at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Mojave Experiment Exploits Focus Groups

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2008 at 11:48 am

Let’s start with the main point of this here post. Product testing in focus groups is almost inevitably a sham. And frankly, you can watch this viral piece from Microsoft and you’ll see it play out almost frame by frame.

First, you recruit some consumers off a panel that is owned by the facility or market research firm. These consumers have given themselves up to the facilities and admitted that they are willing to come in and sell themselves and their opinions by the hour. Unlike isolated recruiting where you get “regular folks” here you get focus group folks pretending to be regular folk.

They start a group by disparaging the existing product, especially if they are recruited as rejectors or have an inbuilt dislike for the brand/product.

Then, wait for it, they are presented with an alternative. All the sudden they LOVE the alternative. It’s new, fresh, innovative! Clients wet themselves, moderator gets complimented for doing such a nice job, respondent gets 125 bucks and moves on to the next group knowing that they will be invited back because they just made everyone very happy. That person gets a little gold star in the database and makes more money in the future.

See, and that’s the rub, they have a built in reward for pleasing those people who have invited them to come.

The only real way that I have found to break through this routine (and it is a routine) is to ask respondents what they would pay for said product. When they name a price say, “great, I have a few of them back here let me get one for you!” That is generally greeted with a lot of silence and then excuses because it’s not part of the routine. You’ve called their bluff and now you can get down to the real facts about the product and how they correspond with someone’s pocketbook.

That said, the focus group is still dead to me.

Mojave Experiment in Focus Groups:

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