Theodore Levitt died last week at 81. For all of us reading HBR about marketing, this is probably as a period closing as the recent loss of Peter Drucker for management. I don’t know what your reaction is when you receive such a headline, but I naturally go back to my library and start to open again these old books I read many years ago.
My notes and highlights on each of these take me back to what my thinking and marketing interest was at that time. Marketing Myopa, republished in July 2004, was a huge success as the example of the railroad industry myopa : focusing on railroads instead of thinking about their business as the transportation of people and goods. Closer to our times, Airline Carriers had to expand their thinking about competition to include fax machines and e-mail as their most profitable customers were business men negotiating contracts.
This is still with us today in the IT world and some crucial questions around the software business for instance. Is the software industry about selling licences for static installed software on personal computers or delivering functionalities to subscribers over the network ? To put it more specifically, is Microsoft business model history and Google or Salesforce.com taking over ? Or even more bluntly : do we still need to own a PC ?
Okay, this is a bit sarcastic, the way I’m asking it is pretty much showing what the answer is in my opinion. By the way, we know Ray Ozzie has a huge challenge in front of him to reinvent Microsoft inside out. As I did have the great opportunity to meet him several times when working for Lotus Development in the nineties, when marketing his flagship product Lotus Notes, I personally know Ray will be up for it.
So, revisiting these classics with the Web 2.0 in mind can be very refreshing. As Marketing Myopa already taught us back in the sixties (I was still a kid!), the strategic challenge for a company is to do the things that will make people want to do business with it more than focus on selling its products or services. Today, our customers and prospects can tell the world what they want, what they care about and what they think of our corporations in a very direct and public manner. The Web 2.0 is a fantastic vehicle to redefine the way we assess their needs and desires.
Dear fellow marketers, let’s take this in our marketing plan for the future … today.