Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Category — Focus Groups

3 Reasons Why Not to Use a Focus Group

When is conducting a focus group better than flipping a coin? Some people (see this article from Slate) would say not often. However, as a way to provide consumer-centric texture to quantitative data or as a way to optimize ideas or products midstream in development, it can be a very useful tool. On the other hand, there are some not so good uses of focus groups and here are three of them. And, full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of all three at different points in my career. But now I know better…

  1. “We have made a decision, but would still like to run it by consumers just in case”: In this instance, chances are pretty good that consumers will tell you your decision was wrong. This is probably to be expected, since if the team truly felt its decision was right, the desire for a focus group wouldn’t have arisen. The team psychology was that they weren’t sure they were making the right call, but if for some reason consumers were OK with it, they at least had some form of validation to move forward.
  2. “We don’t know how to solve this problem, so lets ask consumers and see if they know”: On occasion, you’ll have a “Eureka!” moment in a focus group where the solution to a previously difficult problem is now clear based upon something a single respondent said. However, almost always that response is in reaction to some form of stimulus or questioning that the team developed internally based upon an ingoing hypotheses . While consumers generally know what they like and don’t like, they generally don’t know the ins and outs of new product development or advertising. And they also don’t know much about your business problems, and frankly, they probably don’t care. That’s why companies pay marketers and market researchers a salary and not the consumers.
  3. “We don’t have time or money to do a formal product test or an ethnography, so let’s just do a couple of groups”: Sometimes no research is better than a focus group, especially if the results need to be projectable or psychologically deep. The advantage to focus groups is that they are cheap and quick. But sometimes that’s their biggest problem.

November 12, 2007   No Comments