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What Exactly is Marketing Myopia + Real Life Examples

Brent Davis - February 19, 2021

what exactly is marketing myopia

Whether your company has been around since 1903 or launched its first service last month, you could fall into a marketing cycle known as marketing myopia.

Before you freak out, read on to find out what it is, what it means for your company, and what you can do to avoid it.

What is Marketing Myopia?

what is marketing myopia

Marketing myopia is a marketing strategy that focuses on the needs of the company.

This strategy is sales-driven: while consumer needs are a factor, they are not the main focus.

You can identify a campaign using this strategy by its goal of immediate, impressive results.

Other strategies would have long-term benchmark goals.

These campaigns will also ignore the customers’ needs in favor of highlighting the product.

For example, marketing focused on product quality rather than what the consumer will gain by using the product.

Some other identifying features include:

  • mass production rather than matching demand
  • predicting growth based on production capacity, not consumer need
  • prioritizing new sales instead of developing client relationships

All strategies that contribute to marketing myopia are short-sighted and based on an immediate goal, not a long term vision.

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Is Marketing Myopia Good or Bad?

marketing myopia good or bad

Marketing myopia can lead to a business cycle that rapidly grows and burns itself out.

A company that wants sustainable growth should identify other strategies.

Marketing myopia can be a very successful strategy in a new market, or for a new product.

In the long term, though, it is not a sustainable marketing strategy. A few things can derail the cycle:

  • viable market competition
  • unlimited demand for the product or service
  • relying on population growth to grow the business
  • assuming the product quality without thorough research

As a whole, marketing myopia lacks vision for the future of a company.

Again, it can be successful short term but should not be the only strategy a business employs.

Who Coined the Term Marketing Myopia?

Marketing myopia was first discussed in Harvard Business Review by Theodore Levitt.

Levitt concisely defined the term as what happens when a business serves itself rather than its customers.

In 1960, Levitt had defined a concept that would remain relevant for decades to come.

What Happens if a Company Falls into the Trap?

what happens if you frustrate your customers

Over time, the customers become disconnected from the company.

There is no brand loyalty or personal attachment to the company because the company shows that it only cares about profit.

Eventually, an alternate product or service provider will enter the market. By then, the customer will be eager to jump ship.

The original company will lose its customers rapidly, possibly to the point they can’t stay in business.

What Industries Does Marketing Myopia Apply To?

Marketing myopia occurs in most industries, both products and services.

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Technology industries are particularly susceptible because new products and markets come up often.

This is not limited to software and computer industries, though.

Any industry that can be served by a new product or improvement is susceptible to marketing myopia.

It is easy for a company to believe that its customers need a specific product, rather than the resulting experience the product provides.

For example, believing that customers need an umbrella, not a way to stay dry in wet weather.

Real-Life Examples

Let’s look at some examples of marketing myopia you might recognize.

Taxis, Uber, and Lyft

taxis uber lyft

Consider the taxi industry, Uber, and Lyft. Taxi companies failed to serve their customers.

Not many people are loyal to a particular taxi company.

When Uber launched its service, people were eager for a more convenient and cost-effective ride service.

Then Uber failed to maintain its hold on the app-based ride-sharing market.

Instead of improving its service or expanding its market, Uber relied on the absence of a competitor to keep it at the top.

When Lyft came onto the market, Uber took a big hit. Taxi companies and Uber both fell into the marketing myopia trap.

It worked for Uber at first because they were the next hot thing, but that’s no way to build a sustainable business.

Blockbuster and Netflix

In addition to Uber, there are many real-life examples of marketing myopia. One that makes the concept clear is Blockbuster.

The video rental giant found success for decades and kept up with the market switching from VHS to DVD.

Physical media was an easy market for Blockbuster to dominate.

When Netflix launched in 1998, Blockbuster continued business as usual.

At first, the two services were similar enough that brand loyalty kept Blockbuster afloat.

As time went on, however, the market began to divide between Blockbuster and Netflix.

The convenient service Netflix provided drew customers away from Blockbuster.

By 2007, Netflix had delivered 1 billion DVDs to its customers.That same year, Netflix launched its streaming service.

Blockbuster could not launch a home delivery and compete with new streaming technology in the same year.

Blockbuster ignored the changing market, focusing instead on its proven success.

This is classic marketing myopia: reliance on the existing market to stay its course and support the company’s existing product.

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How to Get Out of the Marketing Myopia Cycle

how to stop marketing myopia

So how do you avoid marketing myopia?

If you’re hoping to stay away or already fell into the trap, read on for some key ways to get out of the cycle.

Consider the Customer

The number one way to avoid marketing myopia is to listen to and consider your customers.

Feedback about your service and product will tell you exactly how to grow your business.

Does your website lack an email notification for products that are out of stock? You could either lose customers who seek a replacement product or add that feature and serve your customers better.

These can be small improvements or major changes.

Either way, your customers should lead your marketing and business decisions if you want to avoid marketing myopia.

Research the Market

Market research is crucial for avoiding marketing myopia.

If Blockbuster had beaten Netflix to the mail delivery punch, they would probably still be dominating the home entertainment market.

This can be as simple as a consumer survey sent out to potential and existing customers, or a report on new technologies your company might want to invest in.

Regular, thorough market research will pay off if you want to be in business long-term.

Final Thoughts

To recap, marketing myopia is a strategy that focuses on making sales.

No consideration is made for changing market dynamics or customer needs.

While this strategy can pay off initially, you’ll want to break the cycle to generate sustainable growth.

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Brent Davis has been writing about the financial markets for 10 years and worked in research for the last five years at a Fortune 500 company. Brent's investing strategy is to buy high-quality companies and then let compounding do its thing.