Apple Computer is basking in the warmth of success following the recent release of yet another technology widget—the Apple iPad. Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, has on several occasions downplayed the value of market research. Jobs argues that you cannot ask consumers to decree the next big thing. Moreover, customers cannot see the value or need until they see the product (Breillatt, 2010). While this philosophy has served Apple well, there are many aspects of marketing research that could assist in marketing decisions post innovation.

Consumers do not know what they do not know

Considering market research is as close as a marketing manager might get to a crystal ball, it stands to reason that without it many businesses are shortsighted. Conversely, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovative products without leveraging market research, but at the risk of alienating their cult following by not being prepared to accommodate the long lines of hopeful buyers at their retail stores. A blend of secondary data accompanied by information captured using a causal design marketing research campaign would have given Apple an idea of the number of units to produce and deliver to the individual retail outlets.

At the very least, and in lieu of market research, Apple should have eavesdropped certain social media channels to get a feel for the anticipation surrounding the release of their first generation iPhone. Apple aficionados were encouraged by the media to join a waiting list (Paulk, 2007). The waiting list idea was a reactive approach to predict the number of clients to expect on the launch date. The problem with this, of course, is that the information was collected too late to affect the manufacturing schedule. As a result, thousands of Apple iPhone early-adopters were disappointed.

Apple could enjoy greater customer satisfaction by using market research to help determine a branding and positioning strategy. It is true that many consumers are loyal to the brand, and will simply buy the products because Apple designs them. However, the iPhone and iPad cross into other industries and compete with well-established brands. A marketing manager at Apple must identify a target market before a campaign strategy can be designed. Consumers are fickle—especially technology enthusiasts.

Apple could use market research to determine everything from a branding and positioning strategy to a target market for their new iPad. An Apple iPad has been described as something between a laptop and a smartphone (Stone, 2010). Without running the risk of leaking intellectual property by using a focus group or conducting test marketing, Apple could employ a descriptive research study to better understand their market. Using experience surveys to current users of smartphones and non-apple laptops would provide information for a marketing manager to use to establish a message strategy for promoting the new trend-setting iPad device.

The what-if logic used in a causal design marketing research campaign could provide an early indication of the percentage of consumers willing to abandon their current devices for Apple’s new technology. The results of a survey based on the “Hierarchy of Effects” model can help isolate the hand-raisers from the naysayers and ultimately produce a roadmap for developing a marketing mix. Although the product has been determined, a well-informed marketing manager decides price, place, and promotion.

The emerging technology associated with the Apple iPad is in itself an environmental factor. A technology dependent society has directed cultural trends in favor of the Apple iPad. Without competition, Apple can take the same whatever-the-market-will-bear approach that was used to introduce the iPhone; or perhaps market research might reveal a better option is a skimming strategy. The iPad has enough differentiation to justify a higher price.

Market research would help a marketing manager determine the best positioning strategy for the iPad. Feedback from a needs analysis could support a decision to position the iPad using a use or application strategy. The new device offers a combined functionality of an Amazon Kindle, personal digital assistant, and a laptop. Touting the advantages of combining all of these capabilities into a single device would be the first step in establishing an application strategy (Burns & Bush, 2008).

Identifying the target market is one of the most important steps in ensuring the success of a product. Apple might have their pulse on their target audience vicariously through the visionaries within their own organization. However, not everyone is ready to abandon his or her smartphones, laptops, and e-book readers for the next great Apple innovation. Apple can use marketing research to make better marketing decisions without jeopardizing the entrepreneurial spirit of their innovation team. Even a marketing manager for Apple Computer can benefit from a well-defined marketing research strategy.


Breillatt, A. (2010). You can’t innovate like Apple. [Electronic version]. Pragmatic Marketing. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from

Burns, A. & Bush, R. (2008) Basic Marketing Research. Pearson Prentice Hall. New Jersey.

Paulk, W. (2007). Get on the iPhone waiting list! Retrieved April 26, 2010, from­on-­the-­iPhone-­Waiting-­List!&id=591466

Stone, B. (2010). With its tablet, Apple blurs the line between devices. [Electronic version]. New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from