Meet your visitors’ needs and avoid marketing myopia

Frank Cuypers

23 December 2016

In 1960, Theodore Levitt coined the term “marketing myopia” in Harvard Business Review as a cautionary description of a common marketing mistake. Levitt’s concept claims that companies are short-sighted when they view marketing as merely a tool for selling specific products, rather than meeting the needs of their customers.

The video below gives a short synopsis of the idea. To illustrate: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want to buy a quarter-inch hole.” In other words, customers are looking to meet a need, not buy a product. Therefore, successful businesses need to consider the solutions they provide from the point of view of the consumer.

Destination marketing myopia in emerging markets

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are no different. They risk falling prey to marketing myopia when they see new markets as places where products can be sold, instead of identifying real people with real needs that a destination can meet through travel.

Often, this myopia happens when DMOs focus on the newfound purchasing power of emerging markets. For example, Chinese outbound travel is growing, and many destinations are working to grab a piece of that pie. There can be intense media or political pressure to react immediately to growing global markets, and understandably so. One report estimates that China’s outbound travel spend will almost double by 2025. How can a CEO ignore such huge trends?

However, tourism is about passionate experiences, not commodities. As a destination marketer, you need to look at travel from the visitor’s point of view when planning your strategy.

Does your destination have the right products and experiences to offer to new travellers? Do those experiences match their needs? Destinations need to look beyond a new income stream and focus on matching the best experiences with the visitors that truly desire them.

Meet your visitors’ needs

This comes down to visitor behaviour research. Research lays the foundation for aligning consumer needs with your destination’s experiences. Modern digital tools have made it far easier for a destination to get to know its visitors. Marketers can learn about passionate communities through sentiment analysis, social media listening, Boolean search queries – the list of tools and methods is growing, and generating increasingly valuable information to help destinations offer specific solutions to visitor needs.

VisitFlanders has found this type of research valuable, for example. During my work with that organization as a Marketing Consultant, we investigated the emerging Brazilian travel market by hiring a research firm to analyze consumers’ online conversations. The research uncovered five core topics of interest for Brazilian travellers: Heritage, religious tourism, soccer tourism, local food and beer. We then identified natural links between Brazilian visitor needs and the destination experiences within four of the five topics, using the data to build an accurate visitor persona.

The more you know about your potential visitors, the less you’ll be swayed by trends that might be interesting but not relevant to your particular destination. To avoid destination marketing myopia, keep this question in focus: What can our destination offer to meet the specific needs of our visitor?

Looking to gain a greater understanding of your visitor? Learn about our design thinking approach to discovering the customer journey, and contact our strategic consultancy to find out how we can help your destination.

Featured image credit: Matt Neale, Flickr

1 Comment

  1. Tom

    Sometimes the most obvious things are difficult to realize until someone speaks by their experience. It is totally true that you have to give people what they need and what they want, not what you suppose…it’s like becoming the mayor of a city and start constructing things before asking the population about what they wish.
    Great article!


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