Scott Anthony’s HBR article on A.G. Lafley vs. Steve Jobs talks about two contrasting approaches to finding out the ultimate question ‘What do the customers want?’. P&G indulges in many studies and research projects to find it out what its customers want while Apple goes on to give the customers what they possibly do not even imagine.
I think each product type needs to choose its own way to peep into the hearts and minds of their customers. These may be the two extreme ends of the spectrum that are available to you for connecting with your customers. You need to choose or if possible invent your own method to find out what your customer wants and more importantly what he needs. How many surprises are they willing to take from you? An Apple user is now mentally prepared to see some magical surprises from the company while that may not be true for the same customer for a washing powder as they expect some predictability there.
Think of it, a customer is a consumer for both P&G and Apple, but what they expect from both these companies in different because they touch very different parts of his life. So choose the method to suit the touchpoint that you have with your customer and consumer.