Marketing Myopia 2.0: the data economy

Back in the sixties, Theodore Levitt published an article in the Harvard Business Review called Marketing Myopia. He exposed how the railroad business and their marketing approach was wrong. While they said they were on the railroad business, they missed a huge opportunity that could’ve been taken if instead they defined themselves as being in the transportation business.
Since 1960 companies have been practicing the marketing myopia missing great opportunities, while others saw them perfectly. And today big corporations are experimenting this myopia in a different way.
A few days ago I read an article in The Economist, where they compare Standard Oil dominance in the early 20th century with the tech giants of today, because oil is not the most valuable resource. Data is.
Let’s take a look at this graph from Business Insider:

As Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler remarked in their book Bold, there are two critical categories worth exploring right now: information and automation. Behavioral tracking is a fast-growing information category. And by looking this graph you can understand the opportunity big companies see (or better said, saw).
Here we can distinguish two kind of companies: (1) companies that use that behavioral data to fulfill a purpose; and (2) companies that just sell data.
In the long run, companies with a purpose will win. Tesla, for example, is now a big winner. They collect data, yes, but they show you their purpose: Reduce traffic accidents, improve their maps and make the road safer. We can buy that.
However, on the second kind, we have companies that sell data just because they make money. They don’t transmit a purpose. They don’t communicate it with you. Well, maybe they do, in a hidden document with a 2px font.
Then, what’s the relationship between Railroads from the 20s and selling data today?
The main difference is that while a few decades ago redefining your business meant keeping yourself in the game, today changing your business is not an assurance. It’s having a purpose what will keep them playing. Then the Marketing Myopia 2.0 is about leaving the purpose outside of the equation.
As a matter of fact, companies like Siemens or GE now sell data to big data companies like Acxiom. They are now data companies. Companies without a clear purpose selling your data. That’s it.
Here’s a prediction, and I hope I’m right with this. Companies that collect and sell data without warning the consumer and without a purpose, will suffer as much as railroad companies did. It’s a matter of time until people start noticing these companies and they stop using them.  That’s what would happen in an ideal world, but who knows… There’s too much money on the table.