Meeting the needs of customers is essential and what allows businesses to grow and develop. In this context, correctly identifying the market opportunity for growth is crucial because it allows creating and introducing new products to the market. Although the article by Levitt focuses on marketing, the principles that the author discusses are applicable in other domains of business as well, more specifically, when developing a strategy. If executives fail to recognize the need for overcoming marketing myopia, they risk producing products that become obsolete, which will lead to the failure of their business in the long term.
Marketing myopia is a notion referring to the inability of executives to recognize the real purpose of their businesses. One danger of marketing myopia is that by narrowly defining a business’s scope of operations, for example as movies or railroads only, companies limit their growth opportunities. It is because by choosing these specific products they outline and define their capabilities of having new ideas and new approaches for satisfying the same customer need, which in the mentioned cases is transportation and entertainment. The identification of an industry as a narrow cluster will lead to failure in the long term.
The difference between product orientation and customer orientation affects the significant elements of planning for a business. A similar example is the rise of a famous streaming company Netflix and its rivalry with Blockbuster, which is now bankrupt. Netflix, unlike Blockbuster, was able to overcome the marketing myopia and realize that entertainment was the primary purpose and scope of the company’s operations. This allowed the executives to invest in an ambitious online project, which later became a pivotal point for the business. Currently, Netflix invests in the production of its TV series and films, suggesting that executives are well aware of the scope of their work, which is not a streaming service as a product, but rather entertainment as a whole industry. A similar issue affected the taxi business, which is now entirely overthrown by Uber and Lyft, which saw an opportunity in transportation.
In this context, the article reveals an essential aspect of every industry’s development – at a specific point in time, every industry had its peak development phase, since the offered product was either superior to others or new for the consumer. Using the example of Uber, the success that the company had in gaining popularity and acquiring the customer base allowed it to transform the private commercial transportation business. However, if Uber focused only on the existing model, it is likely that in the long-term, the company would fail as new services or new approaches to transportation would emerge. Currently, they are testing self-driving cars that will allow them to replace human drivers in the future entirely, providing additional convenience to the passengers. Arguably, the fact that people can share and locate information through the internet easily and quickly results in a quick adaptation of innovational business models and development of new products or services, for example, Uber has several overseas rivals, such as Bolt in Europe or Didi in China. This means that in the current age, avoiding marketing myopia and focusing on customer needs is even more important than it was in 1960 when the article in question was written.
In his article, Levitt argues that companies fail if their executives view the output as a single specified product and not as the satisfaction of customer needs. One can say that this implies that a company can work to satisfy a specific requirement of the people, for example, transportation or entertainment, while continuously growing and developing new products. These new products are usually more convenient. For instance, watching a favorite TV series whenever one decides to is more comfortable than being able to watch it only when it is scheduled.
Arguably, Levitt’s approach implies that there is always room for improvement and growth since companies can continue working on the heir value proposition, making products more appealing and convenient for their customers. Watching the customers, identifying their needs, and applying the knowledge that a company has in a specific industry to meet these newly emerged needs is customer orientation.
In the article, the author denies the existence of the growth industry concept instead of arguing that there are opportunities for growth that companies can leverage. The flawed core principles that support this belief are the idea that global population growth inevitably results in opportunities for expanding business operations. This approach does not account for the fact that the preferences of consumers are changing, and even long-standing industries such as the petroleum business can be threatened by the growing popularity of electric cars and renewable energy. In essence, while the number of people is continuously increasing, consumer preferences also continually change. Without addressing this and only relying on growth through population expansion, companies put themselves at high-risk positions.
Additionally, an idea that no competitive substitute can emerge that would take over a large portion of the market is also incorrect. The premises of this idea may relate to the fact that at a current stage, a company’s product is well-received by the customers, and mo competition for it exists in the market. However, as demonstrated by Uber, Netflix, and other companies such as Airbnb or even Apple, which helped computers and smartphones become an integral part of people’s lives, new products that appeal to the customers and have a higher value for them always emerge and substitute the existing offerings.
Levitt also highlights the preoccupying focus on cost reduction and scientific experiments that lack creativity. While this is important for the business and ensuring maximum profitability through increased margins, the executive should not forget that creative business ideas are often outside of the scope of their operations. Therefore, the critical points discussed in the article by Levitt refer to common misconceptions that executives and managers often have in regard to the prospects of their business and the possibility that a rival product will emerge. Elements of marketing myopia that are as relevant or more relevant now than they were before are the need to focus on customer needs, which often are outside of the scope of a company’s current operations. An excellent example of this is Hollywood and its rivalry with television, where the former failed to recognize the fact that entertainment should be the strategic focus.
Overall, the article by Levitt provides essential insight into a common mistake that business executives make. Failure to correctly recognize the purpose of operations can lead to the inability to promote the growth of the business. Modern-day examples, such as Uber and Netflix, suggest that even in industries that currently experience growth, it is crucial to continue examining customers’ needs and investing in the development of new products that will address them.
Levitt, T. (2008). Marketing Myopia. Reed Business Education.