Decoding the Digital Marketing Mix

Decode the digital marketing mix by understanding its history and dissecting its various elements. The concept of a marketing mix has come a long way since its inception in the first half of the 20th century. The digitization of just about everything has turned the marketing world on its head, sending traditionalist marketers scrambling to reeducate themselves and adjust to shifting market conditions.

In this article, we’ll start at the marketing mix’s genesis, discuss its development, and apply both old and new principles to the digital marketplace.

What Is a Marketing Mix?

A marketing mix represents an amalgamation of various ingredients to create a cohesive marketing strategy. The traditional marketing mix remains well-known to businessmen, marketers, and marketing students. That mix is the 4 P’s laid out by E. Jerome McCarthy in his seminal work, Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach (1960). The 4 P’s are:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

McCarthy’s condensation of the so-called marketing mix predates the formal coining of the term by N.H. Borden in a 1964 article published in the Journal of Advertising Research, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix.” However, it is well-documented that Borden used the term frequently in the 1950s before putting it into print, including during a 1953 address as president of the American Marketing Association.

Additionally, several other important developments that led to McCarthy’s 4 P’s bear mentioning.

Dawn of the Marketing Mix

Over a decade before the emergence of modern marketing, James Culliton described the job of a marketing manager as the “mixer of ingredients” in his work, The Management of Marketing Costs (1948). This piece served as the forerunner to McCarthy’s 4 P’s and Borden’s “marketing mix.”

Borden laid out the 12 components of the marketing mix as follows:

  • Product development
  • Brand development
  • Price discovery
  • Logistical channels
  • Personal selling
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Promotions
  • Labeling
  • Displays
  • Customer service
  • Handling
  • Fact-finding and analysis

Needless to say, McCarthy’s simplified 4 P’s won the day over Borden’s unwieldy 12-point analysis. Take a look at the traditional marketing mix, in the form of the 4 P’s, before delving into the more recent paradigm shifts that have occurred in the field of marketing.


A product represents something that meets consumers’ needs or desires. Within the context of the traditional marketing mix, both goods and services meet the criteria of a product. When it comes to products, marketers must think about a variety of aspects:

  • Design features
  • Product quality
  • Branding
  • Packaging
  • Warranties


The price encompasses either the monetary value consumers will pay for the product or the time and effort put in to acquire the product. Perceived value on the part of the consumer also factors into the price. Considerations surrounding the price include

  • Strategy in price-setting
  • Rebates
  • Discounts
  • Payment methods
  • Payment terms


The place refers to where consumers can acquire a company’s product. The more convenient it is for consumers to find and purchase a product, the more likely it is that a sale will be made. Marketers must factor in multiple considerations:

  • Types of distribution
  • Market coverage
  • Location
  • Inventory
  • Logistics


Promotion refers to communication with the consumer. Marketing communications may include advertising, direct marketing, public relations, and more. Marketers must consider multiple elements:

  • A balance between the types of communication
  • The meaning of the communication
  • Ways to reach the consumer
  • The frequency of contact with the consumer

Evolution of the Digital Marketing Mix

In the early 1980s, Bernard Booms and Mary Bitner expanded the 4 P’s into the 7 P’s by adding “people,” “process,” and “physical evidence.” Although the term “digital marketing” did not originate until the 1990s, the contribution of Booms and Bitner modernized the marketing mix in a way that would allow for the incorporation of digital marketing into the traditional paradigm.

The emergence of digital marketing for tangible products would soon usher in online marketing for intangible, wholly online products. Indeed, online marketing represents a subset of digital marketing.

When reading the following explanations of the 7 P’s as they apply to digital and online promotion, note the similarities and differences of the digital marketing mix to the online marketing mix.


In a digital marketing mix, the product may be tangible (physical goods) or intangible (services). But, in an online marketing mix, the product must remain intangible and deliverable over the internet, regardless of whether it is a good (software) or service (online therapy session).

Whereas the creation of the product may occur offline in a digital marketing mix, all activities surrounding the product must take place online in an online promotional mix. For example, a fidget spinner can fit into a digital marketing mix, but not an online marketing mix. An expansion pack for your favorite video game could fit into either mix.

