualization, and value in Big Data strategizing.

But really, the field is wide open and it’s likely that the 7 V’s that your grandchildren commit to memory haven’t been invented yet. But here are some V-words that may inspire (since what’s the point of any of this if not inspiration?) First some nouns, because I aspire to greater nouniness: Vanguard, Vastness, Valor, Vagrancy, Validation, Virtuosity, Vitality; but maybe we can aspire to these adjectives in our projects or our lives: Venturesome, Versatile, Vigilant, Vigorous, Vaudevillian, Volant, Vivacious.

– Tyler Schnoebelen (@TSchnoebelen)


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