Marketing Myopia is a term coined by Theodore Levitt in 1960. Let’s not go into the definition of marketing myopia as it’s kind-of complicated!
Marketing myopia basically is thinking that as long as your product or service sells well, it doesn’t matter what the customer thinks of the product. It is a situation where the seller blinds himself to consumer behavior because he is too focused on his own goods or services.
In this article we will look at what marketing myopia is, what causes it and explain how one can avoid marketing myopia.
What is Marketing Myopia?
Marketing myopia refers to a situation in which marketer relies too much on individual product features, and not its actual customer. Marketing myopia is the inability to see beyond the products and services your company currently offers.
It occurs because managers become focused on their existing products, customers and suppliers. Marketing myopia leads organizations to ignore new opportunities and threats. It’s a common malaise that can be observed in many companies’ strategic planning processes.
You see examples of marketing myopia in businesses all over the world like Apple or Coca Cola. It’s a state of mind where the company believes its product will sell itself based on how good the product is. On the other hand, there are situations where companies think they need to improve their products based on what they think consumers want instead of finding out what exactly people want and then trying to create that demand for their products.
Causes of Marketing Myopia
Marketing myopia can result from a number of different causes, some internal and some external, some of which are mentioned here –
#1. Not having a Market-Oriented Attitude Results in Marketing Myopia.
If an organization has a market oriented attitude, means that it is more focused on the customers and their needs. In this case, the organization does not work on a product but on a problem and the value of the product for a customer.
A market-oriented organisation is one that focuses its energies, resources and attention on finding out about and satisfying its customers’ needs. It concentrates on current requirements but also researches future requirements as well as new technologies.
In other words, if an organisation has a market orientation it means that it is more customer-focused. This results in improved products, services, communications and relationships with customers – something, that is diametrically opposite to marketing myopia. As such, if you are market-oriented, there is a very little chance you can do stuff that result in marketing myopia.
Being market oriented is not just rooted in interacting with customers and knowing what customers want. You also need to have a market-oriented culture.
A company that takes a long-term perspective, considers needs of all stakeholders including customers, employees and society, and adopts an innovation-based approach is likely to have a market-oriented culture.
Consider the opposite – a sales-oriented organization focuses on selling its product first, and then thinks of how to make it better. Such an approach may lead to marketing myopia where the company ignores future changes in customer tastes and preferences, resulting in loss of business.
To have a market oriented approach, start with a proof of concept and test the waters. Once you have positive feedback, create a prototype and check if you’re on the right track. If your potential customers like it, go ahead and build an MVP and release it into the market!
#2. Trying to Increase Short-Term Productivity and Profits Causes Marketing Myopia.
#3. Lack of Vision and Innovation Results in Marketing Myopia.
As a small business owner, you know that vision and innovation are critical to your success. But they’re also two of the hardest things to sustain. Lack of vision and innovation hinders the business’ ability to respond to changes in their industry.
Companies often get stuck in their ways, afraid of looking at their products or services from new angles. And so they miss out on opportunities for growth.
To avoid marketing myopia, businesses should focus on the following:
Focus on benefits rather than products. It is easier to define your product by its features or application. However, this does not always help you to market in the best way. Instead, you should be focusing on the benefits of your product.
You need to answer questions like “How will this benefit my customers?” and “Which problem does it solve?” This will enable you to see beyond your product and realize what your customers actually want.
Look at industries that complement yours. If you are trying to grow your business, there is no reason why you can’t expand into complimentary industries. For example, a company that sells furniture may also sell curtains or other decorating items.
A car manufacturer could also sell car accessories too. By expanding into complimentary industries, you can sustain your growth over a longer period of time.
Don’t limit yourself to physical products. Consumers are more interested in experiences as well as products today. Therefore, you should look at how you can offer them an experience too.
For example, if you own a restaurant, could you offer cooking classes? If you own a coffee shop, could you offer live music? If you run an auto repair shop, could you offer driver safety courses?
Constantly asking and revising these questions can help you avoid fall into the trap of marketing myopia.
#4. No Long-Term Planning for the Future Success of the Organization, Results in Marketing Myopia
Having a long-term business plan is crucial. And, not only that – your business plan must be SWOT tested.
There is a need to have long-term plans because they provide you with goals that you can use to guide your business, especially in making decisions. Many companies fail because they do not have long-term plans or they are not following their plans as outlined.
Long-term planning is essential because it enables you to know and understand where your business is heading, and puts you in a better position to deal with challenges or problems that may arise.
Levitt in his paper, argued that businesses will do better in the end if they concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than on selling products.
He suggested that companies should not think of themselves as being in a particular industry, but as being in the “people business”. A company should try to understand what consumers want and then design their products accordingly.
His key point is that companies need to be constantly aware of changes in their environment and adapt to them. Companies that fail to do this, or get myopic, will eventually fail. For example, the railroad industry did not respond to increasing competition from air and road transport, and so declined precipitously.
As such, every part of your business needs to be made in such a way that they support and sustain innovation, including your business model, revenue model etc.
Levitt’s ideas have been applied to other industries such as the music industry where Napster’s MP3 format put pressure on record companies to change how they marketed music.
#5. Not Searching For New Markets
You can’t know where someone is looking for your products. But you can assume that they are. If they’re searching in your typical product categories, assume they’re looking there too. If they’re searching a little further afield, assume they might be looking there too.
You can’t be a successful ecommerce entrepreneur if you’re only thinking about selling your products to your current customers.
