Focus Groups Essay

Focus Groups Essay

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Focus Groups Focus groups are a qualitative form of marketing research that can help a marketer assess consumer needs and feelings in a way that simple questionnaires can not. In a focus group, you bring together a small group to discuss issues and concerns about the features of a product. Participants are usually paid a fee for their time. A marketer can gain valuable information such as gaining a customer’s attitudes and determining advertising persuasiveness. The group is typically run by a moderator who maintains the group's focus. Some recent topics of interest regarding this subject are focus groups for advertising, Online focus groups, and political focus groups. Traditional focus groups usually deal with a consumers reaction to a product, whether it be good or bad. In today’s ad-packed media, marketers need to worry about how consumers react to their advertising. Many marketers have set up focus groups to do just that: gauge how efficient an ad is, whether or not the group was interested, and if the ad and brand name can be recalled from the spot. Companies such as Motorola have used focus groups to gauge the effectiveness of commercials. When the company chose to launch the “Wings” ;campaign, they were unsure of what song would be appropriate for the T.V spot. An overwhelming response from a focus group led to the use of the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Marketers at Motorola raised concerns of whether or not the song was appropriate, based on the title. After a positive response from their focus group, the company ran the ad. “overwhelmingly positive focus-group response to the Rolling Stones as a transgenerational and transgeographic icon confirmed people were more interested in the emotion of the music than the lyrics.” ;(, Snyder) While traditional focus groups and their face to face method of collecting data has proven to be effective, the internet has proven to be both more effective and more convenient. A traditional focus group normally consists of about 10 people, while an online group can reach thousands of participants. The DiscoverWhy group is one such group that holds online polls and focus groups for various companies. In order to test the effectiveness of’s new advertising campaign, “DiscoverWhy polled 500 people online through its patented system, which collects consumers' responses as they watch commercials. With a mouse, participants move a tab on a sliding scale to rate a commercial from one to 10. Commercials are streamed via Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player software.” ;(, Riedman) While a normal focus group usually can poll a few participants at a great cost to the marketer, “DiscoverWhy, on the other hand, can poll 1,000 or more people through the Internet and reach them when it's convenient for them.” ;(, Riedman) Lycos found the results very useful, and threw more weight to the commercials that fared well, while scrapping or reducing the use of less favorable commercials. The Internet group claims that online focus groups are far superior to traditional groups. “Respondants are more honest in their responses since there is no one looking over their shoulder, no one who is over-bearing in the group to lead or overpower their opinions, and no one watching from behind a 2-way mirror.” ;( The site offers Internet users digital versions of commercials seen on TV, and asks users to rate the commercials in return. They offer marketers the chance to research the effectiveness of their ads in an inexpensive and effective format. has been one of the most popular sites on the Internet, partially to do with the enormous popularity of advertisements run by Budweiser, among others, and an overwhelming response from Internet users to find digital copies of popular ads. The political arena has become another important area for marketing research. Politicians have to sell themselves much like a company sells their product. The Choose or Lose team from MTV news recently reported on a focus group that centered in on Presidential advertising. In an important political race, such as this year’s Presidential race, the groups running a campaign need to gauge voters opinions. “Taking a cue from the corporate world, presidential campaigns employ this method to test how voters feel about their candidates. In a typical political focus group, a campaign makes participants watch a video to see what members like or dislike about Candidate X. They then have them talk about Candidate X and note their comments.” ;(MTV News - Choose Or Lose, Sinha) The results of these polls help shape a candidate’s actions during debates and advertisements. Not surprisingly, participants reacted very negatively towards negative campaigning. McCain’s spots lashing out against President Clinton sparked a huge upset among most participants. Footage of Governor George W. Bush with positive messages and footage of a down to earth man sparked a very positive reaction. The study also brought up many issues that participants believe were overlooked by the candidates. All in all, the group proved to give interesting dialogue to a luke-warm debate. In conclusion, focus groups, in any form, can prove to be an important tool to any marketer. Groups that can use the information wisely can gain valuable insight to difficult problems.

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