The Worst Implementations of the 4 P’s of Marketing

6 minute read

Team Kapost

Anyone who’s been in the marketing business for a while will probably be familiar with the four “P’s” of marketing: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.

Whether it stems from the pressure to try wild new ideas or just make more money, we’ve seen brands from all industries fail miserably in their implementations of those four concepts.

Here are some of the most unfortunate examples of the four P’s gone wrong, and what you can learn from them.


No matter how many geniuses work on your marketing team, a bad product is almost certainly going to tank. Consumers have seen plenty of foolish items arrive on shelves (and quickly disappear from them), so there are lots of examples to choose from here.

One of the most famed failures is still one of the most evocative. Yes, it’s the good old Sony Betamax.

Younger readers may not remember this relic of the pre-DVD days, but the Betamax was a rival video format that barely predated VHS. The two formats and their players were incompatible, so consumers had to choose between the product suites. Sony was the only company making Betamax tapes and players, so when more companies hopped on the VHS bandwagon, that side quickly won the fight.

There are several takeaways here. First, when you’re entering a fast-moving product niche, be prepared to adapt. Your revolutionary idea might be surpassed by an even more revolutionary one in months. Second, think about your audience after launch. Consider practicality and ease of use. So even if that means relinquishing your exclusive technology, giving a little now can mean longevity and success for your idea—if it’s a good one to begin with.


It can appear helpful to have an outside source handle the placement and distribution of your marketing materials, such as with a big buy of display ads. It’s less work for you, and your brand gets full coverage across the web. This all seems like a good deal, but relinquishing the detail work can lead to bad placement.

Take the example of an ad for Red Stripe beer that ran in the middle of a news item about an 11-year-old who was caught driving drunk. Even though the company surely didn’t ask to be featured as an ad with this story, it still reflects poorly on Red Stripe for those readers.

After all, when you control the placement of your content, you can get the most ideal response from your target audience. That’s true whether you’re making content for display on other websites or for social sharing.

Online content and sources are taking up larger slices of your audience’s media consumption, and you need to make sure your videos, articles, and links are showing up on their radar. And that radar can get very crowded. Putting your content onto the right channels is a good first step.


It doesn’t matter how cool, unique, or vital your product is—if people can’t afford what you’re selling, your company is out of luck. A prime example of bad pricing in the healthcare industry just hit the headlines in recent weeks.

Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to infectious disease drug Daraprim in late September and promptly increased its price from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

CEO and founder Martin Shkreli immediately faced fire from the medical and scientific communities for putting a necessary medication out of the reach of many patients and institutions. While Shkreli attempted to spin the hike as a way to fund more drug research, his past work as a hedge fund manager and his cavalier lifestyle created a toxic image for most buyers. Following an intense media firestorm, Turing eventually reversed its pricing scheme for the drug.

What can your company learn about pricing here? First, a large and abrupt spike will almost always cause some sticker shock, even increases that are more moderate than the 5,000% increase we saw with Daraprim.

But it’s the other context that really made this change such a hot topic. The appearance of corporate greed and entitlement that people saw in Shkreli was a major factor in the outcry. This is an extreme example from a troubled industry, but it shows the degree of visceral backlash a company can face over pricing.

The average person probably understands that companies need to make money, but if the public sees your choices stemming from blatant greed rather than good business, expect to see the pitchforks and torches.

Smart pricing can benefit your business. Finding the sweet spot between your profit margins and your goal buyer’s comfort zone makes everyone happy. Plus it gives you the flexibility to run promotions and deals that can improve your reputation without hurting the bottom line.


Sometimes everything can seem to be in order: the product is good, the brand is reputable, and the campaign idea is firing on all cylinders. It seems like smooth sailing. But poor execution on the promotion side can still manage to sink the ship.

Take the example of Nesquik, which decided to craft a campaign around its rabbit mascot. It dubbed a holiday National Bunny Ears Day and launched an app that let users add bunny ears to their photos. A clever idea, but it completely flopped.

Even though some celebrities were helping out by sharing their own photos, the hashtag got less buzz during the campaign than it did afterward in discussions of how poorly the push performed. Nobody was interested.

The campaign failed to connect with its audience, whereas with a better plan for social engagement or a connection to an existing holiday, the idea might have taken off.

Marketing needs to follow through. Simply putting your idea out into the world and hoping it gets traction isn’t enough. Have a plan—and at least one back-up plan—for how you’ll achieve your goals with a campaign. The more troubleshooting you can accomplish in advance, the more time your team will have to work on building positive buzz rather than putting out fires.

Putting it All Together

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