Focus on the Consumer

Regardless of whether a company develops a general digital marketing mix or the more specific online marketing mix, the end-user warrants much consideration. A business must identify a need or desire and meet it with a new product.

Because the vast majority of new companies fail, it’s imperative that a determination be made regarding whether consumers actually need or want the product. Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle does not represent a viable product development strategy.

Product Questions That Need Answers

Before a company takes a product to market, there exist a number of questions that require answers. Answering the following questions will go a long way toward accurately estimating the success of a product, whether it exists physically or online:

  • What need or desire does the product meet?
  • What is the product’s name?
  • How is the product branded?
  • What features or benefits place your product above the competitors’?
  • How low can you price the product and remain profitable?


For the digital marketing mix and the online marketing mix, the price of a product goes beyond the amount of money paid for it. In both cases, the purchase of a product requires the consumer to sacrifice time and effort.

For example, in many cases, a consumer must register online, supply information, find the product, and check out. In the case of a wholly online product, the consumer must also download it. Requiring too much non-monetary sacrifice on the part of the consumer can lead to decreased sales.

Opportunity Cost

Businesses must view their selling proposition from the perspective of the consumer. And that includes opportunity cost. For instance, a business may market a superior product at a slightly lower price than its competitors’ inferior products.

But if consumers must jump through a bunch of hoops or wait an extended period of time to acquire the business’s superior product, they may decide that purchasing an inferior product for a few dollars more makes sense based on the money value of time.

Online Pricing Comparison

Businesses must weigh several factors when pricing their products online. For one, consumers now have more information at their fingertips than ever and demonstrate a significant willingness to compare prices online. So, a competitive price takes precedence in most cases.

When deciding the online price of a  product, a business should consider competitors’ prices, along with market share, brand value, cost of materials, labor costs, and how consumers view the product in terms of its value.

Lower Overhead Allows for Reduced Prices

Whereas digital marketing of tangible products must account for higher overhead related to manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation, online marketing of intangible products delivered over the internet does not. This allows for lower prices and a better value in the eyes of consumers. As a result, such businesses may enjoy a competitive advantage.

Automated Real-time Price Adjustments

One advancement that has improved in what is the digital marketing mix and what is the online marketing mix comes in the form of automated price updates. For example, a jewelry company may employ automated price adjustments that shift with the change in the price of gold. As the price of gold increases, so does the price of the product.

Another example that has recently emerged involves the changing value of the form of payment. For instance, a company that accepts cryptocurrency as payment may use automated price updates to account for the fluctuation in the value of a cryptocurrency relative to the dollar. If the relative value of a given cryptocurrency increases, the product’s price decreases and vice versa.

Pricing Questions That Need Answers

When deciding on a price for a product, a business must answer important questions. Some of these questions to consider:

  • How important is the price to your target market?
  • How would a price change impact the market?
  • Should the price increase or decrease?
  • What impact would a sale or a coupon have?
  • How much do consumers value your product?
  • Are your prices competitive?

Pricing Strategies

Developing the right pricing strategy for an online product remains crucial. Some common strategies include:

  • Subscription – If consumers want access to a business’s software, they must pay a subscription fee to access it. Examples include World of Warcraft, Grammarly, online newspapers, and more.
  • One-time Purchase – Consumers must pay for each product.
  • Free – Consumers gain access to a business’s product for free but pay for various add-ons, exclusive access to premium content, etc. Monetization may occur through advertising, as well.


With a digital marketing mix, the places where consumers can purchase your product may include a brick-and-mortar store, an online store, a third-party vendor, and more. With an online marketing mix, all available channels exist on the internet. But that doesn’t mean online marketing options remain limited as to place. Countless channels exist online for online products.

Relationship to Places

For better or worse, digital and online marketing mixes must develop a business’s relationship to various places frequented by consumers. Examples include:

  • Answering potential customer queries regarding products listed on Amazon.
  • Providing customer service options to disgruntled customers on review sites.
  • Developing a following on popular social media apps.

Accessibility of Places

To compete in today’s market, a business must make sure its product remains highly visible online. Consumers can now make purchases in the wee hours of the night. So, companies need to maintain a presence in as many channels as possible, 24 hours a day.

