From apples to wagons. What is marketing?

Photo by Mostafa Akbarzadeh on Unsplash

Imagine you’re an apple farmer, way back in the olden days. After months of carefully tending your orchard, you finally pick the ripe fruit from the trees, load up the wagon, and take your apples to market to sell them.

Put simply, marketing is your plan. It’s your everything you need to go-to-market plan.

The first thing is the apple. That’s your product, so of course, that’s part of what you take to market.

The place you sell your apples is a key part of your go to market plan. Do you sell right off the back of the wagon? Or do you push a small barrow around the market? Do you rent a spot in the fancy part of the market, up near where the band plays? Or down the bottom end where it’s a bit drab and dusty, but at least the rent is cheaper? Do you go to the big market in the town square? Or the little organic one down by the river?

The pricing is also part of the marketing. A bag of apples for $2. Buy two bags, get one free.

And the last major element of the marketing is the sign you put up to promote yourself: Adam’s Apples. And the catchy slogan you put underneath: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Add to this any signs you put up around town to point hungry punters to your apple wagon. Anything you do to promote your apples, that’s marketing too.

The Four P’s of marketing

Altogether, this pretty much sums up marketing: it’s the Product you’re selling, the Place you sell them from, the Price you charge and the Promotion that draws the crowd. Altogether, these are known as the Four P’s of marketing.

Critics would argue that the Four P’s are a little old fashioned, but as a basic framework, it’s still a useful tool for getting your head around the main elements.

The one key element that isn’t explicitly included here is the customer, which should be at the heart of your marketing plan. If you don’t know who you’re doing it for, how can you hope to be successful?

You could say the customer is so important that you would have learned all about them before you even bought your farm. Then from that deep understanding, you identified a need amongst the townsfolk for a simple, nutritious snack, so you decided to plant some apple trees, which would yield apples that could be sold at the market at a fair price, under a catchy banner.

Another criticism might be that the four P’s don’t quite cover everything. This depends on how you define each P and how deep you go.

The Product

The product could be a widget you sell or a service you provide. There might be some industries that defy the simple product or service categories, but the basic idea is that P for Product covers everything to do with the solution you provide, and the value you create that solves the need.

The Place

Place is not really the best word for this category. Distribution would have been better, but it doesn’t start with P. This is about how you get the solution in the hands of the customer. What channels are you using? Is it retail or wholesale? B2B or B2C? Do you sell one to one, or one to many? There are plenty of ways to do it. How are you going to structure your operation to provide the best value for your intended audience?

The Price

Pricing is influenced by a number of factors. What is it worth to your customer? What are the competition charging? Are you big, luxurious, and expensive? Or perhaps you’re faster, smarter, and cheaper? Do you sell a lot for not much, or do you sell less for a lot? Psychology plays a role here too. Paying $99 always feels better than paying $100. Getting three for $10 seems better when buying one costs $4. Getting the price right is a balance between your customer’s pocket and your revenue.

The Promotion

Promotion is what you do to get noticed, create desire and connect with your audience. On the one hand it’s annoying, disruptive advertising. On the other it’s personal, relevant conversations with people who want to hear from you. The former works, but it costs a lot and it won’t serve you in the long run. The other works better in the long run, but it takes time to build and demands more of you to make it work.

They’re not perfect, but the four P’s are a good start to understanding marketing. Even if it’s just to remind you that there’s more to going to market than putting a catchy banner above your wagon.

Originally published at on March 22, 2019.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Brent Tunney

Brent Tunney


Sometimes I’m a designer, sometimes I’m a UX consultant and sometimes I’m a marketer. Mostly, I help you simplify and clarify things.