Governing The Commons: The Other 4 P’s of Marketing

In this blog I’ve been relating marketing and its classic 4 Ps–product, price, placement, and promotion–to the public goods, services, and interactions that build and strengthen our communities. Reading Governing the Commons by Elinor Ostrom reminded me of the other 4 Ps of marketing.

I mentioned the other 4 Ps in a previous post:

  • People
  • Programs
  • Processes
  • Performance

Ostrom’s findings regarding sustained and sustainable approaches for managing community pooled resources barely touch on products and promotion, tangentially address placement when dealing with boundaries around resources, and discuss price predominantly as a determiner of behavior.

Her findings dealt much more with the people who come together to define, modified, and perpetuate processes that allow them to sustainably manage a shared resource across several decades, if not several centuries.

For example, in discussing the Alanya fishery in Turkey, Ostrom didn’t find that the fishermen developed new technology for catching fish differently. In fact, they limited the types of existing fishing technology that could be used. They didn’t develop commercial fish farms as a new type of product. They didn’t change their pricing, although they did find ways to share price information with each other.

The Alanya fishermen didn’t change the boundaries of their resource, one type of placement approach, nor did they start distributing their catch in new or different ways. They didn’t decrease their promotion to lower demand on their fishery, nor did the increase their brand promotion in an attempt to raise pricing and make more money from their limited resources.

The fishers of Alanya modified little to nothing about the product, price, promotion, and placement of their product.

Instead, the people of Alanya developed, among themselves, a new but simple process for determining where each fisherman could fish on each day of the season. They also measured the performance of their process to see if fish stocks were continuing to decline.

Many marketers avoid talking about, or doing something about, these other 4 Ps of marketing. Why? Because the other 4 Ps are hard. Changing people, programs, and processes often means taking on cultural beliefs and unacknowledged emotions related to the status quo. Measuring performance seems difficult, takes time and effort away from performance itself, and runs a real possibility of proving us wrong.

Still, in the end, as Ostrom shows, mastering the other 4 Ps can create sustainable good within the community for generations.

(Governing the Commons and other books mentioned in this blog are available in the bookstore.)

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