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Adapting the 4Cs of Marketing for Assistive Technology - Erik Kondo

An infographic of four circles each containing one of the four Cs of marketing.
Diagram of the Adapted 4Cs of Marketing

The 4Cs of Marketing as originated by Robert F. Lauterborn were designed to create consumer centric marketing plans for companies selling products and services to the general public. The overall concept is that the marketing plans must arise from the understanding of the needs of the consumer which incorporates not only what the consumer wants, but also how they will learn about, purchase, and use the product, along with all associated costs involved with owning and using the product.

The flexibility of this model allows it to be applied to the Adaptive Community as long as the creator of the marketing plan has a deep understanding of how these 4Cs are both similar in some respects and differ in others when compared to the general public.

Generally speaking, much of what people WITHOUT disabilities “know” about the lives of people with disabilities is based on hidden bias and stereotypes. What they “see” is distorted due to their able-bodied perceptions and implicit bias. Many within the Adaptive Community have these same societal misconceptions and lack of knowledge. Those with a sudden onset of disability such a spinal cord injury, amputation, and stroke are thrown into a world they know little about. Having a disability does not automatically provide you with insight on the lives of other people with disabilities.

Where the general public has primarily “wants” and desires, the Adaptive Community has many concrete problems and needs. For example, if you are able to walk, obtaining a bicycle is a desire. If you cannot walk, obtaining a wheelchair is an absolute necessity. Where the general public has to decide which of many similar products to buy, many times for a person with a disability no suitable product is available.

People with disabilities are accustomed to paying high rates for products of low quality as compared to the general public. Sometimes these products are paid for by health insurance, grants, or fundraisers. As a result, the traditional price/demand relationship doesn’t always apply. The bottom line is that adapting the 4Cs into a useful model for marketing to the Adaptive Community requires a thorough understanding of the problems and lives of people with disabilities.

Some thoughts for consideration.

Customer – Must take into consideration the diversity of the overall Customer Pool. People with similar disabilities may have vast different unmet needs and problems. Therefore, it is a mistake to assume that what applies to one type of Customer Pool also applies to another without investigation.

Cost – The usage of a product comes with associated tradeoffs and disadvantages. Looking at only the benefits of a product doesn’t provide a clear picture of how it will improve the lives of the customers. Sometime funding for the product comes from insurance, grants, or fundraising. Therefore, the traditional price/demand relationship may not always apply.

Communication – Many people with disabilities are not familiar with the product they want to obtain. They may not have a thorough understanding of their own disability. Therefore, providing education about the product and an opportunity for testing is an important part of the purchase process.

Convenience – Purchasing a product is not always convenient for people with disabilities. The product many need to be transported. Assistance may be needed for its purchase and use. These aspects must be considered as part of the total sales cycle.

In summary, the traditional 4Cs of Marketing provide a useful framework for customer centric marketing, but they need to be adapted and tailored to reflect the real lives and experiences of people with disabilities in order to create an effective marketing plan.


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