Sustainability marketing myopia

Sustainability Marketing myopia is a term used in sustainability marketing referring to a distortion stemming from the overlooking of socio-environmental attributes of a sustainable product or service at the expenses of customer benefits and values. [1] The idea of ​​sustainability marketing myopia is rooted into myopia theory marketing , as well as green marketing myopia.


Marketing myopia

The marketing myopia theory was originally proposed in 1960 by American economist Theodore Levitt . According to Levitt marketers should not overlook the importance of company potential and product attributes at the expense of market needs; must receive first priority. [2]

A company, besides being technically sound and product oriented, also needs to be customer oriented in order to successfully cater for a market. Knowledge of customer needs and innovations that can be implemented to maintain customer interest, is crucial.

Myopia marketing has been highly influential in the training of modern marketing theory, and has been marketed to such an extent that it has a new focus on marketing to the exclusion of other stakeholders. [3]

Green marketing myopia

Green marketing is the marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe. [4] In order to be successful, green marketing must fulfill two objectives: improved environmental quality and customer satisfaction. Misjudging or overemphasizing the trainer at the expense of the latter can be defined as green marketing myopia. [5]

The marketing discipline has long argued that innovation must consider an understanding of the customer [2] and a close look at green marketing practices over time. [5]

As such, successful green products are able to compete in the marketplace by offering “non-green” consumer value (such as convenience and performance). When consumers are convinced of the “non-green” benefits of environmental products, they are more inclined to adopt them.

As in the case of environmental benefits, green marketing can also occur when green products fail to provide credible, substantive environmental benefits. [6]

Towards sustainability

Sustainability marketing myopia

Sustainability marketing aims at marketing sustainable products and services which “satisfy customer needs and improve the social and environmental performance along the whole life cycle”, [7] while increasing customer value and achieving the company’s objectives. In turns, sustainability marketing is an exaggerated focus on the socio-ecological attributes of the product on the core consumer values, a distortion of the marketing process which is likely to lead to the product failing on the market or remaining limited in a small alternative niche. [8]

Just as an excessive focus on product attributes marketing myopia, and just as a single-minded focus on customers results in “new marketing myopia”, in both green and sustainability marketing an unbalanced strategy neglecting one aspect (namely, product attributes) is detrimental to the effectiveness of the marketing process.

However, it is important to note that myopia marketing differs from green marketing in myopia marketing. At the same time, sustainability marketing myopia encompasses sustainable services and product-related services, [9] not products alone.

Avoiding sustainability marketing myopia

Generally, sustainability marketing myopia can be avoided in two ways:

  • by identifying and stressing the inherent consumer values ​​(of the socio-ecological features of the product, the health and safety, convenience, symbolism and status). In other words, companies should highlight the personal customer benefits stemming from the socio-ecological features of the product;
  • by aligning socio-ecological attributes with core benefits of the product to create “motive alliances”. [10] Core benefits of the product including functionality, performance, design, durability, taste, freshness, uniqueness, aesthetics, fashion. Motive alliances are the connections of such core benefits to the socio-ecological attributes embedded in the product, an operation also known as bundling . [11]

Ottman et al. [12] provides examples of successful marketing communications based on the prevailing of the invention of the socio-ecological features of products, and on bundling:

Value Message and business product
Efficiency and cost effectiveness
  • “The only thing we are going to have on your water bill.” – ASKO
  • “Did you know that between 80 and 85 percent of the energy used to wash clothes from the water? Tide Coldwater-The Coolest Way to Clean. “- Tide Coldwater Laundry Detergent
  • “mpg:” – Toyota Prius
Health and safety
  • “20 years of refusing to farm with toxic pesticides. Stubborn, perhaps. Healthy, most definitely. “- Earthbound Farm Organic
  • “Safer for You and the Environment.” – Seventh Generation Household Cleaners
  • “Environmentally friendly stain removal. It’s as simple as H2O. “- Mohawk EverSet Fibers Carpet
  • “Fueled by light so it runs forever. It’s unstoppable. Just like the people who wear it. “- Citizen Eco-Drive Sport Watch
  • “Think is the flesh with a brain and a conscience.” – Steelcase’s Think Chair
  • “Make up your mind, not just your face.” – The Body Shop
  • “Long life for hard-to-reach places.” – General Electric CFL Flood Lights
  • “Performance and luxury fueled by innovative technology.” – Lexus RX400 Hybrid Sports Utility Vehicle

Along with a balance of focus between product and consumer benefits, sustainability marketers should also avoid employing unsubstantial claims on the socio-environmental benefits of their products. [13] This particular form of marketing is best avoided by building an image of credibility for the brand through effective sustainability communication, so that consumers can easily associate their products with sound socio-environmental performance. [14]

Case studies

Myopia of sustainable services

Electrolux washing machines

According to the authors of Natural Capitalism “Product Dematerialization” is one of the prerequisites for a more sustainable business model. In order to become more sustainable the future economy will be transformed from “sale of goods” to “sale of services”. [15]Belz and Peattie also stress the role of services as part of a sustainable solution, talking about product-related, use-oriented and result-oriented services. Product-related services are offered moreover and they optimize the product use. In the case of use-oriented services, a service is not a product of the consumer eg car-sharing. As for result-oriented services, the services of the consumer and the service provider. [16]

