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Marketing Imagination, New, Expanded Edition Paperback – April 21, 1986
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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Philip Kotler Northwestern University Ted Levitt's name is synonymous with marketing. His writings consistently offer rich insights served up in a souffle of good style. In The Marketing Imagination, Levitt takes the reader through some important new concourses in the marketing world that he has explored deeply during this decade.
The Wall Street Journal MBAs everywhere encounter Ted Levitt's name on their required-reading lists, and it is likely to remain there long after experts on Japanese management, one-minute management and high-output management finally drop from the bestseller lists. The Marketing Imagination is a much-needed reminder of the ideals to which managers should bind their ambitions.
Newsday Ted Levitt is the best marketing mentor around...The Marketing Imagination is guaranteed to provoke controversy. It's a crackling text...every argument it stirs will be worthwhile.
Tom Brown Honeywell, Inc. A book for everyone in business. It is provocative and challenging.
Industry Week Ted Levitt's literate, thoughtful treatment takes the reader from the broadest theoretical concepts to specific how-to pointers.
Atlanta Constitution and Journal Marketers will eventually have to learn the lessons of The Marketing Imagination or risk a career change.
About the Author
Theodore Levitt is Editor of the Harvard Business Review and Edward W. Carter Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. One of the most widely read and respected figures in marketing, he is a four-time winner of the annual McKinsey Award for the best article in the Harvard Business Review.
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In the same article, Levitt makes an important distinction: "Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about. And it does not, as marketing invariably does, view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs." Given this background, you can now place The Marketing Imagination in a proper context. "Marketing Myopia" is reprinted within the revised edition, first published in 1986.The chapter titles correctly suggest the scope of the subjects Levitt discusses:
1. Marketing and the Corporate Purpose
2. The Globalization of Markets
3. The Industrialization of Service
4. Differentiation -- of Anything
5. Marketing Intangible Products and Product Intangibles
6. Relationship Management
7. The Marketing Imagination
8. Marketing Myopia
9. Exploit the Product Life Cycle
10. Innovative Imitation
11. Marketing and Its Discontents
I now ask you to re-read this list of chapter titles, keeping in mind that Levitt's comments on each subject were formulated 15-20 years ago. That is, pre-WWW. That is, prior to the widespread understanding and appreciation of positioning, paradigms and paradigm shifts, "customized mass production," Marketing Value Added (MVA) to create Economic Value Added (EVA), brand equity, product and service differentiation, etc.
In essence, marketing means "getting and keeping customers in some acceptable proportion relative to competitors." That was true in 1986 when Levitt wrote those words and remains true now. However, even if Levitt and all the other major thought leaders in marketing were to collaborate, their collective genius could not create demand for shoddy goods, nor overcome mediocre customer service. The corollary is also true: neither product superiority nor operational excellence has compelling value to customers unless and until "the marketing imagination" manages their perceptions of them.
If you need to clarify your own thinking on key issues which include but are not limited to marketing, Levitt can be of substantial assistance. Also, you will thoroughly enjoy the pleasure of his company.
Levitt was also an early proponent of design and the importance of intangibles in marketing, particularly for the growing sector of services. He wrote, " Common sense tells us, and research confirms, that people use appearances to make judgements about realities." He further said, "Expectations are what people buy, not things."
He rightly described business transactions as a relationship, and he showed the natural tendency for people to take relationships for granted over time. Specifically, he cited surprise and bad forecasts and signs of a bad relationship. He said this entropic tendency must be consciously counteracted.
In the chapter The Marketing Imagination, which is also the title of the book, he urges businesses to take risks, innovate, and focus on meaningful differentiation. He also warned of the limits of low price and financial innovation as strategies. He starts the chapter with, "Nothing drives progress like imagination. The ideas precede the deed." Then he encourages leaders to boil strategy down to a few simple and clearly written sentences.
In the chapter, Marketing Myopia, Levitt cautions that the greatest dangers come at the point of the greatest success. He cites the decline of railroads, dry cleaning, corner grocery stores, and the disruption television wrought on the movie industry. He also prophetically warned the Detroit auto industry of future trouble if it did not switch its focus from cars to customers. This chapter, which was also the title of a famous article in the Harvard Business Review, reminds us of the ongoing creative destruction of capitalism, and the penalties of hubris and self-satisfaction.
Levitt ends with a discussion of how to manage products during the product lifecycle. He warns of the difficulty of introducing new-to-this-world products, and the need to ensure that the customers' first experience with new products are positive. And since innovation is eventually followed by imitation, he talks about the importance of competing by increasing the frequency of usage, introducing varied uses, finding new users, and developing new uses.
This is a classic marketing text by a deep thinker. He rambles on from time to time, but the detours is worth it. My biggest aha from the book was that low price and brands will win in the end, since money is limited and people naturally avoid risk. This has come to pass. Brands provide scale that leads to low price, and brand reassure customers by reducing risk.
Like Peter Drucker, Ted Levitt is a business philosopher. This book may be more than 25 years old, but like Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the ideas are evergreen. It was good to revisit this book and write this review.
I strongly recommend supplementing industry- or market-specific books with Levitt's foundational classic. Every Product Manager and Engineering Manager should own this and read it. Levitt is mind expanding--once you've comprehended him, you realize that virtually everything a company does is relevant to marketing. Take its lessons to heart.