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Marketing Myopia is a term used in marketing as well as the title of a marketing paper written by Theodore Levitt. This paper was first published in 1960 in the Harvard Business Review, a journal of which he was an editor. Marketing Myopia suggests that businesses will do better in the end if they concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than on selling products.
The Myopic culture, Levitt postulated, would pave the way for a business to fail, due to the short-sighted mindset and illusion that a firm is in a so-called 'growth industry'. This belief leads to complacency and a loss of sight of what customers want.
To continue growing, companies must ascertain and act on their customers’ needs and desires, not bank on the presumptive longevity of their products. In every case the reason growth is threatened, slowed or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because there has been a failure of management.
Some commentators have suggested that its publication marked the beginning of the modern marketing movement. Its theme is that the vision of most organizations is too constricted by a narrow understanding of what business they are in. It exhorted CEOs to re-examine their corporate vision and redefine their markets in terms of wider perspectives. It was successful in its impact because it was, as with all of Levitt's work, essentially practical and pragmatic. Organizations found that they had been missing opportunities which were plain to see once they adopted the wider view. The paper was influential. The oil companies (which represented one of his main examples in the paper) redefined their business as energy rather than just petroleum. By contrast, when the Royal Dutch Shell embarked upon an investment program in nuclear power, it failed to demonstrate a more circumspect regard for their industry.
One reason that shortsightedness is so common is that people feel they cannot accurately predict the future. While this is a legitimate concern, it is also possible to use a whole range of business prediction techniques currently available to estimate future circumstances as best as possible.
There is no such a thing as a growth industry. There are only companies organized and operated to create and capitalize on growth opportunities. There are 4 conditions of the self-deceiving cycle:
- The belief that growth is assured by an expanding and more affluent population.
- The belief that there is no competitive substitute for the industry’s major product.
- Too much faith in mass production and in the advantages of rapidly declining unit costs as output rises.
- Preoccupation with a product that lends itself to carefully controlled scientific experimentation, improvement, and manufacturing cost reduction.
There is a greater scope of opportunities as the industry changes. It trains managers to look beyond their current business activities and think "outside the box". George Steiner (1979) is one of many in a long line of admirers who cite Levitt's famous example on transportation. If a buggy whip manufacturer in 1910 defined its business as the "transportation starter business," they might have been able to make the creative leap necessary to move into the automobile business when technological change demanded it.
People who focus on marketing strategy, various predictive techniques, and the customer's lifetime value can rise above myopia to a certain extent. This can entail the use of long-term profit objectives (sometimes at the risk of sacrificing short term objectives).
New marketing myopia
The “new marketing myopia” occurs when marketers fail to see the broader societal context of business decision making, sometimes with disastrous results for their organization and society. It stems from three related phenomena: (1) a single-minded focus on the customer to the exclusion of other stakeholders, (2) an overly narrow definition of the customer and his or her needs, and (3) a failure to recognize the changed societal context of business that necessitates addressing multiple stakeholders. Customers in the “new marketing myopia” remain a central consideration, as in the traditional “marketing myopia”. However, academics that develop the “new marketing myopia” phenomenon state that it is essential to recognize that other stakeholders also require marketing attention. For business-to-consumer companies, these other stakeholders (e.g., employees) are sometimes customers too, but they need not be (e.g., nontarget market members of the firm’s local community).
Kotler and Singh (1981) coined the term marketing hyperopia, by which they mean a better vision of distant issues than of near ones. Baughman (1974) uses the term marketing macropia meaning an overly broad view of your industry.
- Levitt, T. (1960). "Marketing Myopia". Harvard Business Review.
- Campbell, David; Edgar, David; Stonehouse, George (2011-04-01). Business Strategy: An Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230344396.
- Levitt, Theodore (1975). "Marketing myopia". Harvard Business Review 53 (5): 26–183.
- Steiner, G. (1979). Strategic Planning: What Every Manager Must Know. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-02-931110-1.
- Smith, N. Craig; Drumwright, Minette E.; Gentile, Mary C. (2010). "The New Marketing Myopia". Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 29 (1): 4–11.
- Kotler, Philip; Singh, Ravi (1981). "Marketing Warfare in the 1980s". Journal of Business Strategy 1 (3): 30–41. ISSN 0275-6668.
- Baughman, J. (1974). "Problems and performance of the role of the chief executive". Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University.