How Focus Groups Focus Trends

Of the many tools at the disposal of a marketing executive, perhaps the most efficient of them all are focus groups. Many major companies swear by the results they obtain focus groups, and do not even consider beginning a new product launch or changing an existing product’s campaign without one.

Historically, using this type of research method has been among the most often used and accurate portrayals of the qualitative traits of a particular consumer group. Correctly administered, a focus group can give a marketer data about a consumer base and about product perspective that would otherwise be nearly impossible to compile.

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The Players

Putting together focus groups requires the combined efforts of three separate parties: the client, which is the entity with the product to be tested; their marketing agency, which will moderate the group discussion and tabulate the data; and the local research facility, which will provide a location for the meeting, facilitate the discussion, and help in finding qualified participants for the discussion, according to the needs of the client.

For any particular product, the client most likely has a certain demographic and psychographic profile for which it is looking. It is the job of the local research facility to take the screening questionnaire (most likely written by the client’s marketing agency) and comb through its database as well as reach out to the local community to find people who fit that profile. These people, once properly screened, will be invited into the research facility to participate in a focus group.

How The Groups Operate

Focus groups are administered by a moderator, most commonly from the client’s marketing agency. It is the job of this moderator to ask questions based off of a script given to him or her by the agency to the participants of the study. When properly administered, these question and answer sessions more resemble a light group discussion than a business meeting.

A good moderator knows how to make the participants comfortable enough to express their true opinions about the product being vetted. A good moderator also encourages disagreements between other participants, as each of the participants is most likely representative of a very particular consumer group which is of interest to the client. Once the opinions are gathered, and the discussion is over, the clients marketing agency will then analyze the results, and products’ campaigns are either launched, stopped, or changed according to the results.

Who Uses This Technique?

Large companies often use focus groups to determine the direction of the new campaigns. Perhaps the most infamous of these was the new Coke campaign, in which many focus groups preferred the taste of new Coke to old Coke. Based on these results, Coke rolled out the new Coke product. However, what they failed to realize was that even though the focus groups preferred the taste of the new product, their overwhelming loyalty to the old one kept them from purchasing the new one. This is just one example of how this type of research must be properly administered, and all questions asked correctly to get a true result. However, companies such as Nissan and Electronic Arts have used focus groups to their distinct advantage, rolling out successful products and add-ons in their automobiles and video games, respectively, after participants expressed their overwhelming desire to see the improvements made.

Research Companies Who Hold Online Focus Groups

These meetings are also often held online by market research companies. They are usually set up so panelists meet up in an online chatroom at a specific time. The other panelists in the focus group also meet there as well as the moderator. They tend to pay much more than a typical online survey as there are fewer participants and the panelist must attend the focus group at a specific time.

The following survey companies offer focus groups in person:

LEO (Leger Opinion)
Participate in online focus groups, and in person-focus groups for cash.

The following survey companies offer focus groups online:

Ipsos i-Say
Participate in online focus groups for cash paid by PayPal, Amazon gift cards, and dozens of other reward options.