Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.
Understanding marketing myopia
Theodore Levitt used the American railroad industry to illustrate his point. Despite the booming popularity of cars, trucks, and planes in the 1960s, rail tycoons remained resolutely confident in their industry.
However, the railroad industry soon fell into decline because these companies believed they were in the train business and not in the transportation business.
Indeed, myopic businesses are those that believe that their product is their business.
They either neglect consumer needs over time or fail to create a buyer persona in the first place.
The primary causes of marketing myopia
Growth industry assumptions
Growth industries have caused some of the more famous stories of marketing myopia. Successful businesses in growth industries are often lulled into a false sense of security.
In other words, they assume that whatever they produce will meet consumer needs.
While this may be true for a time, consumer needs invariably change. Blockbuster believed that its VHS and DVD movie rentals were immune to the rising presence of Netflix, who provided a cheaper and more convenient for consumers to access their favorite titles.
A belief that there are no competitive substitutes
A business that operates as the sole producer in a market can become complacent.
With no impetus to continually improve, it stops investing in research and development and product quality suffers as a result.
Levitt’s initial example of marketing myopia in the railroad industry is a prime example of a belief in no competitive substitutes.
Shifting consumer trends
The only constant in the world is change, and consumer trends are no different.
Technology in particular is a volatile industry where only the most adaptable businesses survive.
Nokia’s marketing myopia meant that it failed to identify the future needs of its consumers.
The company was quickly overtaken by Apple and Samsung, who had correctly predicted that consumers wanted more functional and aesthetically pleasing smart devices.
A belief in mass production
The belief in mass production and its ability to drive down manufacturing costs is also a form of marketing myopia.
Here, businesses become obsessive about reducing product costs at the expense of determining whether the consumer wants to buy the product.
American car companies assumed that if they manufactured a certain amount of cars per year, they would sell. While this held true for a while, the focus on mass production blinded the American car industry to new cars released by Mazda and Toyota that were better suited to consumer needs.
Avoiding marketing myopia
Avoid marketing myopia is perhaps easier said than done. However, all businesses should:
A product or service must provide value, particularly if it is going to be successful long term.
Create buyer personas
These are semi-fictional representations of an ideal buyer.
Importantly, they guide product creation that keeps the consumer’s best interests at heart.
Anticipate future changes
While some consumer needs remain constant, they will likely want these needs in a faster, higher quality, or more convenient fashion in the future.
Businesses must refrain from insular, myopic marketing and instead look externally to changing trends and consumer preferences.
- Nokia (Again): After losing its dominance in the mobile phone market, Nokia focused on feature phones and resisted the shift to smartphones. This myopic approach led to further market share losses.
- BlackBerry: BlackBerry was slow to adapt to the touchscreen smartphone era and failed to compete effectively with iOS and Android devices, leading to a decline in its market position.
Consumer Electronics Industry:
- Kodak: Despite pioneering digital photography technology, Kodak remained fixated on film sales and neglected digital imaging. This marketing myopia contributed to Kodak’s bankruptcy.
Food and Beverage Industry:
- Coca-Cola: While Coca-Cola has diversified its product portfolio, it faced criticism for promoting sugary beverages even as health-conscious consumers sought alternatives. The company had to adapt to shifting consumer preferences.
- McDonald’s: McDonald’s, at times, struggled to respond to consumer demands for healthier menu options, focusing on its core products. It later introduced healthier choices as part of its menu evolution.
- Sears: Once a retail giant, Sears failed to adapt to the rise of e-commerce and shifting consumer preferences. It clung to its traditional department store model, resulting in a decline and bankruptcy.
- Yahoo: Yahoo’s myopic focus on its web portal and neglect of search technology innovation allowed Google to dominate the search engine market. This misalignment with evolving internet trends led to Yahoo’s decline.
- Fossil Fuel Companies: Some fossil fuel companies have resisted transitioning to renewable energy sources, maintaining a focus on traditional oil and gas extraction. This myopic approach can hinder their competitiveness in a changing energy landscape.
- Opioid Manufacturers: Certain pharmaceutical companies faced allegations of marketing prescription opioids aggressively without adequately considering the long-term public health impact. This short-term profit focus led to legal and public health crises.
- Traditional Cable Providers: Some cable TV providers were slow to adapt to cord-cutting trends and the rise of streaming services, clinging to traditional cable packages. They had to adjust their offerings to compete effectively.
- Plastic Manufacturers: Despite growing concerns about environmental sustainability, some plastic manufacturers continued to produce single-use plastics without addressing recycling and environmental impact. This myopia faced increasing scrutiny.
- A business with marketing myopia is more concerned with its own needs than it is with the needs of its target audience.
- The primary causes of marketing myopia include shifting consumer trends and an obsessive focus on mass production. Myopia can also set in when a business that enjoys a dominant market share becomes complacent and fails to innovate.
- Marketing myopia can be avoided by understanding the consumer and then providing value to them as consumer preferences evolve.
- Definition of Marketing Myopia: Marketing myopia is a shortsighted focus on selling products and services at the expense of understanding and meeting consumer needs. It was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960.
- Origin and Illustration: Levitt used the American railroad industry as an example to illustrate marketing myopia. He pointed out how industries that become complacent and believe they are solely in the product business can decline rapidly.
- Primary Causes of Marketing Myopia:
- Growth Industry Assumptions: Companies in high-growth industries may assume that whatever they produce will meet consumer needs indefinitely, leading to complacency.
- Belief in No Competitive Substitutes: A belief that there are no competitive substitutes can lead to neglect of innovation and product quality.
- Shifting Consumer Trends: Ignoring changing consumer preferences and trends can result in companies missing out on emerging opportunities.
- Belief in Mass Production: An excessive focus on mass production at the expense of understanding consumer demand can lead to market share erosion.
- Avoiding Marketing Myopia:
- Provide Value: Products and services must provide value to consumers to ensure long-term success.
- Create Buyer Personas: Developing buyer personas helps guide product development by considering consumer interests and preferences.
- Anticipate Future Changes: Businesses should remain adaptable and forward-thinking, keeping an eye on evolving consumer needs and market trends.
- Key Takeaways:
- Marketing myopia occurs when a business prioritizes its own needs over those of its target audience.
- Common causes include complacency in growth industries, neglect of innovation, and failure to adapt to changing consumer trends.
- Avoiding marketing myopia involves understanding consumers, providing value, creating buyer personas, and anticipating future changes in consumer preferences.
What is the meaning of marketing myopia?
A business with marketing myopia is more concerned with its own needs than its target audience’s needs. marketing myopia includes shifting consumer trends and an obsessive focus on mass production. Myopia can also set in when a business that enjoys a dominant market share becomes complacent and fails to innovate.
What is an example of myopia?
Take the case of Nokia, the leading player in the phone industry. Yet, as consumer behaviors shifted, Nokia’s marketing myopia meant that it failed to identify the future needs of its consumers, thus being overtaken by BlackBerry first and Apple’s iPhone later.
What causes marketing myopia?
How do you avoid marketing myopia?
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