The 4Ps of a Fully Alive Business

Back in the early 1960’s the American Marketing Association coined the term the “Four ‘P’s” as a way to describe the essential elements of the marketing mix. Since that time every first year marketing student has been taught to think in terms of product, price, place and promotion as they analyze case studies of companies real and imagined.

Much has changed in the last 50 years, including what product really is, what place entails, how package plays a role and, well, pretty much everything about what promotion looks like.

In fact, the very definition of marketing has changed dramatically enough to render the original Four P’s somewhat useless as a foundational marketing and business strategy concept.

Today’s most important business and marketing directive is one of building trust. Engagement, connection and story are the new forms of promotional art. Price is a function of value and place has become bytes and ether more often than a shelf or an office.

There is a home for the Four P’s in today’s business but it’s in the very mortar of the business and the story of its people rather than in a department on an org chart.

The Four P’s are now more about how a business is experienced than what it sells. They reside in the expression of human characteristics that turn commitment into culture and culture into customer.

The following elements make up a redefinition of the Four P’s for the fully alive business and further make the case that marketing is everything you do and every business is really a marketing business.

The Four P's of Business


The first element of the Four P’s in a fully alive business is the passion for living that the owner of the business brings. When the founder of a business can serve their own personal passion and purpose by growing the business, good things can evolve.

The leader of a business must have a great sense of passion for the business, but they also must be able to connect that passion with purpose in order to bring out the desire to commit in others. Leading with passion is how you put yourself out there and do what you were meant to do.

“A ship in port is safe but that’s not what ships are built for.” ~ Grace Murray Hopper


Purpose is how a business defines why it does what it does. It is the reason people are drawn to work in a business, it’s the reason they come to life inside the business and it’s the reason customers voluntarily become loyal ambassadors of the brand.

Purpose builds trust because it allows people to see their own values in action in support of something they strongly believe. A regular paycheck, important sounding title, or great deal on a cool product, probably doesn’t invoke much in the way of purpose.

Joining a business that is on an epic journey to create joy, change an age old industry, innovate under the nose of a Goliath, or just do a great deal more of the right thing – that’s purpose, that’s not simply a business it’s a cause and people will do some remarkable things inside and around the support of their cause.


Organizations that understand the power of purpose also understand that purpose is what they need to package as their reason for being, core difference and position in the market. They lead with why and let those attracted to that why create their own definition of what.

In fact, brands that start with purpose over product can effectively enter most any market with the same positioning and compete with entrenched category leaders. I know it’s become cliché to cite Apple as an example, but this computer company routinely blows competitors away in any market they enter. Think mp3 players and mobile devices – two categories they entered and dominate even though they’re a computer company.

Apple’s sense of why is so prevalent in their positioning that it wouldn’t surprise me if they entered the coffee market and became the category darling.


The final P is how a business uses desirable human traits or personality characteristics as a vehicle to allow all that encounter the business to actually experience purpose.

It’s one thing to state your purpose on a plaque or marketing brochure, it’s another thing entirely to live by a tangible set of daily habits and processes that offer proof of purpose.

We are drawn to people and experience that are simple, inspirational, convenient, innovative, playful, community oriented and filled with surprise. These are the personality traits that a fully alive business uses as the everyday creative language of the business.

These traits act as the filter for every decision and make up how the business is run internally and the brand is experienced externally.

Imagine what would occur if every college student today were taught these Four P’s. Imagine if every business were started with this framework. Imagine if everyone could go to work for a company built with this way of thinking at its core. Imagine if we could experience these Four P’s by simply becoming a customer of your business? What would that be like?

I don’t know, I think it would be pretty great.

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  • Deborah Mourey

    Incredible article thank you. I teach marketing at the graduate level and this article articulates what I am trying to teach them about how things are, can and should be. I also work regularly w entrepreneurs — this simple article reinforces the notion that building trust w customers and employees is core to any business today. Building trust in the digital age requires us to try different things — not to stick our head in the ground– and not to endlessly promote ourselves. Creating value from content and context requires thought, care, creativity and a new, inexpensive toolkit. Thank you again.

    • ducttape

      It’s funny Deborah – one of my daughters is a research assistant for her marketing professor and is working on helping him update his marketing textbook – I showed her these and she said – now that actually makes sense – imagine if we could start teaching this at that level too!

  • Vic @ Business Tips Blog

    This is a great insight that every business persons and entrepreneurs should learn. Like the 4Ps of marketing, these 4Ps of a fully alive business, should also work in the right mix or combination. Passion is a powerful element in success because when we have passion in business, we don’t need to force ourselves to have patience and perseverance.

    • ducttape

      Hey Vic, that’s right passion certainly produces lots of things, but purpose is what tempers passion to produce things like patience and perseverance.

      Actually, I’m proposing these replace the Four P’s of marketing too.

  • Angela Hausman

    I like your 4 P’s of a Fully Lively Business, although I think you probably need a catchier title.  I think these go well beyond marketing and reflect the business as a whole, which is something the 4P’s of marketing were never designed to accomplish.

