Which comes first: the target market, or the product?


Target market comes first

Business and economic schools have taught that a product satisfies an unmet need, demand, or want in a particular target market.   Based from this, perhaps one can presuppose that the target market (which must be small enough to conquer but big enough to profit) exists first and that a product that can profitably satisfy the unmet demand comes second.

So I ask, is it possible for the product to exist first before the target market is identified?  A scenario I can think of is when a product is able to awaken a “dormant demand”.


Product comes first

I think that tablets are the personification of “dormant demands”.  At surface level, it seems that laptops and cell/smartphones are enough to consume media.  I remember reading an internet article questioning the existence and release of the first iPad.  Back then, I agreed – what’s gonna be the use of a tablet, when laptops are more powerful and smartphones are more portable?

Fast forward today, tablets are a category of their own. Though laptops and smartphones seemingly addressed existing demands of power and portability already, the emergence of tablets seemed to awaken the dormant demand for the perfect hybrid or middle ground of the two demands.  In fact, Samsung is even pioneering the “phablet” category.  If tablets are middle grounds of laptops and phones, then tablets are more astounding – they are the middle grounds of phones and tablets!

Did the people expressly clamor for such hybrids or middle grounds to exist?  Did the existence of tablets create the demand, or did people demand tablets?


So, what now?

This is when we can see how business and marketing cannot be solely described as “sciences”.  There are art, intuition, and powerful gut feelings involved.  A product can be perhaps created without a particular target segment in mind.  The basis of creating such a product may be an uncanny knowledge of how consumers, or even humans in general think and feel.  Such a product is based on a general insight, a general yet penetrating understanding of people’s demands before they even expressly and consciously know it.

In such cases when products seemingly come first, what I can think of is a product utilizing a market-driving strategy – awakening a “dormant demand” through addressing an overlooked need.  Perhaps the new product is a rejuvenated old product that inspires people to use it in a new and refreshing way (new usage).  Perhaps it is indeed a new product born out of finding the middle ground between two existing products, such as laptops and smartphones.

I do not know and cannot conclusively tell whether target market identification comes first before creating a product or vice versa.  I acknowledge my limitations as still a young student of business and marketing eager to test theories and knowledge in real life.