Focus groups – the fantasy that keeps on giving

If you’re a consumer and asked to participate in a focus group, do it. It’s a good gig…you get paid to give your opinions and reactions to ideas and concepts. And, it can be fun.

If you’re a spirits marketer and have a yen to sit behind a one way mirror (kind of a voyeur thing), eat M&Ms, lousy pizza (or sushi), stale pretzels and listen to a boring moderator and consumers who are lying through their teeth about what they drink and why…well, that’s a great way to get away from home and feel like you’re in touch with the market. Dream on.

Truth of it is focus groups among consumers in the booze business are a waste of time. The moderator is putting on a show for those behind the one-way mirror. Those behind the mirror spend their time playing with their computers and asking the moderator to pose questions that meet their preconceived points of view.

This may not be true in many consumer businesses but, in my experience, describes focus groups in the booze industry.

I know because I’ve been on both side of the one-way mirror (moderator or observer) for literally scores if not hundreds of group sessions.

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  1. First of all you can order better food than you describe. Second of all, if you include yourself among the moderators you slam, I think it’s time for a shrink. Finally, there’s a time and place for all legitimate market research tools. So to use one wide brush to paint over the viability of all focus groups is to negate opportunities for learning. I can’t imagine any professional researcher recommending qualitative research to predict new product success…and that includes you “scores” of focus groups ago. I’m guessing you know when they are good as well as when they are horrid. In the meantime, I’ll be reading your blog for the mea culpa posting. From your pal, the other voice of reason.

  2. Sorry Arthur but i agree with Joan – then again there is the issue of biting the hand that feeds us

  3. All I’m saying is that consumer focus groups in the booze business is not as valuable as focus groups among the trade, especially bartenders.

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