“Market research is what you do when your product isn’t any good.”

This piece about Steve Jobs’ admiration for Edwin Lands, the founder of Polaroid, had a bunch of interesting bits to pull out.

At Polaroid, Land used to hire Smith College’s smartest art-history majors and send them off for a few science classes, in order to create chemists who could keep up when his conversation turned from Maxwell’s equations to Renoir’s brush strokes.

Most of all, Land believed in the power of the scientific demonstration. Starting in the 60s, he began to turn Polaroid’s shareholders’ meetings into dramatic showcases for whatever line the company was about to introduce. In a perfectly art-directed setting, sometimes with live music between segments, he would take the stage, slides projected behind him, the new product in hand, and instead of deploying snake-oil salesmanship would draw you into Land’s World. By the end of the afternoon, you probably wanted to stay there.

The two men met at least twice. John Sculley, the Apple C.E.O. who eventually clashed with Jobs, was there for one meeting, when Jobs made a pilgrimage to Land’s labs in Cambridge, Mass., and wrote in his autobiography that both men described a singular experience: “Dr. Land was saying: ‘I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me, before I had ever built one.’ And Steve said: ‘Yeah, that’s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.’ He said, If I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like, they couldn’t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it, so I had to go and create it and then show it to people and say, ‘Now what do you think?’”

The worldview he was describing perfectly echoed Land’s: “Market research is what you do when your product isn’t any good.” And his sense of innovation: “Every significant invention,” Land once said, “must be startling, unexpected, and must come into a world that is not prepared for it. If the world were prepared for it, it would not be much of an invention.” Thirty years later, when a reporter asked Jobs how much market research Apple had done before introducing the iPad, he responded, “None. It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

Via Stellar

Update:
Chris drew the quotation from the title of this post.

“Market research is what you do when your product isn’t any good.”

2 thoughts on ““Market research is what you do when your product isn’t any good.”

  1. Always devoured his pop-culture books (“Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs” & “Eating The Dinosaur”) but “Downtown Owl” was harder for me to get into. However, I’m completely hooked on “The Invisible Man.”

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