The New Marketing Myopia

Topics: Marketing, Stakeholder theory, Corporate social responsibility Pages: 21 (7290 words) Published: February 27, 2012
Social Innovation Centre

The New Marketing Myopia

_______________ N. Craig SMITH Minette E. DRUMWRIGHT Mary C. GENTILE 2009/08/ISIC

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The New Marketing Myopia

by N. Craig Smith* Minette E. Drumwright ** and Mary C. Gentile ***

forthcoming in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing
This paper can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network electronic library at:


Chaired Professor of Ethics and Social Responsibility at INSEAD, Boulevard de Constance, 77305 Fontainebleau Cedex, France, Tel: 33 (0)1 60 72 41 45, Fax: 33 (0)1 60 74 55 00, e-mail: Associate Professor of Advertising & Public Relations at the University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, Austin, T X 78712; e-mail: PhD, independent business education consultant and Director of the Giving Voice to Values curriculum (; based in Arlington, M A M



A working paper in the INSEAD Working Paper Series is intended as a means whereby a fac ulty researcher's thoughts and findings may be communic ated to interested readers. The paper should be considered preliminary in nature and may require revision. Printed at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France. Kindly do not reproduce or circulate without permission.

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Abstract During the past half century, marketers generally have heeded Levitt’s (1960) advice to avoid “marketing myopia” by focusing on customers. We argue that they learned this lesson too well, resulting today in a new form of marketing myopia, which also causes distortions in strategic vision and can lead to business failure. The New Marketing Myopia stems from three related phenomena: 1) a single-minded focus on the customer to the exclusion of other stakeholders; 2) an overly narrow definition of the customer and his/her needs; and 3) a failure to recognize the changed societal context of business that necessitates addressing multiple stakeholders. We illustrate these phenomena and then offer a vision of marketing management as an activity that engages multiple stakeholders in value creation, suggesting that marketing can bring a particular expertise to bear. We offer five propositions for practice that would help marketers correct the myopia: 1) map the company’s stakeholders, 2) determine stakeholder salience, 3) research stakeholder issues and expectations and measure impact, 4) engage with stakeholders, and 5) embed a stakeholder orientation. We conclude by noting their implications for research.

Keywords: marketing myopia, stakeholders, corporate social responsibility, marketing and society

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3 Fifty years ago, Ted Levitt (1960) exhorted marketers to correct their “marketing myopia”. The shortsightedness that distorted their strategic vision caused them to define their businesses narrowly in terms of products rather than broadly in terms of customer needs. The term entered the vernacular of managers and the pages of textbooks, and when Harvard Business Review reprinted the article in 2004, it designated marketing myopia as the most influential marketing idea of the past half century. No doubt, today’s marketers do a much better job of focusing on customer needs. However, we argue that they have learned the lesson of customer orientation so well that they have fallen prey to a new form of marketing myopia that, in today’s business environment, can also cause serious distortions of strategic vision and the possibility of business failure, or at least exacerbate the marginalization of the marketing function. The New Marketing Myopia occurs when marketers fail to see the broader societal context of business decision-making, sometimes with disastrous results for...
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