Don’t Let “Marketing Myopia” Blind You To Your Customer’s Needs

“GOT IT!” – NOT!

marketing myopiaThere’s No Such Thing as “Just The One Thing”

We recently fielded a question from a young member of our audience. She asked us, “Just tell me the one thing that made your wine brand such a huge success.” We had to laugh, knowing that there was a lot more she needed to know than “just the one thing!” We knew she grew up in a world of simplistic answers, quick hacks, and short attention spans. So we gave her the best answer we could think of. We said, “It was the cute foot on the label!” to which she said, “Got it!”

The question and the answer are both laughable to anyone who understands the multi-faceted aspects of marketing. However, when it comes to marketing a CPG product, there are several popular misconceptions about what makes it work. These popular misconceptions are based on the idea that one overly simplified factor is responsible for the product’s success. Although that factor may be a major contributor, true success in marketing is a multi-faceted approach in an ever-changing market. It’s certainly not “just the one thing!”

What is Marketing Myopia?

Simply, it’s a type of nearsightedness that fails to see the big picture. In his book Marketing Myopia, Theodore Levitt does a great job of examining this impairment to marketing vision. He gives us plenty of examples of the symptoms of this malady.

Marketing Myopia Examples

It’s All About the Product

One of our favorite marketing myopia examples, and one we run into all the time in our consulting work with new product producers, is the false belief that success is all about the product. Startups tend to focus narrowly on their product. They fall in love with it and they are sure everyone else will, too – which, of course, will make it a top seller. They continue to put so much time and energy into their product that they tend to ignore all the other factors that can make it or break it such as, access to market, distribution, and relevance.

We like to think of a marketing program as a wagon wheel with many spokes. A wagon wheel with just one or two spokes will collapse. It’s simply not “just the one thing!”

Focus on Quality or Pricing

In the CPG business, examples of marketing myopia abound as some marketers focus strictly on quality or pricing but ignore the harsh realities of the physical retail marketplace. Your brand name, logo, label, and packaging, as well as your shipping cartons and signage must all be taken into consideration. What good is it if you have the lowest priced, highest quality product, but nobody can find it or it gets lost in distribution?

Sole Focus on Immediate Sales

Another common example of marketing myopia we see from especially new product producers is their sole focus on immediate sales. This is often caused by their financial straits. They first spent all their money on their product development. And now they don’t have any left to invest in the cost of sales. They underestimated not only the length of the sales cycle, but also the time it takes to build key relationships with the buyers, distributors, salespeople, retailers, and even the clerks. These relationships take time on the front end but save time on the back end.

It’s frustrating for a new product producer who seems to have everything invested in his product to realize that there’s a lot more involved to get it to the shelf and keep it there. Unfortunately, most startups have the customers’ view of the retail world. They see shelves packed with merchandise. They don’t see what goes on behind those shelves. All of a sudden, a branded product will just disappear, but they have no idea why it happened. Their tendency is to take distribution management for granted and focus simplistically on product and price.

Few startups understand the cost of sales. Not the cost of goods, but the cost of making the sale. With experience, they will gain a comprehensive understanding of the types of marketing necessary and become aware of those costs. This will guide them in their expansion strategy and help them survive the customer service implications of rapid growth.

Oblivious to Changes in the Marketplace

Probably the worst example of marketing myopia is ignoring the dynamic changes happening in the marketplace. Not only is distribution and retail changing from year-to-year, but so are customers. The hook that got your customers’ attention last year may not work next year. The distributor you depended upon last year may suddenly take on a competitor that’s a higher priority. And the retailer who was selling your products may get acquired by a bigger company that has their own range of products …that don’t include yours. Constant vigilance, research, and the development of alternative plans are absolutely necessary to CPG success.

Many thanks to Theodore Levitt for summarizing these examples and more as “marketing myopia.” Marketers exhibiting this malady may say, “Got it!” but they likely don’t.