Focus groups are bad because of what they do to you

Focus groups are part pseudoscience, part theater. That’s a given. But their negative effect is more insidious than you think. Why? Because most people who work in advertising disconnect themselves from the real world. They spend most of their time with other people in advertising, they go to the same websites, read the same news, watch the same videos, listen to the same music, wear the same clothes. Nearly the only time they see and hear real people—the kind of people who use their client’s products—is through a one-way piece of glass.

And what does this do?

It creates a culture of them versus us.

We don’t like to see these “no-nothings” criticize our hard work. We get pissed at the “hick” who, we’re certain, gets off by the sound of his own voice. And we, the people who get paid to create messages that resonate with our client’s target audience, lose our empathy with these people.

What to do?

Break through the one-way glass. Watch people use your client’s product, talk with them about it. Learn from them. What are there interests? What’s important to them? How do they see life? Get to know them as real people, not as a target group or a demographic. And don’t go to focus groups.


Photo courtesy of mortsan

About Robert Moss

I write ads: traditional, non-traditional, interactive, edutainment, story-based, broadcast, and experiential marketing events. Sometimes I write about ads and the business of advertising. Sometimes I write about other stuff. The views expressed here are solely my own and don't reflect the views of my employers. I also published a novel called Descending Memphis that's getting great reviews on Amazon. see
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