It's been 40+ years since E. Jerome McCarthy published Basic Marketing, the business book that introduced the 4 Ps (product, price, place/distribution, and promotion) to the world. The categories still hold true, but what was once the leading edge has drastically evolved.
Web 2.0 has also had an impact on the paradigm by changing what product definitions look like, and how things that are sold as "free" can make money. So while the 4 Ps are a good start as buckets, let's update them for today's era and discuss what you need to be doing to keep your mix both relevant and impactful.
Here's my take on what's happening... and some ideas on what you need to do to win your market.
While chip speeds and data transfer rates have gotten faster, our desire to shape what we buy has increased. Product definition is changing as communications speed up, and Web 2.0 models allow this to be easy, fast, and interactive.
Seems to me that this is the ultimate dream: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do R&D for you. Consumer needs, desires, and dreams are bubbling up—from blogs, two-way Web sites, influencer communities, customer councils, people who are involved in do-it-yourself electronics and crafts (Make zine, etsy.com), to the usual—focus groups, trade show input, quantitative customer surveys, registration forms, and other traditional methods. There are an abundance of venues in which users can help shape innovations in your product line and for your next generation.
Product innovation, can play on a much larger field. If customer-created photos (iStockphoto) or video (YouTube) or mobile experiences (veeker.com) can be created and shared, then the notion of ideas can be extended. In the WinMarkets blog, we've talked about customer input into innovation via the Lego model, at Six Apart, and at Sprint. All three companies are finding ways to innovate their product offer based on user input.
You can virtually know the desire of the many or the individual even though the wealth of data available frequently feels miles deep and impossible to get through. Getting good ideas is not the critical challenge. Discerning the winning idea among the many is the key.
Nilofer Merchant is the CEO of Rubicon Consulting (www.rubiconconsulting.com), a strategy and marketing consultancy based in Silicon Valley that solves complex business challenges for high-tech companies.