Damn the 4 Ps!

by Keith Diggle


Whatever the subject, if it is to be communicated effectively it must be subjected to some form of analysis. If you watch the efforts of a practitioner – of almost anything, making clogs, writing, cutting grass, riding a bicycle – to communicate the how of the matter, you will see an attempt to analyse the activity in order to explain it. The really effective communicator is one who hits on exactly the right analysis, the one that lays bare the essentials, so you have the all key elements laid out before you, labelled, with explanations of how they work together. Without this all one has is ‘Watch me, see how I do it’ and this is rarely a successful method of teaching.

Arts marketing professionals must agree on what is the most useful analysis of the marketing function. The most common and, in my view, the least helpful, is the one most frequently found in books written by commercial marketers or academics who teach marketing; they refer to the four Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Promotion and Place’ which I find to be at best an oversimplification and at worst an encouragement to sloppy thinking. These damned Four Ps still form the basis of many people’s thinking and working.

There’s no law that says writers on marketing have to be modest. My analysis is better. It recognises the key decision areas. It contains within it an understanding of how marketing works. If you use it as a checklist you will not miss out vital steps. Let’s look at the analysis.



Arts experiences are what our product really is but it is convenient to think of it as what happens on a stage or in a gallery or wherever: that product is created and/or selected according to the many criteria that emerge from the artist’s/arts organisation’s raison d’être and hence philosophy. It may exist with an ‘available audience’ in mind or it may exist in order to act as a ‘taster’ for members of the ‘unavailable audience’. It may exist for no other reason than an artist wants it to exist – and provided that the money exists to enable it to exist and to market it that’s OK too. When doing the business of marketing then never forget that your product, the product you have to sell, is an experience and this should colour the way you tackle the matter.



The people whom we want to have that experience. It is helpful to see the public in terms of their attitudes and behaviour in relation to the art that is being marketed. The most responsive sector will be those who are already demonstrating their favourable attitude by enjoying the experiences you offer them and those who, for any number of reasons, have not got down to doing the enjoying just yet but think of themselves as being the kind of people who should, would, might and probably will (one day!) buy tickets and do the deed. These I term the Attenders and Intenders – they make up your Available Audience. Then there are the people who do not have a favourable attitude and do not attend: to remind us that there is a scale of attitudes here I call them the Indifferent and the Hostile – these are your (presently) Unavailable Audience. The orientation of your marketing, the extent to which you concentrate upon the Available Audience and the Unavailable Audience, will be determined by the philosophy of your organisation and the extent to which it wants and is able to embrace the ideas of Audience Development Arts Marketing.


The process of bringing Product and Public together will involve …


Financial Planning

Provides the economic mini-environment in which the marketing of each event or programme of events takes place. It ensures that the organisation achieves its financial objective and is able to sustain itself year by year. It will require estimates of income and expenditure – and expenditure items should include not only the obvious such as Publicity but also the often overlooked Sales and Sales Promotion.



The price tag put on the Product which has a major impact on the Public’s decision to buy or not to buy and carries with it important implications of value in the message that is projected to the Public by …



Essentially a combination of Advertising and Public Relations, charged with the responsibility of making the Public (however defined – see Public above) want to buy the Product, desire is enhanced by …


Sales Promotion

The technique used to improve the potential customer’s perception of the value of what is being offered (see Pricing above) and which uses promises of improved value to enhance the publicised message and to assist the effectiveness of Sales …



Which brings the psychologically committed potential customer to the point of physical commitment to the Product by reducing or eliminating ‘barriers to purchase’, by providing a place or system in or by which the sale may take place and encourages action on the part of that would-be customer..


Not as easy to remember as Four Ps but try this as a mnemonic:

Peter Piper (Product, Public)
Forgets Paddling (Financial Planning)
Plans (Publicity)
Swimming Pool (Sales Promotion)
and Swims instead (Sales)