Marketing’s New Myopia, (Theodore Levitt revisited)

In these difficult times there’s no shortage of advice being given about how best to cope. Often it focuses on the need to go back to the fundamentals and make sure the basics are being done right. One such piece of advice worth following is the suggestion that we revisit Theodore Levitt’s classic 1960 Harvard Business Review article Marketing Myopia.

Theodore’s article is full of smart thinking, much of which has now become accepted wisdom. His main argument is that for businesses to survive and prosper they need to think in terms of finding and satisfying customers, not in terms of producing and selling particular products or services. Accordingly, ‘Marketing Myopia’ is the failure to look far enough out into the world; to not see, understand and respond to the changing needs of customers, the actions of competitors, developments in other industries, the rise of new technologies etc.

The New Myopia
Reading the article now also highlights the new form of shortsightedness which increasingly afflicts today’s marketing industry and in doing so threatens to limit its ability to influence organisations’ strategic development. ‘Marketing’s New Myopia’ is its insistence that everything is about the customer and the customer experience is king. This mantra has led to a self-righteous over estimation of marketing’s role as ‘guardian of the customer’, something which other functions often struggle to recognise.

More importantly, it has led to the failure of many marketing functions to properly consider the other aspects of ‘the market’ which have an equally vital role to play in their organisations success. Building a strategy solely on the results of customer research is just as shortsighted as focusing everything on the next iteration of the company’s best sellers.

That Vital Spark believes that the sooner ‘the market’ is put back into marketing the better.


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