What Is Marketing Myopia And Why It Matters In Business

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:

  • Provide value. 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.

Key takeaways:

  • 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 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.

Connected Marketing Concepts

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Digital Marketing

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

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Read also: Harvard Business School Business Model, Netflix Business Model, Brand Building.

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