Focus Groups Suck

C’mon, you know you were thinking it.  And I just said it.  Having spent over two decades in the innovation, marketing and industrial design spaces and having sat through countless, mind-numbing focus groups, I’ve learned the hard way.

Here is why the traditional focus group is the LAST PLACE ON EARTH to gain game-changing insights into your consumers and their needs:

  • Traditional focus group rooms have are dull, artificial, sterile and have two way glass.  The real world, outside of XXX shops and select Las Vegas venues, doesn’t have two way glass or any of the other features just mentioned.
  • Most groups will have a Bossy-Pants, gotta talk early and often, know it all who sets the tone for the rest of the group.  Regardless of what others think, many respond in agreement with said bossy-pants just to fit in.  Worse yet, others then just shut down altogether.  This toxic stew gains you close to zero in terms of real world, usable insight.
  • It doesn’t help whatsoever that most people have a really hard time telling you exactly what they want in the first place.  If they could, innovation, “the cool factor” and new product/service development wouldn’t be such a damn riddle.  The unnatural, uncomfortable focus group setting only exacerbates this problem.

In summary, if you want to be bored silly, get fat eating too many backroom M & M’s, burn your budget and LEARN LESS THAN YOU SHOULD ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS, by all means continue to rely on traditional focus groups.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to be bored silly, get fat or blow money, go guerrilla in your research.  Nothing will help you see the challenges, feel the frustrations, and uncover opportunities faster than spending time with your customers in natural settings where they actually use products and services, experience brands and live life.

More on this next time.