Posts tagged “focus groups”

ChittahChattah Quickies

The Writer of a Cat Food Commercial Confronts a Focus Group [] – This “Short Imagined Monologue” by Mike Gallagher has a little fun with the unfortunate power dynamics of a focus group, and the struggle those behind the glass can have accepting the feedback that they are asking (and paying) for. Fault must lie at the feet of the participants, who are clearly incapable of understanding!

I don’t mean to startle you by barging into your focus group like this. Everything’s cool. I’ve been watching you guys from behind the one-way mirror there and I thought I’d make my presence known. Normally I’m content to just chill behind the glass, make disparaging comments to my fellow observers, and eat handfuls of M&Ms. And while I know this is “highly irregular” I feel like I have to say something to help you better understand the overall messaging, the gestalt if you will, of the TV commercials we’re testing here today. Not to take anything away from Fiona, your lovely and talented focus group moderator. Hey, she’s doing a great, great job… I don’t think you people truly appreciate what’s at stake here. We, all of us, are tasked with “redefining” the pet food commercial from the bowl up… What’s concerning me is that my work may be too- strong for you groundlings. Too avant-garde. So this one time I’m going to explain it very slowly and in terms you can all understand. Like captions for the “Thinking Impaired”.

A seat at the table

You may have already seen this proposed seat layout around the blogosphere. It appears today in USATODAY

PAIG and its design partner, Acumen, used experts from 12 major international carriers as a focus group in developing the seats. None of those 12 – which Bettell said he can’t identify because of non-disclosure agreements – has placed an order yet.

This raises an issue well articulated by Graham Marshall at the IDSA SHIFT event this past weekend…that in many business situations, the people being designed for aren’t just the end user, but include partners, and customers (where customers refers to the company who buys the product, such as Target, UPS, or United Airlines). Of course, as Graham made clear, it’s crucial to develop with and for all those groups. Here we’ve got a story about a company that ran (yuk) focus groups with the airlines only. Sure, those people have asses and backs, so they could try the seats out (assuming the focus group went full-out and had model seats that could be experienced) but they are not the ultimate user of the seats. It seems that doesn’t really matter at this stage of the process! You’ll sit in ’em and you’ll like ’em!

Little lies by focus groupies are costly

Nice article about people that lie in order to qualify for market research studies

Researchers call these truth-stretchers focus groupies, a sneaky cadre that adopt multiple identities in order to secure paid seats on the dozens of focus groups that meet every week in the Bay Area.

Firms pay $50 to $100 cash for an hour or two of work that usually involves a moderated discussion about a new product or service with up to a dozen people gathered in a room equipped with a two-way mirror.

The allure of easy money leads hundreds of people every year to treat focus groups as a source of nearly work-free income. Get-rich-quick schemers even advertise focus groups as a source of cash.

And if it means telling a few lies along the way about your favorite brand of frozen pizza or the number of times you have already participated in a focus group, well, it’s no crime to fib to a marketing company.

Researchers go to great lengths to weed out groupies, including the use of exhaustive database cross-checks to ferret out the ‘cheaters’ and ‘repeaters,’ along with detailed screening interviews. Competing firms even share groupies’ names in the reverse form of a ‘do not call’ list.

‘It’s bad for the whole industry so we cooperate with each other,’ said Nichols Research Group Vice President Jane Rosen, whose Bay Area firm purges several hundred groupies a year from its database.

How far will people go?

They sign up with aliases, usually derivatives of their real names with different initials and middle names, Rosen said.

They may use a post office box address under one application and then a home address for the second response.

‘We had a woman sign up for two focus groups on the same day and after she finished the first session, she went out to her car and changed into a new set of clothes and put on a wig,’ Rosen said. ‘Fortunately, one of our people thought something looked wrong about her.’

Q&A Research in Walnut Creek recently foiled a woman who claimed to own a particular brand of luxury car, but the name on the automobile registration she provided did not match her own.

‘We had another man who used his first name for one group, then his middle name for a second group the next day and then a third one the following week,’ said Eric Tavizon, Q&A’s focus group project manager. ‘One of the clients caught him because he mistakenly signed up for events by the same sponsor and they recognized him.’

Of course I’ve encountered this on a much smaller scale; so much of what I do is predicated on a basic foundation of trust (and trust goes in two directions, of course) and it’s lurid and disturbing to consider how that trust can be violated (when do we read the piece about the rapist who posed as an ethnographer to gain access? yikes).

I’ve started a discussion thread on Discovery about this; we’ll see if anything develops.

End of Free Pretzels

Pretzels are out on US Airways. Besides the bad press this constant nickel-and-diming is creating, there’s the usual corporate press release, where they remind us that they conducted customer research in support of their action

Amy Kudwa, a US Airways spokeswoman, said the airline decided to end the pretzel giveaway after meeting with the carrier’s focus groups.

Amazing this one didn’t include the standard “our consumers tell us that…” line. I’m amazed at how often this appears in press release-driven news stories.


About Steve