NPS Marketing Chapter 5:
The Marketing Mix and Product

In this chapter we will introduce the marketing mix and discuss product, the first element of the mix. Chapter 6 will introduce price and discuss its role in the marketing mix. Chapter 7 will do the same for distribution (place). Chapter 8 will cover promotion and the promotion mix, the communication elements of the marketing mix.

The Marketing Mix

A General Discussion

Logic: Marketers have four tools to use to develop an offering to
meet the needs of their targeted customers.
Collectively they are called the marketing mix.

Marketing Mix: You may have heard of the "four Ps" of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. Collectively these are called the marketing mix. More comprehensively they are viewed as:

Collectively these are the tools organizations uses to develop offerings to satisfy their target market(s) ... the only tools at their disposal. Remember: If your marketing mix doesn't meet their needs they will not be satisfied - and if they aren't satisfied you are unlikely to meet your objectives.

The marketing mix should be viewed as an integrated and coordinated package of benefits that reflect the characteristics of customers and various targeted publics and satisfy their needs, wants, and expectations. Note that the elements of the marketing mix should be integrated because each element of the mix usually has some impact, direct or indirect, on the other three. For example, if you improve the product or service you probably have to change the price because it costs more to produce. Although you may not have to change where the product is delivered to the customer, you will almost certainly have to change the promotion or communication with the customer because you need to tell the customer about the changes you have made in the product and how the changes will make it more desirable and satisfying.

One problem in many organizations is that different divisions may be responsible for different elements of the marketing mix. This happens even in well managed organizations. The result is that the offering is confusing to the target market. Lack of communication among divisions makes this problem worse. And if they don't share the same view of organizational objectives, the problem is worse still.

Product: The product, service, or program includes both tangible and intangible elements. The tangible, of course, are those things that the customer can see, touch, feel, taste, or smell. The intangible include such things as the image of the offering ... which includes the image of the organization making the offering, the psychological aspects of pricing (high price to many customers is equated with high quality - and vice versa).

Price: The price is what the customer pays. It includes direct and indirect costs as well as opportunity costs. The benefits of the product have to be great enough to warrant the price. Price includes all costs associated with the product, service, or program.

Place: The place is where the customer receives the product, service, or program. The place of delivery, including all of its resources, is part of what the consumer buys. A place that meets his or her needs better may be worth more. The place may be a park, a visitor center in the park, or an interpretive exhibit along a trail. In setting its strategy, the organization must determine how much the target market is willing to pay for atmosphere and physical resources of place.

Promotion:Promotion includes all forms of communication you use to communicate the benefits of your offering to the target market(s). The objective is to persuade the customer in such a way that he or she recognizes that your offering is uniquely qualified to meet his or her needs. The term promotion mix is commonly used to refer to the types of communication that are available: advertising, public relations, personal selling, publicity, and sales promotion. Some authors include direct marketing. Word of mouth, though seldom discussed, is powerful promotion.


Product: A Part of the Marketing Mix

Product is actually a complex, multidimensional concept. It is defined broadly enough to include services, programs, and attitudes and includes whatever you are offering the target market in an effort to meet their needs. It involves all tangible and intangible aspects of the good or service you offer your target market. These are things which have value and are balanced against the value you expect to receive from the target consumer. Product in the NPS world would probably be interpreted as programs, activities, interpretation, as well as services.

Product Mix: Every organization has a product mix that is made up of product lines. Product lines contain product items. Each product item is a product or service as well as the brand, package, and services associated with it. There are six components as follows:

Product Life Cycle: Products, services, programs, activities, etc., don't last forever! They have a life ... and then, often, they die. Businesses have a clear signal ... customers quit making a purchase. But government agencies do not receive such a clear cut signal. Unfortunately, they can continue to offer these outdated programs, services, etc., and operate outmoded facilities long after they should have been retired ... and would have in the business sector. How does the NPS address this problem?

The product life cycle is generally considered to have four stages: Not all products experience a full life cycle. Some never take off in growth. Further, the length of time it takes a product or service to go through the cycle varies drastically. There are "staple" programs, for instance, that will probably always be around. To guard against problems associated with continuing to offer products, programs, etc., that no longer meet the needs of the target market, Edward Mahoney of Michigan State University suggests a periodic audit of programs and services. He defines an audit as a critical, unbiased review, from the customer's point of view, at two different levels: Offerings which no longer meet the needs of the target market are modified or withdrawn and resources reallocated elsewhere in order to use them more effectively in pursuit of organizational objectives.

Marketing Research: How do you know when a program has died? Paraphrasing C. D. Moore, If you can't (or don't) measure it (user satisfaction), you can't improve it (or know when to change or eliminate it). Collecting information for making good decisions is the only purpose for marketing research. Data for data sake is an effort in futility and a waste of time. Information is power, and good information is essential to knowing when and how to make changes in what you are offering your customer. Ideally, the organizational culture will encourage looking at program performance data as an opportunity (remember SWOT) rather than a threat.


After you have read this chapter and thought about it, please respond to the following questions on WebCT's Bulletin Board as early in the week as possible (click on the bulletins icon on the left of the screen). Be sure to check the Bulletin Board to see what others in the class think. Then, at the appointed time, meet in the Chat Room to discuss your thoughts! Be open and honest in your responses - we learn more that way. Comments on the Bulletin Board will be considered confidential for the class (remember the password access) so if you want to be constructively critical of my opinions or of NPS policy the comments will go no further than the class.

  1. How do you interpret product as defined above in the NPS world?
  2. How do you interpret price as defined above in the NPS world?
  3. How do you interpret place as defined above in the NPS world?
  4. How do you interpret promotion as defined above in the NPS world?
  5. How might a change in one variable, say a program, impact the other three variables in the NPS world?
  6. Do you have comments about any of the ideas or concepts you saw in this chapter that you would like to explore in terms of how they relate to the National Park Service?
I hope you are comfortable posting your responses on the Bulletin Board. If you have any problems with the technology, do not hesitate to contact me. Or if you want to run something by me privately, that's OK, too. Just click to get a live e-mail link!

This page is part of an unofficial marketing basics course designed for the National Park Service by Dr. Steve Hutchens of Creighton University, partially to fulfill requirements of a US West Technology Fellowship and partially because he loves the National Parks and thoroughly enjoys working with National Park Service people! Nothing about this course is official in any way. The opinions are those of Dr. Hutchens and his alone and are neither sanctioned nor endorsed by anyone in any way affiliated with the National Park Service. Steve is an NPS VIP (Volunteers in Parks) and this course is being developed and conducted in VIP status from Mount Rainier National Park where he was a VIP in the summer of 1997. Please send comments and corrections to!

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Created: 2/20/98 Updated: 1/21/02