Back to Insights

Reimagining the 4 Ps of Marketing for Change: A New Paradigm for a Sustainable Future 


June 19, 2024 By Aurelia Noel, Head of Digital Transformation, dentsu X Global 

In the dynamic world of marketing, the foundational 4 Ps—Product, Price, Place, and Promotion—have guided strategies since the 1950s. However, in our rapidly evolving society where environmental and social consciousness is paramount, these principles need to adapt to today’s reality and evolve through the lens of more sustainable and responsible practices. The question is no longer about whether to adapt but, how new paradigms, help us rethink these foundational principles.  

What if we could evolve these marketing pillars to align with today's ethical and sustainable demands? How might this shift, redefine success for the modern marketer?  

Product: Innovating for Sustainability  

The redefined ‘Product' in our marketing mix prioritizes sustainable innovation. Moving beyond mere market demand, this perspective fosters products that positively impact customer wellbeing and the environment.  This paradigm shift towards sustainable consumption advocates for reduced overall consumption and eco-friendly alternatives. Take IKEA's "Buyback & Resell" initiative,i for instance. Amidst the frenzy of Black Friday, a day synonymous with mass consumption, IKEA urged customers to purchase second-hand items. This not only positioned the brand as a champion of durable goods but also embedded sustainability into its very DNA, proving that less can indeed be more.  

Price: Fairness and Accessibility  

The new vision for 'Price' in marketing is one of fairness and inclusivity. Sustainable practices must be accessible to everyone, not just a select few. This approach rejects strategies that foster exclusion or consumer debt. Brands like Patagonia are leading the way with new value led, pricing models, moving away from fast fashion, and embracing the power of durability and wearability. By doing so the brand is not focused on adopting the latest trends, but on making durable and sustainable products for a wide audience. Patagonia'sii pricing reflects the true cost of ethical manufacturing and environmental stewardship, resonating with consumers who value corporate responsibility and sustainability.  

Place: Sustainable Distribution and Accessibility  

The concept of 'Place' in marketing, traditionally focused on distribution channels and retail locations, is undergoing a profound shift. Today, it's about strategically minimizing the environmental footprint of distribution and enhancing the accessibility of sustainable products. This evolution extends beyond just physical stores to encompass the digital marketplace, a pivotal arena for influencing consumer decisions.  

In the U.S., it is reported that systemic inequality has resulted in a staggering racial wealth gap, with profound differences in income and assets between white and black households. This disparity, amounting to an £11 trillion gap, underscores the urgency for equitable access. SheaMoisture, a Unilever brand, is addressing this challenge head on. They have committed to reinvesting at least $1 million annually in small, black-owned businesses, recognizing the importance of inclusivity in sustainable practices.iii Through such initiatives, 'Place' in marketing is redefined not just as a physical or digital space, but as a commitment to bridging societal divides and fostering equality in sustainability.  

Promotion: Ethical Marketing and Digital Responsibility  

The evolution in 'Promotion' reflects a broader trend: the growing expectation for brands to act as responsible stewards of not only their products, but also their influence. It's a shift that demands a recognition of the power of marketing in shaping consumer behavior and leveraging that power to foster a more sustainable and socially conscious world.  

 A key element in this transformation is recognizing the role of digital marketing. While digital campaigns are less resource-intensive than traditional media, they still carry an environmental footprint that must be managed responsibly.  

An impressive 83% of Generation Z consumers expect brands to take a stand on social issues,iv indicating a significant shift in consumer expectations. Brands like Shiseido have risen to this challenge. In 2020, they launched the Sustainable Beauty Actions (SBAS) initiative,v a global commitment to sustainability unique to the beauty industry. SBAS focuses on integrating sustainability into all aspects of their business, from product development to promotional activities.  

Embracing a Sustainable Marketing Mix for a Better Tomorrow  

As we revisit the foundational question, “what if we could reinvent the 4 Ps to align with today's ethical and sustainable demands?” we find ourselves on the cusp of a marketing renaissance. This transformative shift, redefining success for the modern marketer, goes beyond profit margins and market dominance. It's about creating a balance between commercial success and societal wellbeing, embedding sustainability and ethical practices into the core of marketing strategies. At dentsu X, we call this “Driving Value for All”, signifying that campaigns can be good for the client, consumer and society alike, demonstrating that aligning with sustainable and ethical values is not only possible but profitable and impactful.  

However, this journey is just beginning. As the world evolves, so must our marketing approaches, continuously adapting and innovating to meet the challenges of our time. This journey promises immense rewards for businesses and society alike, forging a path towards a more sustainable and equitable world. In doing so, we redefine what success truly entails for the modern marketer – it's not just about what we sell, but rather, how and why we sell it.   

For more wisdom and insights from other dentsu X leaders worldwide, download our report ahead 2024: branding beyond impact .