Product dematerialisation is, too, at risk of incurring in marketing myopia. In 1999 Electrolux piloted a service-oriented sustainable “pay-per-wash” service in Sweden, failing to succeed because of a myopic marketing approach. New energy and water efficient washing machines have been distributed by Electrolux among consumers. Electrolux supplied by the internet by the Internet and took care of the disposal of the machines. Consumers did not pay for the machines themselves; they were only charged with a small installation fee at the beginning, and a pay-per-wash charging system (10 Swedish kronor (about 1 $) per wash). However, an excessive emphasis on the green component in the marketing of this service, achieved at the expense of other consumer benefits and values,[17] According to A. Ottmann et al. Electrolux: convenience of pay-per-wash, including easy trade-ins for upgrades, free service and saved money from a new washing machine. In addition, the sustainable service might have been successful if it would have been desirable. [15]

Myopia of sustainable products

Fairtrade coffee

The initial idea of ​​introduction to the Fairtrade coffee certification is to abolish poverty among coffee farmers and their workers by supporting more working conditions and enabling growers to compete in the global market. [18] For this reason, Fairtrade coffee is growing at a higher price than standard coffee. A minimum price for coffee is guaranteed and the market increases the minimum, growers receive a premium. [19] Fairtrade certification appears to be an obvious indicator. Products marked with the label have to meet standards of strict social and environmental measures are taken. [18]

The first generation of Fairtrade coffees from sustainability marketing myopia. First, due to the exaggerated focus on the socio-ecological aspects of the quality and the taste of the coffee were put into the background. Most coffee farmers used Fairtrade and open markets. As a result, they are more likely to be marketed and marketed in the marketplace, where they have not been ensured to a good price. Furthermore, the certainty that Fairtrade buyers would like to mix their products together to improve the quality of their business. [20]

Furthermore, Fairtrade coffee failed to guarantee the social and environmental benefits to the consumer. [21] Moreover, Fairtrade has been accused of misleading consumers with regard to its ability to monitor production practices. [22]

The first generation Fairtrade coffee with a quality and satisfaction of the customer.

Green buildings

Electrolux and Fairtrade coffee suppliers, the producers of green buildings in Western Europe. Companies focussed on the energy efficiency of cost-effective and affordability, marketing their products on the basis of intergenerational equity , ecology and energy-savings. [23] In addition, further in-house consumer values ​​and comfort were also ignored at these early stages. [24]

Nevertheless, since the beginning of the twenty-first century marketers have developed their strategies. Successful sustainability marketing concepts have been progressively adopted, including motive alliances and the use of a new marketing mix based on the so-called 4 Cs: consumer solution, consumer cost, communication and convenience. [25] [23] This new approach has been promoted in the market share of energy-efficient houses. [24]

81Fünf Holzbau is an example of such a company applying successful marketing strategies. It is a fast expanding German company which focuses on energy-efficient wooden houses. Conventional criteria as well as the use of high-quality and sustainable communication methods. [23] Their interactive online toolkit ” Energy Comfort House ” allows you to easily calculate your life cycle costs and savings. [23] In the context of their environmental consciousness and affordability.


  1. Jump up^ Belz 2010.
  2. ^ Jump up to:b Levitt 1960 .
  3. Jump up^ Smith et al. 2009.
  4. Jump up^ GMI.
  5. ^ Jump up to:b Ottman et al. 2006 , p. 24.
  6. Jump up^ Ottman et al. 2006, p. 25.
  7. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, p. 154.
  8. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, p. 153.
  9. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, p. 159.
  10. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, pp. 164-167.
  11. Jump up^ Ottman et al. 2006, p. 30.
  12. Jump up^ Ottman et al. 2006, p. 32.
  13. Jump up^ Ottman et al. 2006, p. 31.
  14. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, p. 189.
  15. ^ Jump up to:b Ottman et al. 2006 , p. 35.
  16. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, pp. 159-161.
  17. Jump up^ Makower 2005.
  18. ^ Jump up to:b Belz, Pettie 2009 , p. 155.
  19. Jump up^ Hulm 2006.
  20. Jump up^ Singleton 2008.
  21. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, p. 164.
  22. Jump up^ Weitzman 2006.
  23. ^ Jump up to:d Belz, Pettie 2010 .
  24. ^ Jump up to:b Belz, Pettie 2009 , p. 166.
  25. Jump up^ Belz, Pettie 2009, p. 33.


  • Belz, FM., Peattie, K. (2009). Sustainability marketing: A Global Perspective . Chichester: Wiley.
  • Belz, FM., Peattie, K. (2010). The Eight Cs of Sustainability Branding . Accessed on 12/06/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=
  • Green Markets International. Green Trade & Development . Accessed on 20/6/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=
  • Hulm, P. (2006). Fair Trade . Accessed on 23/06/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=
  • Levitt, T. (1960). Myopia marketing. In Harvard Business Review . Accessed on 12/6/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=
  • Makower, J. (2005). Green Marketing: Lessons from Leaders . Accessed on 25/06/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=
  • Ottman, J., Stafford, E, Hartman, C. (2006). Avoiding Green Marketing Myopia. In Environment , 48 (5), 22-36.
  • Singleton, A. (2008). The Poverty of Fair Trade Coffee . Accessed on 23/06/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=
  • Smith, N., Drumwright, M., Gentile, MC (2009). The New Marketing Myopia. INSEAD Working Paper No. 2009/08 / Insead Social Innovation Center. Accessed on 12/6/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=
  • Weitzman, H. (2006). The Bitter Taste of ‘Fair Trade’ Coffee . Accessed on 23/06/2011 . External link in ( help ) |publisher=