Marketing Myopia

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A R T I C L E
www.hbr.org

BEST OF HBR 1960

Marketing Myopia
by Theodore Levitt


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Included with this full-text Harvard Business Review article: 1 Article Summary The Idea in Brief—the core idea The Idea in Practice—putting the idea to work 2 Marketing Myopia 15 Further Reading A list of related materials, with annotations to guide further exploration of the article’s ideas and applications

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BEST OF HBR 1960

The Idea in Brief
What business are you really in? A seemingly obvious question—but one we should all ask before demand for our companies’ products or services dwindles. The railroads failed to ask this same question—and stopped growing. Why? Not because people no longer needed transportation. And not because other innovations (cars, airplanes) filled transportation needs. Rather, railroads stopped growing because railroads didn’t move to fill those needs. Their executives incorrectly thought that they were in the railroad business, not the transportation business. They viewed themselves as providing a product instead of serving customers. Too many other industries make the same mistake—putting themselves at risk of obsolescence. How to ensure continued growth for your company? Concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than selling products. Chemical powerhouse DuPont kept a close eye on its customers’ most pressing concerns—and deployed its technical know-how to create an ever-expanding array of products that appealed to customers and continuously enlarged its market. If DuPont had merely found more uses for its flagship invention, nylon, it might not be around today.

The Idea in Practice
We put our businesses at risk of obsolescence when we accept any of the following myths: Myth 1: An ever-expanding and more affluent population will ensure our growth. When markets are expanding, we often assume we don’t have to think imaginatively about our businesses. Instead, we seek to outdo rivals simply by improving on what we’re already doing. The consequence: We increase the efficiency of making our products, rather than boosting the value those products deliver to customers. Myth 2: There is no competitive substitute for our industry’s major product. Believing that our products have no rivals makes our companies vulnerable to dramatic innovations from outside our industries—often by smaller, newer companies that are focusing on customer needs rather than the products themselves.

COPYRIGHT © 2004 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Myth 3: We can protect ourselves through mass production. Few of us can resist the prospect of the increased profits that come with steeply declining unit costs. But focusing on mass production emphasizes our company’s needs—when we should be emphasizing our customers’. Myth 4: Technical research and development will ensure our growth. When R&D produces breakthrough products, we may be tempted to organize our companies around the technology rather than the consumer. Instead, we should remain focused on satisfying customer needs.

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Marketing Myopia

BEST OF HBR 1960

by Theodore Levitt

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COPYRIGHT © 2004 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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We always know when an HBR article hits the big time. Journalists write about it, pundits talk about it, executives route copies of it around the organization, and its vocabulary becomes familiar to managers everywhere—sometimes to the point where they don’t even associate the words with the original article. Most important, of course, managers change how they do business because the ideas in the piece helped them see issues in a new light....
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