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I saw in this morning's obits that Theodore Levitt, former Harvard Business School Professor, had died....

Think about this: it was in 1960 that Levitt first published his classic article "Marketing Myopia." What foresight he had. What an upheaval he caused.
The upheaval was caused by his saying that businesses and industries had to define themselves more broadly to take advantage of growth opportunities. The quoted example: "Railroads are in trouble not because the need for passenger transportation has declined or even because cars, airplanes, and other modes of transport have filled that need. Rather, the industry is failing because those behind it assumed they were in the railroad business rather than the transportation business."
What happened in the '60s through the '80s is that companies over-reacted to this and tried to expand way beyond their franchise. They SSTed to the other side of the reality range. Today, there is much more consciousness about what the franchise allows.
Levitt's longer-lasting contribution to marketing was his insistence on customer-focus: "They must ascertain and act on their customers' needs and desires, not bank on the presumed longevity of their products. In short, the best way for a firm to be lucky is to make its own luck. An organization must learn to think of itself not as producing goods or services but as doing the things that will make people want to do business with it."
More and more companies get this now. It's a particularly important concept for those of us in direct marketing. Those in direct marketing have mastered it, but companies who send out direct mail or emails and don't know they do direct marketing are lacking. We still see letters full of "We," full of company puff, full of product features with no benefits. I'd be myopic if I thought that would ever end.
The Good Professor also coined the term "Globalization." He made some difference in our lives, even to those who never knew who he was.

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Lee Marc Stein is a direct marketing consultant and copywriter with over 40 years experience. He has developed and executed direct marketing programs for a wide variety of marketers in the publishing, insurance and financial services, nonprofit, technology, and business-to-business arenas. Current clients include Effectiveness Solutions Research, Entertainment Publications, Long Island Children’s Museum, National Grants Conferences, Rickard List Marketing, Travelers Insurance, and a number of direct response agencies.

As a direct response agency executive, Lee worked with companies like Chase, Colonial Penn Auto Insurance, Dial Corporation, Hertz, Mead Johnson, The Money Store, and U.S. Airways. He also held marketing management positions at Standard & Poor’s, BusinessWeek, and McGraw-Hill Information Systems Company.

Lee taught at NYU and Hofstra, and has spoken at 100+ industry conferences. He was a Founder of the Long Island Direct Marketing Association, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Direct Marketing Association of Long Island.