Do you do what you say you do? (psst: I don't)
Over at Group Review --yep, the Book Club discussions are still alive and kicking folks--one of the areas we're chatting is research, specifically the flaws of focus groups and how social media can help in "keeping it real".
In Citizen Marketers, Huba & McConnell refer to the "artificial reality" of focus groups based on a representative sample of the imagined target audience that give their opinions, get paid, go home...and move on with their lives. Along the same lines in The Origin of Brands, Al & Laura Ries urge marketers to ask not "what will you do?" but only "what have you done?"
Armed with this advice I'm urging clients to move their research out of 2-way mirrored conference rooms and into the market. So I wanted to share some of the sound bites that have emerged from the likes of Gavin Heaton, Stephen Denny, Gianandrea Facchini, Valeria Maltoni and Laura Ries. Here's what they had to say on the flaws of focus groups...
Gavin Heaton points out the vast difference between Say and Do: "Focus groups are cut off from the real world that they claim to "represent" ... the environment is artificial, the questions posed are open to interpretation and manipulation, the the participants have to respond within very loose or imaginary contexts. And just because you SAY you would do something doesn't mean you will actually DO it."
Valeria Maltoni advocates conversations not surveys: "Conversation will allow us to develop a stronger bond with our customers; observation will keep everyone honest. I find that we (all of us) often say one thing, and do another."
Gianandrea Facchini urges us to go into the (super) market: "I believe that focus groups are limited by the human nature. I mean when ask for a question, every human being is trying to look better, smarter, cooler. What I used to do, in a very empiric way was to go into supermarket or selling point and look for people's attitudes. On field activity such this gives you more hints than an unreal situation as a focus group."
Stephen Denny encourages observing rather than asking: "Focus groups are excellent forums to raise questions but they are lousy at answering them. Observational research, anthropological research, anything where you don't ask, you watch -- this is where I'd spend more of my time and money if I could."
Laura Ries advises us to stop justifying: "Many times companies mainly use research to try and justify line-extensions. 'Oh, well our research shows that consumers will accept our spam brand expanding into the gum market. We make a great tasting spam, now they can have it in a convenient gum!' That said, it is very helpful to use research to take a reading of what your brand and your competitor's brand own in the mind of the consumer."
Are you marketers still using focus groups, or are you relying more on feedback channels like social media and observational/ethnographic studies? Do you do what you say you do? And, more to the point, do your million-dollar budgets rest on others doing what they say they will do...well, what say you?