With Sweden and Europe and the present and the future as vantage points, the purpose of this paper is to challenge the viability of customer centricity (or customer orientation) and its axiom, the marketing concept, as the basis for marketing and profitability.
The paper is part of a project in Sweden to stimulate a dialogue on the importance and role of marketing. As such the paper draws on the author's experience as professor, practicing marketer, consumer and citizen and expresses a personal and unorthodox synthesis of ongoing developments in marketing.
Although customer orientation has been on the agenda for at least half a century it is not whole‐heartedly implemented. The reason may be that it is unrealistic as a general guideline for marketing. First, a single stakeholder can only in special instances be treated as the nucleus of marketing and business; a tradeoff between several stakeholders – “balanced centricity” – stands out as more realistic. Second, the gullibility of human nature and the customer's limited knowledge and time open up for the deployment of diverse tricks in marketing practice. The current evolution of marketing theory and the advent of better methodology to handle complexity could be a step forward once the marketing discipline embraces it fully. Gaps between what marketing textbooks prescribe and the real world confronting marketers need to be narrowed.
Just focusing on the customer and customer satisfaction is not possible in practice; businesses have to balance the interests of many stakeholders, thus balanced centricity.
Customer centricity is hardly ever challenged in the research literature and textbooks and its strategic value is often not understood and accepted in practice.
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