The P’s and C’s of Digital Marketing

Stephen DeAngelis

December 30, 2020

You don’t have to be a marketer to understand the marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Elliott King (@elliott_king), co-founder and CEO of MintTwist, believes brands and their marketing teams are still trying to figure out how to traverse this new landscape. He writes, “Just how much the customer journey has changed over the last 15+ years is still not fully understood or appreciated by the vast majority of us (suppliers and customers alike). … [Ninety-nine percent of] customer journeys have been irrevocably changed by the Internet.”[1] The challenge in this new marketing landscape is how to reach customers on the digital path to purchase.


King notes that customers are now in charge. He explains, “The fundamental methodology the majority of online users are following to conduct their research for every … product in the world has fundamentally changed, and is continuing to change at a rapid pace. And the direction of travel is clear: Customers have more control over their product research phases.” Although he is certain the direction of marketing is clear, he is not sure brands have fully adapted to this new reality. He explains, “It is … increasingly important that suppliers and brands understand how to respond. The concept of customers’ managing the research and comparison phases of their buying journey is perfectly well accepted now; however, when brands or suppliers honestly ask themselves the question, only a minority can say they have fully re-engineered their ‘top of the funnel’ marketing efforts to reflect this new (and continually evolving) reality.”


Understanding the digital landscape


Gino Palozzi, a senior vice president for marketing at Dun & Bradstreet, notes, “The digital advertising industry has found itself grappling with privacy regulations, pending elimination of third-party cookies and a massive shift to remote work, which is impacting digital tracing. The changing environment has left advertisers seeking the next holy grail of targeting.”[2] Palozzi believes the most valuable asset of the digital age — data — will be harder to obtain in the years ahead. He worries that new regulations will restrict brands’ access to data. To meet the challenges of this changing digital landscape, Palozzi offers three suggestions:


Suggestion 1. Build up first-party data. He writes, “Having a robust bank of first-party data offers several advantages. … First, it allows them to own the direct relationship with [customers], an advantage they don’t have when using a programmatic advertising platform such as a demand side platform (DSP). It also provides [brands] with an ‘opted-in’ audience, ripe for targeting. This is important in a world where privacy regulations are continually evolving and requiring more consent.”


Suggestion 2. Partner for third-party data. “While owning the data is important,” Palozzi writes, “most [companies] will still need to enrich their data with a third-party provider to satisfy all advertiser targeting requests, especially in the B2B space. The third-party data will allow matching of other targeting attributes such as demographic information, location data, intent data and account data (in the case of a B2B business). The combination of first- and third-party data will give [organizations] a leg up on those who only have outsourced data.”


Suggestion 3. Organize data for activation. Palozzi explains, “Simply having the data isn’t going to help advertisers … if it’s unusable and unorganized. It will be especially important for advertisers to start better organizing their data in order to gain a clean, unified view of prospects, which enables more efficient targeting. This includes steps like sharing data across systems and departments, having a structured naming system for accounts and ensuring that data is constantly refreshed throughout the business so that real-time targeting decisions can be made.”


He adds, “In the new cookie-less landscape, there will be no single solution for data management, but customer data platforms will become more prevalent to help unify and share customer information and activate outreach across channels, while also meeting increasing privacy requirements.”


The P’s and C’s of digital marketing


King insists for much of the twentieth century, “the 4Ps model — product, price, promotion, and place — was the marketing strategy of choice.” He adds, “In 1990, Bob Lauterborn wrote an article in Advertising Age, arguing that the 4Ps were dead and modern marketers needed to address actual issues. He was right: Developed markets were becoming increasingly competitive, customers were becoming increasingly knowledgeable and annoyingly choosy, less likely to positively react to anything that was pushed their way.” I believe publishing the 4Ps Model’s eulogy may be bit premature. Consumers still research products, care about price, respond to promotions, and are choosy about the places (online or physical) that they trust. That said, King still makes a valid point. With the customer firmly in charge of the digital path to purchase, brands must adapt. King writes, “Instead of the 4Ps, the 4Cs model came to better represent marketing strategy.” The 4Cs are: Consumer wants and needs; Convenience to buy; Cost to satisfy; and Communication. King writes, “Customers are now at the heart of marketing communications, which is oriented around their needs, their buying habits, the end result they are actually seeking from the ‘total product offer,’ and how much they are willing to pay for it.”


Armando Roggio (@EcommerceBoy), senior contributing editor for Practical Ecommerce, offers a different set of Cs (five of them) for e-commerce advertising. His 5Cs are: Company, Collaborators, Customers, Competitors, and Context. He writes, “The 5C marketing framework provides a structured way to evaluate and describe a business’s position in a market. The framework, applied consistently, could guide decisions as the business promotes its brand and products.”[3] He explains why each of these Cs is important:


Company. “The first ‘C’ is ‘company’ — its purpose or advantage. What is your business’s sustainable competitive advantage or hedgehog concept? The former, sustainable competitive advantage, describes ‘advantages anchored in industry economics … [that] fall into three categories: size in the targeted market, superior access to resources or customers, and restrictions on competitors’ options,’ according to a September 1986 Harvard Business Review article by economist Pankaj Ghemawat. The latter, a hedgehog concept, comes from Jim Collins’ book ‘Good to Great.’ It describes the one thing your business can do better than anyone else and can make a profit from.”


Collaborators. “These are other businesses, organizations, and individuals who make it possible for your company to do what it does. … In this step, identify all collaborating partners. Think about how they impact your business and how your marketing campaigns might impact them.”


Customers. “Customers are among the most important ‘Cs’ in the framework. Your task at this step is to hash out your ideal customer for a given product or campaign. This could involve creating customer personas and profiles. … Determine why that customer might buy from your company. What problem or need does your product solve? It is important, also, to understand the marketplace in which those customers shop.” This is where King’s 4C model and traditional 4P considerations play a significant role.


Competitors. “Identify their strengths and weaknesses, market share, and apparent marketing strategy.”

Context. “The final ‘C’ in the framework is ‘context’ (or ‘climate’). It is the analysis of everything else in the world that can impact your business and its marketing. For example, in 2020 the global pandemic has had a huge impact on ecommerce and marketing.”


All of these Ps and Cs rely on collecting and analyzing data using cognitive technologies. As analysts from Treasure Data explain, “The value of your data is only as good as the actions you’re able to glean from it. As the amount of data collected grows in both variety and volume, companies need assistance to help them gain insights into their customers to decipher connections, identify new behavior patterns, predict spending likelihood and assess lifetime customer value.”[4]


[1] Elliott King, “Understanding Modern Marketing: Marketing’s Evolution and Digital’s Impact,” MarketingProfs, 18 July 2019.
[2] Gino Palozzi, “What advertisers and publishers need to know to survive the shifting digital landscape,” Marketing Dive, 10 November 2020.
[3] Armando Roggio, “The 5 C’s of Ecommerce Marketing,” Practical Ecommerce, 12 November 2020.
[4] Treasure Data, “Using Machine Learning To Gain a Marketing Advantage,” CMS Wire, 14 September 2020.