Marketing Myopia

Businesses must recall that they do not exist to sell products, no matter how excellent those products are, but to meet customer needs. Their survival depends upon it. 

Coronado Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas hosted a banquet to raise money for Christian ministries in Africa. A church leader spoke of his experience on that continent (personal experience, 2006).

“Tell me about yourself,” an African pastor said to the American.

“Well, I own a manufacturing plant in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We are expanding into India” the church man answered.

“Not about your work, that is unimportant,” the African pastor replied. “Tell me about your family.”

The American businessman defined himself by his work, while the African pastor defined himself as part of a family, a church, and a community. As is common in individualistic societies, the American focused on his individual contribution. As is common in communal societies, the African focused on his part of the group and their contribution. The businessman and the pastor had to understand what each meant when they asked, “Who am I?” Had they not, they never could have met one another’s needs, and the mission trip would have been a failure.

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The Financial Crisis and the Concentration of Financial Power

Power of all types must be diffused throughout society, because no person or entity can be trusted with too much of it. 

One of the most troubling realizations during the financial meltdown of 2008 was that some companies were “too big to fail”. Chrysler and General Motors were “too big to fail” because of their strategic importance to American industry and because of the thousands of jobs that would be lost if they collapsed. So they received billions in taxpayer money. Remarkably, Ford Motor Company, just as big, in the same industry, the same environment and also threatening thousands of jobs, did not need government assistance.

Big financial companies, including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns, Wachovia, American International Group, and others were also considered too big to fail. The fear was that if they failed, so much confidence would be lost in the financial system that markets would implode. As a result the Bush and later Obama administrations did some legal ledgermain to merge companies and sank hundreds of billions of dollars into these entities. Individual taxpayers, home owners and account holders got a shakedown. While the blame for the crisis belongs throughout our society, from greedy lenders to irresponsible borrowers, the pain hit us all, including many who never deserved it.

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