Way way back, in this blog's first post, I said the following:
"I have always shouted that consumers don't know what they want. Well, I lied.
They know what they want.
They WANT to be led.
They WANT us to lead them.
They WANT to follow.
And they WANT to be surprised."
I've never been a big believer in focus groups. I have found that people in 'em are more concerned with giving the right answer than actually coming up with something revolutionary, something that will break through the constraints of what they already know. (On the other hand, I believe whole-heartedly in observing the consumer in his/her natural habitat and learning from that, but that's a whole other ball of whacks.)
And it seems that I have a kindred spirit in Steve Jobs. In last week's Time Magazine look at the iPhone, Lev Grossman says:
"Jobs' zeal for product development--and enforcing his personal vision--remains as relentless as ever.
I can't think of a comparable company that does no--zero--market research with its customers before launching a product."
One more time: ZERO MARKET RESEARCH WITH ITS CUSTOMERS.
This goes against conventional marketing wisdom, of course, but designing consumer products can be likened to the weather--everyone complains, but few do anything about it. Consumers can tell you what's wrong with their phones, what they hate about 'em, but ask for improvement ideas and you'll get minor adjustments, incremental band-aids.
At the recent CES show in Las Vegas, every cellphone
manufacturer--EVERY SINGLE ONE--announced some sort of new handset. I
guarantee each one went through a laborious process of consumer study,
research, focus groups, hand-wringing and anal probes.
Yet only one truly captured our attention, broke through the clutter, and set tongues a-wagging.
Bringing consumer products to reality ain't no YouTube.
It takes a real marketer to bust through and have the balls to lead consumers to the promised land.
To some, the best customer market research is done at the cash register.