Central theme – identify author’s main lesson/argument – what is the author(s) teaching us
Critical analysis – evaluate the lesson/argument – strengths/weaknesses – considering pointing to a frame of reference in your own life or your training in the subject
Main takeaways – so what and now what? How do we best apply the knowledge from this article/book?
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Marketing and Distribution Management 103 (A21)
Levitt, T. (1960). Marketing Myopia. Harvard Business Review, 138-149.
The author’s main lesson/argument
In Professor Levitts’ article “Marketing Myopia,” the author’s main argument is that many businesses suffer from short sightedness by looking only at their own products and the current situation or expending their efforts in basically refining the same products and services. He says that businesses should rather be looking at what the customers in the market wants.
What is the author teaching us?
The author is teaching us that many once-successful businesses fail because of this “Marketing Myopia,” which is due to four factors. The first is the belief that the need for their products are endlessly increasingas the population is increasing and getting more affluent. The second is the belief that there is no competitive substitute for their product. The third is the belief that lowering costs by mass production or expanding the business will increase profits. Finally, the forth is the belief that research and development to continually improve the same products will result in continued success. Rather than focusing on the business’s products and services, the focus should be on providing customer-creating value satisfaction. This requires a change in the business leadership’s mindset.
Evaluate the lesson/argument – strengths/weaknesses
The strengths of the article are that it clearly and logically explains the concept of marketing myopia and each of the four causes of marketing myopia. The article demonstrates why the traditional product-oriented method does not work and shows the thinking behind this failing business approach. The author uses a vast number of examples of once-successful companiesto illustrate the failure of traditional product-oriented approach in all industries.
The weaknesses in the article are perhaps that while the author offers extensive examples of how businesses fail by following the traditional product-oriented approach, he offers only limited examples of how businesses that use the customer-oriented approach succeed. It would have also been beneficial to explore the possible challenges a business face when adopting the customer-oriented approach and how to resolve these challenges.
Considering pointing to a frame of reference in your own life or your training in the subject
There are several experiences in my own training that point to a frame of reference to this topic of marketing myopia.
From 2015 to 2017, I worked as a Marketing Intern for Keller Williams, the leading real estate brokerage firm in Pasadena, CA. The company built its success focusing on sales of multi-million dollar mansions. As the demographics of Pasadena changed to an older clientele—consisting of many from the baby boomer generation. We adapted by changing the focus to partnering with senior housing units and single-story homes to fit the aging clients’ needs.
In the summer of 2017, I had the privilege to be accepted into MIT Launch, an entrepreneurship summer program that teaches high school students how to start a company. At first, everyone was passionately focused on their ideas for products and services. The groups were very innovative with exciting technology and new ideas. The program directed each team to spend about one third of their efforts on market research to understand if the market wanted or needed their products. What we discovered was thatnot all great products were in demand and many teams had to restart with a new idea.
In the summer of 2018, I worked as an intern at Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) in Hong Kong, China. SHKP is the largest real estate development and investment company in Hong Kong, where the real estate is one of the most expensive in the world. As such, SHKP used to focus on the high-end luxury and larger units. In recent years, as the prices skyrocketed, the typical buyer changed. The younger generation, in their 20’s and 30’s could no longer buy a home and needed their parents to buy for them. Additionally, some families began to live together as three generations. SHKP recognized this and adapted by changing their newer development of units and marketing strategy to target the two types of customers. They developed smaller affordable units and marketed it to the younger single family customers. They also developedand marketed the larger units for the customers that needed the space for three generations living together.Because if this customer-oriented approach, SHKP remains one of the most successful real estate companies in Hong Kong today.
Through these three experiences in my own training, I have seen first-hand the effectiveness of using a customer-oriented approach to doing business that Professor Levitt talked about in the article.
So what, now what, How do we best apply the knowledge from this article/book?
Perhaps it is more intuitive to focus on our own products and services. It is less intuitive and perhaps more difficult to focus on analyzing and researching how to satisfy the ever-changing customer needs and preferences. After reading Professor Levitts’ article as wells as reflecting on my own experiences, I completely agree with the customer-oriented approach. I might want to take this one step further by adding something that Steve Jobs once said.
“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
As I consider what Professor Levitts’ proposed and what Steve Jobs said, I see that these two ideas are resonant in directing me to always place the focus on customer-orientation—whether immediate or into the future. This insight has given me new excitement towards marketing and a renewed passion to learn more about the possibilities of marketing.