Monday, March 10, 2014

Sometimes, A Blunt Instrument Will Do Just Fine

When we look to hire management talent for our companies we seek people who are “data-driven.”  When we launch businesses it’s critical to have high quality quant on market size and customer segments.  When we debate an important issue we insist on facts and figures.  In fact, we now live in a world of emerging "Big Data" where we struggle mightily to channel the volume, variety and velocity of information flows so as to improve our decision making.  
And yet, when it comes to the really big stuff, I sometimes wonder how data-driven we really are.
When I first wrote in 2011 about Ted Levitt's 1960 Marketing Myopia article (perhaps the single most influential marketing piece ever written), I remarked that it’s hard not to appreciate and occasionally invoke its lesson in conversation.  Levitt challenged leaders to define their businesses around the consumer, not their product.  “What business are we in?” was the essential question taught my business school class.  After all, we were informed, the customer in the hardware store does not really want a quarter-inch drill bit, he wants a quarter-inch hole.
Who wouldn’t want to drop that pearl of wisdom in a branding meeting?  It’s like hitting one of your misguided co-workers in the head with a blunt instrument.
However, a peek under the covers reveals that Marketing Myopia is just that--an extremely effective but still very blunt instrument.