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Marketing Myopia

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“Selling and marketing are antithetical rather than synonymous or even complementary. There will always be, one can assume, a need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” (Drucker 1973, pp.64-65)

In the early years of the ‘70s era, Drucker was one of the first educators and authors who identify marketing as a way to understand customers’ needs rather than to sell the products. With the same thinking as Drucker, in a journal article named Marketing Myopia (1960), Theodore Levitt examines and analyzes limitations of managers in approaching the philosophy of modern business. The core of this article is to criticize myopic visions of managers who always pay attention to their selling targets as well as their firms’ without perceiving that the most crucial goal in business is to satisfy customers, not to sell products.

In order to illustrate his view, Levitt (1960) take the railroad industry as a typical example for the failure in its business at that time. In this case, he points his finger on the railroads’ disorientation as the main culprit in making their customers to use others such as cars, trucks, airplanes and even telephones instead of being royal travelers to the old traditional transportation. In other words, the railroads killed their business by themselves because they determined their industry in a wrong mind and the reason as Levitt (1960) mentioned was because they were product-oriented (railroad-oriented) instead of customer-oriented (transportation-oriented).

Once again, the railroads’ illustration was cited by James R. Stock (2002) in his paper namely Marketing Myopia Revisited: Lessons For Logistics as an evidence to prove that Levitt’s view still has entire impacts on the discipline of supply chains. According to Stock (2002), myopic views are caused by academicians and practitioners’ unawareness of strategic activities in logistics. Another reason is that the discipline of logistics can become narrower and focus too much on products (e.g. transportation, inventory management and warehousing, etc) rather than customers whereas supply chains are considered to be customer service provision.

Turning back to Levitt’s classic article on marketing, Marketing Myopia (1960), he states that “People don’t buy a quarter-inch drill bit, they buy a quarter-inch hole. You’ve got to study the hole, not the drill. The drill is just the solution for it”. Similarly, a firm that does not produce tiles but produces materials for construction. Likewise, a firm that does not sell cameras but sell magical tools to customers for capturing and saving all of their precious memories in their lives. In general, a firm does not sell products but sell what customers want and meet their needs. For example, the age of coated film cameras ended with the replacement of digital cameras. However, the customers’ demands in capturing, saving and sharing pictures still remain. Regarding this field, the collapse of Kodak can be taken as a typical instance for Levitt’s theory more than 50 years ago. In a similar theme to Levitt’s Marketing Myopia (1960), Kodak’s shortage in creating strategies led it to serious mistakes in the working line and industrial type so when it was operating, its business was later destroyed with a foundational shift towards the digital age. Therefore, a firm should focus not only on products but also on customers and benefits that can be given to customers.

And then, with the change of time, Vargo and Lusch (2004) have found that the orientation in business has also exchanged from the producer to the customer and from the goods to the service which was called a new dominant logic for marketing. In these two professors’ work, customers are still in the core of business. According to Vargo and Lush (2004), customers are defined as resources which always change and need to be catched and held. In order to do that, firms have to do marketing researches, understand customers’ demands and conduct promotion activities for their products.

In addition, the marketing myopia has been extended in some new definitions with different orientations related to stakeholder (identified by Smith, Drumwright and Gentile, 2010), competitor and manager (stated by Richard, Womack and Allaway, 1992) as well as Levitt’s basic view in 1960.

All in all, Levitt’s marketing myopia is still evaluated as the most influential idea on marketing. And due to these marketing myopia problems, many firms have been stumbling. To overcome difficulties, to survive and to grow, these firms must identify their positions, reorganize their systems, take actions and be ready to change as recommendations of Kitchen and Proctor (1995).

REFERENCES

Drucker, P.F 1973, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Harper & Row Publishers, New York.

Kitchen, P.J. & Proctor, R.A 1995, ‘Adjusting to change: How small firms might get around the (potential) marketing myopia problem’, Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, vol. 2, no. 1, pp.3-9.

Levitt, T 1960, ‘Marketing Myopia’, Harvard Business Review, vol. 38 (July-August), no. 4, pp.45-56.

Richard, M.D., Womack, J.A & Allaway, A.W 1992, ‘An Integrated View of Marketing Myopia’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 9 (Summer), no. 3, pp.65-71.

Smith, N.C., Drumwright, M.E., & Gentile, M.C 2010, ‘The New Marketing Myopia’, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, vol. 29 (Spring), no. 1, pp.4-11.

Stock, J.R 2002, ‘Marketing myopia revisited: Lessons for logistics’, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, vol. 32, no. 1, pp.12-21.

Vargo, S.L. & Lusch, R.F 2004, ‘Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing’, Journal of Marketing, vol. 68 (January), no. 1, pp.1-17.…...

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