The 5th P – People

Most people in business are familiar with the 4 Ps of marketing. These are the tactics that a marketing manager uses to deliver a marketing strategy. The 4 Ps are product, price, place (distribution) and promotion. The best marketers select a target marketing and then develop a marketing mix that meets the needs of the target while generating a profit for the company.

Last week, an observant Air Canada passenger used his phone camera to video luggage handlers abusing luggage that was being checked at the side of the airplane, because all the carry on space was full.  Check out this one minute video.

As of writing this, with only 5 days on YouTube, the video has experienced 1.6 million views. Air Canada gave a formal apology almost immediately. They announced yesterday that the baggage handlers in question would receive a 2 week suspension from work.

What does this have to do with marketing? I have always believed that the marketing mix leaves out one important P – People. We all know that people/employees can have a major impact on the way that a customer feels about a brand. If we support our people, treat them with respect, develop them and provide them with role models, training and appropriate direction, most of the time we get great results.

But we also have to understand that the organizational culture and practices we require can also have an influence on the people in our organizations. These baggage handlers might be doing this to meet expectations for on time departures that management set. If it isn’t possible to do this the right way, they will do it the wrong way, if that is what management is measuring.  They might not be in the wrong here – it might have to do with what they are incented to do.  If you are given an impossible task and then rewarded for achieving it, it might be that you too would take a few short cuts.

It’s clear to me that, at least in this case, it’s the “People” aspect of the marketing mix that can do the most damage to the brand. And yet, marketers rarely acknowledge that there is a 5th “P” in the mix, and even if they do, they rarely include people in their tactics.

What could your organization do with the 5th P? How would another P in the marketing mix change the way you go to market? Ask your colleagues that question the next time you sit around the conference table.  You might get some interesting answers.


1 reply »

  1. I find it ironic that we are now in 2014 and the debate over people (the 5th P) is still going on. In 1964, when I was a gas pump jockey, British American Oil was already using the 5th P. In fact it was a major marketing tool.
    When hired at the service centre on the 401 just outside of West Lorne, ON, I was supplied with two uniforms, with tie, and two pair of running shoes. Running shoes were displayed at every B/A Oil outlet in Canada. Our introduction to our first day was a lecture on what and who we represented. We were clean, we were neat, we were courteous and we were FAST! No customer would leave those pumps with a dirty window, dirty headlights, low tire pressure or without having a minimum of thirteen items checked under the hood. Everyone ran to the pumps when a car pulled up.
    All of B/A Oil’s marketing and advertising was backed up by the 5th P and it worked. Just ask yourself, “how often have you tipped a gas pump jockey?” It was common for us to receive tips. Oh, you might factor in that gas was 42.9 cents a gallon (Imperial gallon) and you didn’t need to take out a mortgage to fill your car.
    Keep plugging away Colleen. Someone will discover the 5th P (again).

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