I had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite professor’s speak at an event yesterday afternoon. While Bob Lauterborn was not a professor of mine, I did hear him speak on the “Power of Print” in New York in 1981 when he was the director of marketing at International Paper. Shortly after that, Bob became the James L. Knight Professor at the U.N.C. School of Journalism where he taught hundreds of students about the application of marketing communications based on his successful career in marketing with G.E. and International Paper.
Bob reiterates how the marketing communications of today is driven by the customer rather than the corporation and, as a result, the four P’s have been replaced by the four C’s.
He urges business professionals to talk about marketing as an investment rather than a cost and notes that a company’s profitability is a function of customer behavior. He also believes that the marketing plan is the implementation plan for the business plan.
He argues that the customer experiences your product or service on three levels: 1) functional — what they do with it; 2) emotional — how it makes them feel; and, 3) self-expressive — what it helps them become.
Bob believes the emotional and self expressive experiences are the most compelling and that no one buys a product or service, they buy the anticipation of an experience. As such, marketers need to determine their target consumers’ needs and fulfill them before a competitor comes along and does so.
The only sustainable source of competitive advantage is the superior understanding of the customer. Everything else can be replicated and improved upon by your competition in relatively short order.
So what are the four C’s?
– Customer needs and wants (formerly product)
– Cost to the customer of satisfying those needs (i.e., value) (formerly price)
– Convenience to buy (formerly place)
– Communication — having a two-way dialogue with your customer (formerly promotion)
What are you doing to understand your customers and prospects better than your competition?