Here are some common channels:

  • Websites that carry ads
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Search engines

Integrated Marketing

A business should employ a shotgun approach to choosing places to market its product. Relying on a single channel may work for a short time, but everything can fall apart if one little glitch occurs. By diversifying the channels used, a business reaches a larger audience and hedges against the failure of one or two channels.

Another benefit of channel diversification is the ability to integrate the channels used in a marketing campaign. For example, a business’s Google ad buy can link to the company’s latest Instagram post, which in turn links to a tweet on Twitter, which links to an Amazon product listing, creating a web of integrated marketing that’s more likely to capture new business.


For many business owners, promotion represents the most exciting of the 4 P’s. Some companies overemphasize promotion while all but ignoring the other P’s. The result is a smaller market share. When deciding how to best promote a product through a digital or online marketing mix, businesses may consider using multiple methods:

  • Google Ads
  • Social media campaigns
  • Company newsletters
  • SEO content

Technological Advances in Communication

Digital and online marketing mixes are evolving to become custom-tailored to the end-users. Businesses can divide up the market in far more ways than was possible in the past. For example, companies can promote their products according to the consumers’ hardware and software uses:

  • Device (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.)
  • Preferred browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.)
  • Operating system (Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, etc.)

This allows a company’s analytics team to review which promotional campaigns worked the best in the past so the marketing team can devise a stronger strategy for the future.

Which Channels to Use for Promotion

When developing a digital or online marketing mix, a business must focus on which channels present the highest likelihood of success. A business can not promote on every available channel at the same time unless it’s one of the biggest companies in its respective industry. So, most likely, a company must arrive at decision by picking and choosing from the following non-exhaustive list:

  • Search engines (organic results and paid ads)
  • Social media posts and paid ads
  • Forums
  • Influencers
  • Business indices
  • Ads on non-competing websites


We’ve finally arrived at the newest three P’s of the modern digital marketing mix, starting with people. Businesses need good people with great personalities to handle distribution and maintain relationships with customers. For an online company, customer service plays an important role in the success of the business.

Channels in which a company can build relationships between its personnel and its customers while providing excellent customer service include:

  • Social media
  • Product review websites
  • Online chat

A business must develop a strategy to keep its staff engaged with the consumer to maintain customer satisfaction. Failure to do so could result in a shrinking market share and a loss of profitability.


Companies should constantly explore ways in which they can optimize their various processes to provide a seamless user experience. A streamlined process benefits both company personnel and the consumer. To do this, a company must dedicate time and resources to data analytics in order to uncover inefficiencies and strengthen the processes that have proven effective.

Of course, there needs to be data to analyze. So, businesses must keep detailed records of every marketing campaign, customer transaction, product return, customer service result, and more. What diligent business owners discover is that they can identify defective elements in their marketing processes before those elements negatively impact the bottom line.

Physical Evidence

In the traditional sense, physical evidence means a reassuring brick-and-mortar presence with decor, amenities, and friendly, knowledgeable staff. Obviously, this is not possible in a digital setting, but online evidence still plays a major role in gaining the trust of a target market.

Some of the ways a business can show physical evidence in an online setting include:

  • Maintaining an active presence across all major social media apps
  • Gaining followers, likes, shares, etc.
  • Building a sleek, cutting-edge, credible website
  • Making public customer service responses

Marketing Mix Checklist

To wrap everything up, take a look at our Marketing Mix Checklist to make sure your business is doing everything it can to grow its market share.

  • Determine the unique selling proposition related to your product or service. What sets your product or service apart from the competition?
  • Do a little research on your target market. What do they want/need, and does your product or service meet it?
  • Perform some reconnaissance on your competitors. How many do you have? What mistakes have they made that you can avoid?
  • What channels does your target market use? Familiarize yourself with the processes that will maximize your success on each channel.
  • Reflect on the successes and failures of your digital or online marketing mix. What worked? What didn’t? Did you touch on all 7 P’s?

Did we miss an important element of how to create a digital marketing mix? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll add your suggestion to the article during our next update.

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Categories: Marketing Mix, Marketing Strategy, and Promotion.

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