Blog: Legends, Myths and a Faster Horse

Andy Specht
March 23, 2016

If you have not already, I highly recommend viewing the documentary A Faster Horse which is currently streaming on Netflix. It is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the design and launch of the 2015 Ford Mustang, as well as an engrossing look back at the history of the Mustang and the part it has played in American culture.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I have to admit to cringing a bit while one of the narrators said the following in reference to the origins of the 1965 Mustang:

“[Ford] didn’t go out and ask people what they wanted.”

While there is indeed some truth to this statement, most viewers will interpret it to mean that Ford did not conduct any market research when conceiving the original Mustang.

Quite the contrary.

The idea behind the Mustang came out of market research Ford conducted in the early 1960s with the emerging Baby Boomer segment. As is the case with today’s Millennials, marketers were desperate to learn more about this up-and-coming customer segment and what appealed to them. Ford’s research correctly identified an unmet need among Boomers for a sporty, fun vehicle unlike anything their parents were driving at the time. From there, a massive opportunity was correctly identified. While it took several years for the idea to become one of the most iconic vehicles of all time, it all started by listening to the customer.

There is a common misconception that market research is merely taking orders from customers – ask customers what they want, record it, and repeat it back to decision makers. In reality, well-designed market research uncovers customers’ needs, wants and beliefs and effectively communicates the voice of the customer back to the entire organization. It is up to the innovators in an organization to design and deliver a product that satisfies those customers’ needs.

“[Ford] didn’t go out and ask people what they wanted,” is true in the sense that Ford’s market researchers did not go out and ask customers to provide vehicle specifications. However, researchers did find out what those customers needed, and translated those needs into insights. Ford’s engineers and designers turned those insights into a legend.

If you are struggling with how to best capture the voice of your customer, Roadmap Market Research can help. Contact us today to learn more about our customized research solutions.