  • Mizakin

    Four P’s of marketing was not developed by AMA but by Neil Borden and Jerome McCarthy. See

    Four P’s concept does not work as well for service/information industry as for manufacturing, but it is still a valid concept. Helps you get your business plan in order.

    • ducttape

      Borden was the president of the AMA and first used the term in his 1953 AMA Presidential Address.

      The Four P’s I put forth in this article work for any business!

  • faberglas

    Leading with passion is how *you* put yourself out there and do what you were meant to do.

  • Bill Simmel

    As always you provide unique and useful insight. I would like to add the 5th and 6th P’s.

    A Fifth P is Perception – a small business owner or entrepreneur must always have his idea or business perceived as a valuable solution to a Problem (the 6th P). While, perception does not always create reality —- reality will never occur without a perception (perception is a preconceived belief of an outcome)

  • Justin Dupre

    Very informative post. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Shilpi Roy – Virtual Assistant

    Passion for business and the purpose of starting one I feel are the good ones….

    “Shilpi Singha Roy
    Facebook fan page –

  • JonYoffie

    The new 4 P’s!  I like it!

  • sbullock

    Great article with some insightful thoughts that sure make sense. I handle the marketing for my brother’s winery and I think a big reason for his success has been his passion. From the start, he has always wanted people to “experience” the wine, not just drink it. It is amazing to see how many people have become passionate about Illinois wine (that’s right- Illinois) because he shares this passion with his employees who they share it with the customers!

  • Matt

    Great Post John, I have been converting my company from the old age thinking of stick and carrot to the new way of leading. People want to be recognized, heard, appreciated, noticed, and have a voice. This falls right in line with what and how I’m converting my small company. Thank you for the insight. We build strong people so they can build a strong company so it can build a strong community.

  • Sarah Manley

    Great article; I think “passion” speaks to the type of people who get their ideas heard to make a difference.  I wrote something similar last month and it got some social traction.  I added to the “4 P’s of Marketing” based on today’s social marketing norms as an additional cornerstone of business thought.  Check it out here. 

  • Brien Charlton

    Great article. I also appreciate you educating us on the history of the original 4P’s. Quite a story. And quite remarkable that they are still so firmly entrenched in marketers’ mindsets 50 years later!

  • Kevin Johnson

    Thanks for the lists. I always make sure to bookmark pages
    like this because you know it will be useful in the future too. thanks again.

  • Mark Brundage

    Thi is a so true!! I agree with the 4 p’s. Passion and purpose to help someone else and make a profit on the way!

  • Marian

    Thanks John, I really connect with what you’re expressing and am trying to find a way to convey it to my staff.

  • Nick

    This article would have been great in the 1990s but it’s laughable now. “Positioning” is a concept developed in the 1970s and doesn’t apply to an era when customers define brands, not companies. And “personality?!” Give me a break. What customers really care about is operational excellence (quality, service, etc.) not a smiley face or other attribute that every other brand seeks to claim. Wake up! It’s 2011, not 1981.

    • ducttape

      Well actually taken out of the context of this post I might agree with some of your thinking, but positioning wasn’t created in the 70s, positioning just is whether you participate or not – you don’t have to agree, but when coupled with purpose this is how a brand is expressed and experienced – operational excellence is often delivered through the personality traits of simplicity and innovation – expand your thinking a bit and you won’t default to smiley faces as the only use of the concept.

  • Fran Aslam


    Liked reading your post.  It was full of positive knowledge and motivating as well.
    Fran A

  • Fran Aslam

    Hi John:
    Liked reading your post.  So good informative and motivating also.
    Thanks  Fran A

  • Miss Jodi Picarelli

    Many years ago I read a handful of small business marketing and this changed my life as a business owner. Now I have stumbled upon your webpage, I LOVE IT, I have lived by the 4 P’s since 1989 when I started my business.Just figured that this was the way I had to be as an entreprenuer in small business.  I just ordered your books Ducttape Marketing(2nd Edition) and The Referral Engine in hopes of adding another “P” for Picarelli in the success equation! Thank you very much, Miss Jodi Picarelli, Founder of for Special Needs students.

    • ducttape

      Thanks Jodi – looking forward to hearing how it goes for you. Come back often!
      Just curious where you found me after all these years?

      • Miss Jodi Picarelli

        Greetings John,
        I found your DTM business during the process of creating my new Special Needs based webpage, which is a spinoff business from my main page  While submitting my URL’s to the usual cast of search engines , I went to Google for their WebMaster ToolKit and decided to switch over my homepage to Google . That is where I found your DTM Gadget, downloaded to my homepage,positioned it next to my Hangman Gadget and continue to use both daily. I like your marketing approach to get attention to your business and connected instantly with your work.
         Besides my teaching work, I am a performing musican and I go through a case of duct tape a year securing wires to the stage. So why not use such an amazing product on my webpages as well! Thank you, Jodi

  • Rob Peters

    I like your article a lot.  Of course, I agree that building trust is foundational to a successful business and relationship.  Trust will also be more tangible and measured on-line through Relationship Capital (RC) metrics.  Individuals, Products, and Businesses as “Relationship Entities” will be scored by their stakeholders on their kept-commitments and perceptions of them by others.  Trust is certainly the issue of the day, but people trust committed action not intent.