Ford Horses Quote

The customer doesn’t always know what they need!

I have always been intrigued by this quote from Henry Ford. It challenges my approach to business every day.

Isn’t Ford contradicting the basic principles of marketing that have been taught in business schools for decades?

Isn’t it the role of marketing to determine what consumers want, help businesses address these wants and position that product or service in a manner that makes the individual or business more keen to buy than we are to sell?

I still recall the morning Steve Jobs launched the iPad. I sat wondering why I would ever want (or need) something that appeared to be simply a replacement for my laptop but didn’t do everything as well and was like a big mobile phone that didn’t make calls. Wasn’t this a product looking for a market that didn’t exist? I couldn’t see a need. But now, like so many others I am a devotee of tablets.

Maybe I should not have been so surprised the iPad, like so many other disruptive products and services, came from someone who back in 1984 said “We’re gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make “me, too” products. Let some other companies do that. For us, it’s always the next dream.” Jobs had a vision and an understanding of the market few others have and not only gave us new products but spawned a new industries.

Jobs and Ford demonstrated that innovative and successful marketing is not about giving people what they think they need, but determining what they really want and packaging that with what you believe they need. True success comes from understanding addressing both wants and needs.

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