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What business are you really in?

What business are you really in?

This might seem like a silly question but the answer is critically important to your marketing message. If you define what you do by the product you sell rather than the experience the product provides the customer, you could be suffering from ‘marketing myopia’.

The term ‘marketing myopia’ was coined in 1960 by Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt. Fundamentally, it’s a form of business shortsightedness and occurs when a business owner defines their purpose (their mission) too narrowly.

Professor Levitt cited the railroad industry as nearly going out of business because companies thought of themselves as being in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. Similarly, when television came along, Hollywood was impacted for a period because it defined its business as movies rather than entertainment.

Defining what you do by the product you sell is myopic (short sighted) and could have negative ramifications for the ‘stickability’ of your marketing message. To resonate with your target market, you need to define your business in a customer-oriented way rather than in a product-oriented way. Consider these examples.


Myopic purpose

Customer-focussed purpose



Family continuity




Great Australian dream



Opportunity for a great career

Hair dressing

Personal grooming

Confidence, self esteem




Red Bull

Energy drink

Extreme living



Better health



Family safety

People don’t buy products; they buy an experience. Marketing messages, therefore, need to be crafted with emotional intelligence; tapping into how people want to look, feel and live better.

Charles Revlon, former owner of Revlon International Corporation, said it perfectly when he stated, ‘In the factory we make cosmetics; in the department store we sell hope.” Mr Revlon knew what business he was in and it wasn’t perfume.

When crafting your marketing messages, ask yourself “What business am I really in?”, then answer it from the perspective of what customers want, not from the perspective of what the company wants. That way, you’ll avoid the affliction of marketing myopia!



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