How Marketing Myopia Became Employee Engagement

One of the earliest lessons I learned in business was regarding Theodore Levitt’s concept of Marketing Myopia. In short, your business success is as limited as your vision. If you have a wider vision of your business purpose, you are much less likely to be made obsolete. A gross simplification, and worthy of a deeper look if you’ve not read it, but that’s the high level concept.

So companies that have a strong vision are better prepared to deal with change. And part of dealing with change is changing your talent capacity as needed. Therefore, we can and should expand the concept of myopia beyond marketing and well into talent management.

My previous organization was a mid-sized construction company, and thought like one. Our market was repairing infrastructure, specifically in sewer and oil pipes. Not a terribly inspiring sector in which to work, but an important job and one that the company did well. We brought in a new CEO, Tom Rooney, who made many changes, including establishing a new company vision. Our job went from repairing sewers to “providing clean water for the world.” We invested in new strategic brands, aligned charitable work with the goal, and set out to re-brand the company.

I carried that mindset when I joined my current organization, who explained that they didn’t just build supermarket refrigerators, but the worked to support the world’s food chain from “farm to fork.” Brilliant and inspiring. When I heard it, I was hooked.

I’m taking the same approach to the work we do in process improvement and standardization. At the 2010 HR Technology Conference in Chicago, a session was held on going global. One of the comments that struck me was not to approach a country with a standard process that they need to use, but to approach it as a custom design that aligns as much as possible to the enterprise standard. Much different approach, and much more suited to the work that needs to be done.

So what is your company’s vision? Do you make buggy whips, or do you create new ways to drive transportation? Do you hand out credit cards that place people under a mountain of debt, or do you enable your customers to live a better life? Do you make managers do performance reviews and fill out forms, or do you help them create and maintain strong teams to reach your shared business objectives?


  1. Dwane,

    I think the most powerful part of the new CEO’s vision isn’t just that it redefined what the organization did.

    It’s that it was a mantra, not just a task.

    You no longer just repaired infrastructure. You “provided clean water.” That’s powerful. That’s inspiring. That’s so much cooler than your old mission statement.

    How did employees react to it?

    – Chris

    • Chris –

      The old mission was something like “be cost efficient at providing services to our customers while blah blah blah,” so this was a big change. At first it was really just a marketing thing, no one paid much attention. Then he started working with global water councils. And we started sending our engineers to 3rd world countries to help develop water filter systems. And we did fund raising for water charities. It became the way we operated. Once people knew it was more than a slogan, it made a difference.

      I think that’s one reason it was so powerful to me. Tom backed up the words with action. Too rare for mission statements these days. I had then (and still have) a tremendous amount of respect for him. He’s moved on to SPG Solar in California, and I expect they will do great things under his watch.

  2. Hello 🙂 Is it OK that I kinda off topic? I am trying to look at your site on my new iPad but it won’t show properly, do you have any suggestions? Should I try and find an update for my browser or something? Thanks! Tana x 🙂

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