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Why Companies' Giant Blunders Keep Coming

That Jobsian take is hardly a modern invention. Henry Ford -- who famously resisted releasing cars in any color other than black -- once dismissed the notion of market research with the quip, "If I asked my customers what they want, they simply would have said a faster horse."

But, despite Jobs' boast, Apple (AAPL) does indeed cultivate customer feedback. So do Netflix, Pepsi, The Gap and Bank of America, despite their recent failures to keep a finger on the public pulse. The question is if they use that data, as well as how and when.

Modern companies "move faster and ask for forgiveness later," says Fiona Dias, chief strategy officer at ShopRunner, a members-only shopping and shipping service that counts Toys "R" Us (TOY), Sports Authority, American Eagle (AEO), Domino's Pizza (DPZ) and PetSmart (PETM) among its partners.

Before ShopRunner, Dias was vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay, a brand manager at Procter & Gamble (PG) and held executive marketing positions at Pennzoil Quaker State and Circuit City.

"Companies are moving much faster than they ever have had to," she says. "The reason they are moving much faster is that we are in a global, very competitive environment and you just don't have the luxury of time. When I started with Procter & Gamble's marketing department 15 years ago, it used to take a year and a half to bring a product to market -- and I'm talking about toothpaste. We weren't bringing real complicated stuff to market, and yet we spent over a year in research testing and prototyping, and then we'd do it all again if we found a problem. By the time it finally reached the marketplace any issues had been fully vetted and resolved."

"Technology companies have really changed that model with the approach of putting a beta version out," she adds. " Google (GOOG) puts everything out as beta and sometimes they live in beta for years. It's like an excuse [for some companies]. 'We'll put out a half-baked product and we know there are going to be issues, but we're going to sacrifice quality for speed. Customers, be grateful that we got it out to you quickly but understand there's a trade off with that.'"

Even as the product cycle has been speeding up over the past few years, there is also the online, social media megaphone "for customers to scream their disapproval and get everybody else they know to scream alongside them."

If that online "megaphone" can topple governments in Egypt and Tunisia, it can certainly get the Verizons of the world to slink away from a minor fee increase.
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