Marketing Myopia

A friend recently returned from a Tasmanian holiday with a weird story…

When COVID hit, car rental companies sold 50-70% of their fleet.

As a result, one of the biggest barriers to a tourism-led economic recovery in Tasmania is simply having enough cars to match the hotel and tourism capacity.

It’s a macro example of a problem of short-sightedness that happens everywhere in business decision making.

In his article in the Harvard Business Review, Theodore Levitt referred to it as Marketing Myopia: the short-sighted, inward-looking approach to business that focusses on the fulfilment of the business’s immediate needs over business from the customer’s point of view.

There are some notable examples in history:

  • Kodak inventing, then ignoring, the digital camera in favour of its traditional core business of film;
  • The collapse of Blockbuster in the face of Netflix;
  • Hollywood’s unwillingness to embrace the rise of television as a medium;
  • Yahoo! going from Internet juggernaut to minor player after ignoring the threat of Google;

But it’s not just the threat of innovation where we see marketing myopia. We also see marketing myopia at the micro level too.

Business leaders cut marketing today, and wonder why sales aren’t coming in tomorrow.

Or they retire a popular product that brings new customers into a business (perhaps to save on support costs, or simply because they’ve fallen out of love with the product), and wonder why customers don’t simply buy the alternatives.

If we want to avoid marketing myopia, the key is to bring our customers into focus. To ask ourselves about their needs (or, better yet, to ask them directly!)