If Apple don’t do it – then why should we?!
Throughout the last 8 years of ampersand research, and over 25 years in the industry, we have met a lot of people who have asked us what we do and how we do it. We have explained the role of research to everyone from founders of new start-ups in the Midlands to CEOs of global multi-million pound organisations. And this process of explaining how the market research industry works is one we thoroughly enjoy – as experienced practitioners we do love talking about research and can get very animated whilst doing so, as some of our clients will testify!
In addition to those who have also fallen under the spell of the benefits of research for their organisations, or the pros and cons of conducting comparison tests versus those of sequential monadic studies (there have been some), we frequently encounter people who forthrightly state that they never do any research, don’t need to do any research and / or don’t believe that research can tell them anything they don’t already know about their market or product. This denouncement tends to be accompanied by a comment such as “Steve Jobs never did any research and look at Apple and the products they have made!”
When informally “depthing” these people we have discovered this belief is generally based on a number of very well publicised quotes made by Steve Jobs, such as:
“Some people say, ‘Give customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”‘ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
This is a fascinating quote and one we wholeheartedly agree with! Don’t worry – that’s not the end of ampersand research, or our research careers. Steve Jobs is correct – you should never conduct a study that outright asks customers what they want – they often don’t know, or if they do have an idea, don’t know how to articulate it.
One part of the quotation that particularly stands out to us is the reference to the Ford Motor Company founder’s comment:
‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”‘
It is heavily debated that Ford actually said this, although his way of working would suggest that this philosophy is something he could believe in and have said (he is also quoted as saying “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it’s black”).
Looking at his quote we think there is some useful insight that could be used to assess what customers would like: “a FASTER horse” – this suggests that they could be currently dissatisfied with the speed of the horse, or at least have a requirement for something that gets them where they want to go quicker! If we were conducting this research, this would definitely prompt us to probe further this into this aspect of customers’ needs.
The other issue we have with the argument that Steve Jobs ignored and didn’t utilise market research is that…
Apple did, and do, conduct market research!
This came to light in a 2012 legal battle with Apple’s key competitor Samsung over patent infringement. A declaration made to court by Greg Joswiak, current Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, with the aim of keeping Apple’s research activities from being revealed, stated:
“The surveys reveal, country-by-country, what is driving our customers to buy Apple’s iPhone products versus other products such as the Android products that Samsung sells, what features they most use, our customers’ demographics, and their level of satisfaction with different aspects of iPhone.”
So they do use research!
During the trial it was revealed that they conducted extensive research:
"The surveys reveal, country-by-country, the factors driving customers to buy Apple products versus competitive products such as Android…"
And they didn’t want to reveal the findings in court as:
"Knowing what Apple thinks about its customer base preferences is extremely valuable to Apple competitors because it would allow them to infer what product features Apple is likely to offer next, when, and in what markets."
One of the documents shown to the court was titled: “Apple Market Research & Analysis, May 2011”. It is reported that this provided insight into the importance of the physical appearance, the design of the phones and the "comfort while holding in hand" in the purchase decision process of buyers and that trust for the Apple brand was one of the main reasons given for purchase.
The report also demonstrated how the importance of factors varied across multiple countries (for example 47% cited that “greater availability of apps I’m interested in” was a significant factor for customers in South Korea).
This looks like market research to us!
A quick search of the internet also brings up lots of screenshots of surveys Apple are alleged to have sent out:
These may, or may not be genuine, but what we can be sure of is that Apple have, and do use market research to inform their decisions – whether it be measuring customer satisfaction, assessing importance of factors in the decision making process, or understanding customer profiles and segmentations.
This of course is not a surprise to us – at the time of this case we were working with two of Apple’s key competitors conducting research into similar areas: product requirements, customer satisfaction, product usage, new product development – generally collecting data using both qualitative and qualitative techniques to provide evidence to help inform decisions!
So, is there a need to do research? The answer to this is maybe.
It depends what you want to find out and how the information will be used to help answer a business decision. This is a discussion we are happy to have with you, but please do not discount research just because Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t use any – because they did, and lots of it!
If you are interested in finding out more about how research can help you, whether it’s to inform product or service design, assess your customers’, or employees’, satisfaction, or even just to find out more about who your customers are, please do not hesitate to get in touch. As mentioned earlier we love talking about research and working with clients to see how it can help them.
Drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0115 993 2343.
always and in all ways researching