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When Polaroid introduced a handheld, instant camera to the market 50 years ago, no market research provided any hint that consumers wanted one. But with the fervent belief that people would enjoy the convenience of snapping and reviewing a photo of any particular moment, the company’s founder and visionary leader Edwin Land insisted on developing the Swinger as an easily accessible, affordable, easy-to-use tool that consumers could enjoy.

CON2-04-1764630When Apple introduced a handheld smartphone with advance camera capabilities, virtually no market research provided any hint that consumers wanted one. But with the fervent belief that people would enjoy the convenience of snapping and reviewing a photo or getting online at any particular moment, the company’s founder and visionary leader Steve Jobs insisted on developing the iPhone as an easily accessible, affordable, easy-to-use tool that consumers could enjoy.

The similarities are not coincidental. Jobs regarded Land as a mentor and model to mimic. He took multiple lessons from Land’s experience with the Swinger, including the need to develop a design for the new products that would appeal to the modern consumer market. The products both explicitly targeted younger consumers who were willing to experiment with new technology, before spreading to other demographics and segments.

Both innovators and the companies they founded might have considered market research for some aspects of their marketing. But when it came to identifying the things that consumers wanted and would value, they believed their task was to determine what people wanted before they themselves could identify it.

Separated by a generation, several decades, and a massive range of technological advances, these origin stories follow similar patterns. Ultimately, introducing and marketing a new product requires the same basic ingredients, whether today or 50 years ago.

Discussion Question:

What hints do these historical parallels offer for other companies seeking to introduce and market new products?

 

Source: Michael Beschloss, “The Polaroid Swinger: Changing the Market in an Instant,” The New York Times, July 2, 2015

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