at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Get Out of the Room!

In advertising, Branding, communications, Consumers, marketing on April 13, 2008 at 2:24 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

There is something nice, predictable, and safe about focus group rooms. The anonymity provided by double-sided mirrors, the predictability of recruits and the comfort of peanut M&M’s. But when the results are nice, predictable, and safe, is it time to try something else?

Now, I know I’ve defended focus groups in the past but it’s sort of like defending why you left the dishes unwashed. Unable to apologize for woeful negligence you double down your defense. And I’ll stick to the fact that focus groups are very useful for testing, for understanding if your message is getting through and for talking to large numbers of people quickly and reliably. But for inspiration and creation whether for products or positioning, nothing beats experience.

I’ve been on a global journey of sorts for a large but daring client who had an appetite for (and a budget that required) a new approach. For less money than traditional focus groups I’ve been diving headlong into the cultures and scenes of Shanghai and now Moscow. While it would have been a lot easier and less time consuming to sit people down in a Moscow focus group room to talk about nightlife, daylife and everything in between, there is nothing like bellying up to the bar, touching the stage at a live show, playing streetball with locals or conducting live interviews at a skatepark to learn about what is going on, how people feel and how to tap into those emotions.

So next time you really want to understand your audience, don’t just bring them into a room or do an in-home. Move with them and among them to understand not just where they are and what they’ve accumulated in their life, but where they are headed.

This picture was taken at around 2am in the Moscow club 16 Tons.

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