Steve Jobs quote on Market Research

This is probably the most famous Steve Jobs quote on Market Research.

“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.”

It’s his “anti-research” quotation. This was taken as meaning Steve Jobs thought market research was pointless. He didn’t.

It’s not a consumer’s job to articulate what they need. They don’t know what’s possible. It couldn’t have lead directly to the Mac nor even the personal computer. Those devices were outside the realm of reality. They were literally science fiction. Customers can’t tell you to make something they can’t imagine. But customers will tell you about problems, dis-satisfactions, conflicting priorities, goals, etc. so you can make the innovative leap.

  • They told IBM about trouble getting mainframe time; hence the IBM PC.
  • They told Apple about the expertise needed to run an MS-DOS PC; hence the Mac.
  • They told Sony about their love of music and their active lifestyles; hence the Walkman.

None of them asked for a PC, a Mac or a Walkman.

The Samsung-Apple court cases revealed that Apple had tonnes of market research. They relied heavily on it. It was enormously helpful when Apple could show customers something and ask opinions. Improvements? Price?

We don’t even have to have a finished product for this. You can ask based on the concept. The goal is to use market research to check the intuitive leap that market research couldn’t have predicted.