Apple: “We Don’t Use Any Customer Input”

(Photo credit: CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

In a real consumer society, the customer should have some say in the production of goods. There should be a subtle cooperation whereby the producer is constantly adjusting available materials to customer tastes. In this way, producer and customer become the “co-creators” of goods.

This is the foundation of vibrant and creative culture since, when everyone has input, the production process becomes a true expression of a people. A local cuisine, for example, develops when chefs constantly adjust local dishes and native ingredients to reflect what people like or suggest.

Modern global production, however, tends to minimize this customer input. Manufacturers have to present their product lines to the greatest possible market. Marketers have the job of creating and shaping demand by telling consumers what they need. Customer input is reduced at best to statistical exercises where consumers decide, with millions of fellow consumers, which of the many standardized products to buy.

Global marketing even minimizes marketing research. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, outlined his company’s approach to market research in the following terms: “We don’t use any customer input in the new-product process. We never go and ask the customer: ‘What feature do you want in the next product?’ It’s not the customer’s job to know” (Mark McClusky, “Core Contentions,” Hemispheres Magazine, Nov. 2012, p.86).

When the producer comes to determine demand, this process ends up creating mass markets for the global masses. That important human touch that develops true culture and tempers markets is lost.