Wednesday, January 19

The Focus Group

I spent the day yesterday doing something that I did years and years ago ... attending focus groups. We've got a brand new client with a very particular breakthrough technology so I've been intimately involved in the branding and positioning work. It's pretty exciting because we are charting new territory -- something I've always enjoyed doing. I like staying in the game.

But I have to say that not much has changed with the focus group. I remember my first -- we were designing new REACH toothbrushes for kids, and we wanted to understand the issues that little kids have with brushing their teeth. The ultimate result was an ergonomically designed brush for chubby little hands (REACH WonderGrip), to help them reach their back teeth, their upper teeth, heck all of their teeth. We laughed and laughed as we heard little kid after little kid talk about how hard it is to brush their teeth.

All behind a two way mirror, sitting in the dark, taking notes, and eating M&Ms.

Like I said, not a lot has changed. Yesterday we sat behind the two way mirror and listened to women talk about an even more personal issue. The M&Ms were replaced with healthy salads, but the methodology was the same: listening.


Truth is we don't do enough of it as marketers. And as old as the methodology of the focus group is, I have to say that I still learned something. Imagine that! I listened and I learned.

And I've seen a distinct evolution in consumers since those days on REACH toothbrush. They are much more saavy and much more articulate and much more (shall I say) jaded. Consumers have been inundated with marketing messages year after year after year. They don't believe so readily and they don't take anything at face value. As brands we have to prove our worth to them, and then they are immediately going to ask their friends about us and research us online to make sure that we are telling the truth. Advertising is hype, and they immediately question it ... what others are saying about the brand is far more important and sincere and real.

Which is why it's so important to listen! What a thrill to learn something new every day!

What's your experience? Jim.

PS - Don't know if you've seen the new Domino's tv spot but the concept is that they are filming a real focus group which ends up being in the middle of a Domino's pizza kitchen.

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