17 April, 2024


Marketing Myopia Can Disrupt & Destroy A Business

By Nishthar Idroos 

Nishthar Idroos

Railway companies went bust because they thought they were in the railroad business when they should have thought of the transportation business. Do not think bricks but think building materials. Do not think glass bottles, think containers. That way if building materials or containers change, the company can still be in business. More importantly, if the company thinks one level up and is in tune with the changes in its customer’s needs, it has a chance to make changes in its production. ~ Theodore Levitt

In today’s fast changing world of business the amount of influences, stimuli and motivations that empower and drive customers to avail or forgo a product/service is testimony to the strong and just contract Marketers and consumers enjoy. Also commissioning multitude of research mechanisms, qualifying and legitimizing the cardinal process of continuous value addition and remaining focused is ultimate for a customer-centric organization. Generating as much authentic and accurate feedback to adapt, differentiate and augment the total offering.

Such is the deployment and investment necessary to remain relevant and competitive today. These are essential preliminaries that allow a company stay on track. Businesses are advised to pay attention to behavioral dynamics of their respective target groups. Atleast the smarter ones recognize the mutations of the socio-economic milieu and attendant impactful behavioral changes. 

The successful Marketer in this day and age is a pretty adept character with a multitude of talents and skills. Recently upon entering a friend’s chamber in his plush office noticed a virtual maze scribbled on the white board behind him which to me represented a glimpse of hybrid geometry. Upon inquiring he said it was his “delight chain” .i.e. a processes configured to create a new plan to delight the customer in the product supply chain. All these efforts are to enthrone the customer.

It’s said in the early years of Amazon, Jeff Bezos its founding CEO would bring an empty chair into the meetings to represent the most important person in the room, the customer. Amazon’s response to enquiries, queries and complaints consistently surprise’ their customers, exceeding customer expectation. These are simple techniques with potential for major transformation.

The fundamental motive of every company to get into enterprise is to generate revenue and profit by selling their products to consumers. Although most companies claim to be consumer-centric, very few actually deliver goods demanded by the market. Companies want consumers who will stay loyal to their products no matter what. But what is the organization doing to cater to the consumer needs? Is it producing products that are demanded by the market? Is it taking any effort to maintain healthy relationships with their consumers?

Marketing Myopia, Theodore Levitt was the first Management thinker to make the proclamation of this concept. In his famous Harvard Business Review article argued a short-sighted and inward looking approach to marketing which focuses on fulfillment of an immediate and palpable need and not a physical product focusing the length and breadth of the consumers’ point of view of what he wants and how he wants. This paper by Theodore Levitt was first published in 1960 in the Harvard Business Review. 

Founder of Revlon, Charles Revson said famously “In the factory we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.” This quote should resonate well with any trained Marketer. It bespeaks of the broader and far-sighted embrace of the Marketer/ Entrepreneur to opportunities in the world of business. The marketing process evolves in response to the need and time. RMR, which stands for Recognition, Matching and Response. Similar to STP (Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning), RMR works in a three-step process. First, the Marketing Organization identifies the issues the consumer is trying to resolve to fulfill their needs or wants. Secondly, Marketers must match those needs to the Product or Service, incorporate or eliminate attributes, characteristics vis a via needs/ wants. Finally, once consumer needs are recognized and matched, response is created to communicate the product or service to the appropriate audience

Marketing is much more than a creative logo and advertising. Marketing involves storytelling, creating a brand image, communicating that brand to consumers, evaluating how well you’ve communicated the message, then refocusing the strategy to fit the appropriate audience. While Sales and Marketing go hand in hand, there’s far more that goes into the process than meets the eye. Marketing certainly is the transformation of ordinary cosmetics made in a factory into hope for the consumer in the store.

Those in the service industry must understand they are in essence selling hope. A meal with friends at a great uptown restaurant provides all sorts of intangible benefits that have nothing to do with food and drinks – it’s the experience and outcomes that engender bliss and happiness. People will book that restaurant because they’re hoping to connect to someone in a special way, they’re in essence buying hope.

The Myopic cultures, Levitt postulated, would pave the way for a business to fall, due to the short-sighted mindset and illusion that a firm is in a so-called ‘growth industry’. This belief leads to complacency and a loss of sight of what customers want.  Eventually somebody finds a way to serve customer needs better and the product becomes obsolete. 

What you need to succeed are fairly rudimentary. A strong Marketing mind lots of motivation coupled with a skill of a detail oriented Project Manager. Meet your customers where they want to be met. It’s what they want, how they want, when they want etc. If you want to go beyond and delight them there is nothing in wrong going for it. Find the white space and where your audience is reaching out to you and put emphasis on that platform. The iconic brand Starbucks enjoys in excess of 35 million likes on its Facebook page, 8 million followers on Twitter and 4.8 million followers on Instagram. 

Starbucks is constantly reaching out to its customers on these platforms for feedback and engaging in conversation. This has yielded positive results for Starbucks. This kind of engagement management is priceless yet in terms actual investment costs a fraction. Starbucks recognizes that it’s not just about the product, it’s also about the experience. Each Starbucks location you walk into has the same look and feel, yet personalized to the geographic area. 

On the contrary Kodak lost much of its share to Sony and other Japanese camera manufacturers when digital cameras boomed and Kodak didn’t see it coming. Kodak was adept at weaving the brand into the fabric of America for generations. In its peak Kodak captured a whopping 90% of the US film market and was one of the world’s most valuable brands. Immensely successful companies can become myopic and product oriented instead of focusing on consumers’ needs. Kodak’s story of failing has its roots in its success, resistant to change. Its insular corporate culture believed that its strength was in its Brand and Marketing, what an expensive mistake? 

Nokia losing its marketing share to android and IOS. Reasons for Nokia’s decline include an inability to act and the failure to realize the importance of lifestyle products like the iPhone. Nokia was unable to innovate. Simple incompetence of the management hampered attempts to bring innovations to market. Samsung on the other hand was more focused and adapted well.

Yahoo valued in excess of US dollars 50 billion dollars lost to Google and was sold for just a mere 5 billion dollars in 2016. Yahoo a veritable web titan couldn’t manage the plunge in value and did not know how to respond to Google and Facebook.

Those who effected timely changes and spotted opportunities early capitalized on it and gained big. Pepsi cola was always falling behind Coca Cola, until it decided to expand their business. They started manufacturing chips and soft drinks, this helped them to gain consumers from different markets. Also Nike Inc diversified its business and now are one of the leaders in apparel and sports gear business.

Marketers, therefore, should think of products in terms of the total product, which refers to the broad spectrum of tangible and intangible benefits that a buyer might gain from a product once it has been purchased. Marketing Guru Philip Kotler has suggested the following approach to analyzing the different levels of a product or service:

Core product – this addresses the customer’s need for a basic benefit, e.g. a car is a form of transport to get from point A to point B. It could equally be achieved by bus or cycle.

Actual product – includes brand names, features, quality, packaging, styling and design. For cars, the brand may be the crucial purchase consideration as cars can confer some status on their owners. They are also aspirational in nature. The purchase of a particular brand of car may allow the owner to park in the Golf Club car park rather than half a mile away to avoid recognition!

Augmented product – this is the core product plus all additional elements that add value for customers. Additional features such as after sales service, warranty, delivery & credit, may offer the brand a unique selling proposition, providing competitive advantage. Core products are developed into augmented products through branding. However, over a period of time, features unique to one manufacturer or brand may become standard and become an expected element of the core product. Parking sensors in cars fit into this category.

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