Optimizing the Marketing Mix

Learning Objectives

  • Describe how a marketing strategy optimizes the marketing mix

Photo of a lone traveler pulling her suitcase, walking through brightly colored O'Hare Airport With a clear understanding of the corporate objectives, marketers must decide which strategies and tactics will best align with and support them.

This is rarely a simple decision. Markets are constantly changing, and buyer behavior is very complex. The marketer must evaluate all aspects of the marketing mix and determine which combination of product, price, promotion, and distribution will be most effective.

Decisions about the marketing-mix variables are interrelated. Each of the marketing-mix variables must be coordinated with the other elements of the marketing program. Consider, for a moment, a situation in which a firm has two product alternatives (deluxe and economy), two price alternatives ($6 and $3), two promotion alternatives (advertising and coupons), and two distribution alternatives (department stores and specialty stores). Taken together, the firm has a total of sixteen possible marketing-mix combinations. Naturally, some of them will be incompatible, such as the “deluxe” product and low price combination. Nevertheless, the organization must consider many of the possible alternative marketing programs. The problem is magnified by the existence of competitors. The organization must find the right combination of product, price, promotion, and distribution so that it can gain a differential advantage over its competitors. (All of the marketing mix elements will be discussed in more detail in other modules of the course.)

Recall that Southwest Airlines created a company strategy to expand its target market to include business travelers. One of its objectives was to grow revenue and market share to achieve specific targets by expanding into the business traveler market.

Which marketing strategies are needed to support such a corporate strategy? To answer that, Southwest had to investigate the four Ps:

  • Do we need new products that appeal to business travelers? (Product)
  • Are business travelers willing to pay a higher price point? (Price)
  • How will we communicate our offerings to business travelers? (Promotion)
  • How do business travelers book their travel? Are new distribution points needed? (Place)

As you can see, these questions about the four Ps are nicely aligned with Southwest’s corporate strategy and objectives, but they’re also connected to questions about the target customer: Who is the business traveler and how does he or she define value? The optimal marketing strategy will need to include a deep understanding of the target customer and specify how it offers unique value to that customer. Southwest did that in the ways described below:

Product Strategy

Created a series of programs that offer time savings and convenience for business travelers, who value those benefits above price.

Pricing Strategy

Created add-on services that provide business travelers with time savings and convenience at a total price that is higher than what leisure travelers pay for no-frills services, but is at or slightly below competitors’ prices for business fares.

In each case, the marketing strategy supports the corporate strategy, focuses on providing unique value to the target customer, and incorporates the elements of the marketing mix that can be leveraged to deliver that value.