Instead you will be a Class-A marketing myopia victim. You have to expand into new markets, especially if you’re selling a product that doesn’t have a natural home on the Internet — like an oil filter or a blender.
There are a lot of ways to find new markets: you could start by creating niche products, which is an art in itself, and through platforms that allow you to reach people where they already are.
The best way to find new markets is to look at your competitors’ sales figures and see where their products are selling. You can also take a look at the online forums where customers discuss your competitors’ products and use those same forums as your starting point to find potential buyers for your own products.
For example, if you have a small business making handmade soaps, checking out the forums and asking people where else you can sell them could yield great results. Likewise, if you’re an ecommerce store selling some of the latest must-have gadgets for men, comparing your sales to other electronics stores in town will help you find new customers.
#6. Lack of Continuous Market Research
Market research is a very important aspect of running a business. Through market research, a company can know the wants and needs of their customers and how to effectively meet them.
Failure to conduct market research will result in marketing myopia, since there is no clear understanding of what the customer wants and how best to serve them. Here are some of the tools that we recommend for doing market research.
Here’s a detailed guide on how to do market research.
Section: Examples of Marketing Myopia
Marketing myopia is an always-happening phenomenon. You just have to look hard to spot it.
Some Examples are –
#1. Blockbuster’s Moving Away from the Streaming Industry – A Classic Marketing Marketing Myopia Example!
Blockbuster was a multinational company with chains in every corner of the world. In fact, it was starting to go into streaming much before Netflix ever could.
But with its rising debts and liabilities, its executives decided to move away from streaming for short term profits. And, as a result, Netflix got its chance, came up and put the giant to sleep.
All because of Blockbuster falling into the trap of marketing myopia.
#2. Nokia – An Example of a Marketing Myopia Tragedy
Nokia was a pioneer in the mobile phone industry, with a 40% market share at the beginning of the 21st century. But it fell into the trap of marketing myopia. It believed that phones are its business and didn’t see the bigger picture of communication technology.
As the CEO of a company, you need to think more broadly than just your product. If not, you could fall into a trap known as marketing myopia, where you’re so focused on selling your product that you lose sight of what your customers actually want. Your product planning must include your customers’ wants and needs into consideration.
In the late 1990s, Nokia was the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world and its market capitalization was higher than Apple or Microsoft.
But when Nokia launched the first iPhone-like smartphone in 1996, it didn’t know what to do with it. The company didn’t understand that customers wanted to browse the Internet from their phones and instantly share data with each other — they weren’t looking for just another phone.
By 2009, Nokia was nearly bankrupt and had lost 95 percent of its market value.
#3. Kodak’s Inability to Adapt to Digital Technology led to Bankruptcy.
What was Kodak’s problem?
In its early days, the company concentrated on selling film. That’s what it marketed, that’s what it advertised, and that’s what it focused on. But consumers didn’t want to buy film — they wanted to take photos.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m going to pick up some film”? Probably never. People say things like, “I’m going to get some batteries for my camera” or “I need a memory card for my video camera.” They don’t think about buying film because they’re not really interested in the product itself; they’re interested in the benefit of taking pictures or capturing video footage.
Kodak failed to recognize this shift in consumer needs, and instead of adapting its products and marketing strategy to meet those needs, it stuck with the same old product strategy. The result? It lost its market share and went bankrupt in 2012.
#4. Failure of Sears to Adapt its Marketing Strategy Led to Losing out to Amazon and Walmart.
Sears was once the biggest retailer in the United States — a title it had held since the 1920s. In its heyday, Sears sold everything from toys and jewelry to car parts and even houses via mail-order catalogs printed on cheap paper (source).
As times changed and people’s shopping habits evolved, Sears failed to adapt its marketing strategy. The company remained focused on selling only through its catalogs and stores rather than branching out into online sales or even selling its products in other stores. These rigid boundaries limited customer access to Sears’ merchandise (source).
Sears is just one example of a company that fell victim to marketing myopia. There are many instances when companies become so obsessed with the products they sell that they fail to consider how those products fit into customers’ lives. This lack of understanding leads businesses astray and ultimately causes them to fail.
Section: What You Can Do to Avoid Marketing Myopia Today?
Well, there is no shortcut, but there are some simple steps –
- You can avoid marketing myopia by being open and honest about what you’re doing.
- You need to look at the bigger picture. You may find that there are things that you can do to improve your business.
- You must focus on your customers and their needs.
- You should focus on a long-term, sustainable growth strategy instead of a short-term profit strategy.
- You must be engaged in consistent market research. Conduct surveys, customer interviews, ask for customer feedback to your product or service. Also, if you don’t have access to data or analytics tools that allow you to do this then consider using Google Analytics (which is free). This will help you make decisions based on facts rather than gut feelings or instinct.
Now this was the easy part. The difficult part is having to incorporate this into your company culture.
For example, asking for customer feedback isn’t just limited to making a product or service.
It goes far more than that, and includes the entire 7 functions of marketing.
You need to find out where your customer is more comfortable buying from (distribution analysis); you need to take their opinions on your website UX and UI. You need to basically incorporate a design thinking philosophy into your entire business operation – from the ground up.
Lastly remember that if something is not working, then try something else (or many other things) until you find what does work for your customers. Don’t just settle for a piecemeal solution. I’m sure you’ll be able to find your way out.
If you have any further questions, let us know in the comments or feel free to email us!