Irecently commissioned some market research and, as is too often the case, it told me what I already knew or was obvious. I paid the bill of several tens of thousands of pounds, consoling myself with the fact that the work at least confirmed my prejudices - always a satisfying sensation. But I also sensed I had received very poor value; and in talking to other clients of research companies, I realise quite a few feel the same way.
As Michael Skapinker wrote on Tuesday, the idea that the customer is always right has become an accepted truth in business. Unfortunately, customer desires are often wholly unrealistic - because of cost, technology or legislation. As Henry Ford said at the launch of the Model T: "If I'd asked the customer, he'd have asked for a faster horse."
I remember Peter Boizot, founder of PizzaExpress and my predecessor as chairman, telling me how, in 1965, customers in his Soho pizzeria felt uncomfortable with authentic Italian pizza - and demanded chips. But he stuck to his vision and guided their tastes to the genuine product.
Why focus groups tell you the obvious
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