Marketing Insight

CONDUCTING llVíFOHMATlVÉ FOCUS GROUPS

Focus groups alto masters to Observe Irw and Why copswmers accipt or Tt;Ect concepts. ideas, or any specific notion. The hey to using iKuii groups HiOOfcssluilY is in fisted II is critical So eliminate biases as much as possible. Aithot.gh many useiol insights can emerge trom lboiigltitfuliy run focus groups, There can bt questions as Id tkir validity, especially in lod&y's marketing Bfonrwmeni.

Some researchers tjelievft lhat consumers fcive been so bombarded ttWi ads, tney unconscjot^ly (or perhaps cynically) par:« biick what ihey Tia'-e already h&srd as compartd 1o what th&y lhink. There is also always a concern that participants are fust trying to rna.'ntain Iheir sell-image anct piibfif persona or Have a need lo Identity with tJia other members ot the group. Partopants may rWl tic willing to aomit :n ptiblio-01 may noi ¿ven recognize th^r h^Mav-ior patterns ami mtjtfVBlipfiS. lbete is also always the loudmouth" problem—^nen one highly opinionated person drowns out the resi of the grcnin. it may 1» expensive to recruit qualified subjects ($5,000 to SO.UflO per g'cnp.i but Setting he right participants is CruCiai.

Even when multiple groups are hwflved, it may Iw dufticutt to generate Ihe rcsUrs lo s broader population. For within the United Stated. Iocn5-grocip findings often vary Irom region to region. Ono firm specia'iiino in fo&js-grtxv research clamed that Pie best city lo conduct iocus groups v-'as Mmnesnolis bectfust it could get a fairly liveN-uducalerl sample n' Jieopi? who ware finnest and loilfv^in-■■lEj about Itieir cpinitxis.. Many nuarketers Irlerjjrefl focus groups carefully in New l'ork and other nonheastern cities becatrse ihe pecpie in these areas lend to be h'ghly critical and generally do nol report Mat

Shey tike much Too often. managers bcctm comfDitaLte wSflh a particular focus-group formal and appty it B«ieraiiy and automatical to every circumstance. Europeans tjflhcalty fies-d more lime Ihiin Awican majKeteis are uswaJty willing lo give—a focus grcup there rifely lakes less than two hours and often more than four

Partinipanis must feel as relaxed is possible and leel a strong obligation to "speak the tmih.'' Physical siffmundmtjs wn he crura). Researchers at on*; agtrncy knew Ibey had a problem itfien a liglii broke out between partrcicatfs at one oi lbeir sessions. As one txcc-utive noted, "we wondered why people always seemed gnjmpy and negative—people were resists to aoy idea we showed item.' Tlse problem was Ihe room it$6fl; cramped. stilting, forbidding. 'It was a cross liehvfien ¡5 hospital room and a po'ee interrogation room; To fn ifs problem, the agency gave me room a makerwei. Olfier Jimms are adapting ihe toofc ot the room to til the tfiertre oi (he (ooic—-like designing 11« room to KMh like 4 (tayfOOffl when Speatang to chl' Jren.

Although many hms are substituting observational researen lor locus groups, ethnographic research can he expensive and tricky Resetters iia^e to hi tiigtiiy skiifed. iiariicirjaiitj have to be on the lew), and motDtfs ot data iiave lobe anslyjed. The lieauly 0) loctis groups, as one mattering enecurive noied, is thai "it's stall me inost cost etteclrvF; qu'eto". rf rtieSt *iay 10 gel inl<yma!ion in raoiti time on an idea." hi analyzing the pros anti cons. Wharlon's Anierictte Reed mlghi ha ve Eakl it best: "A locus group is like a chain sao. if you know what you're doing, it's very useiol and effective. It you don't, you could lose a Sfllt)"

Smfflcss.-Sarah gtiansfin, "Hew fwus Groups Can Gofttrajf Mt Diosniber 5, tsbb. t![i i-n 4H5 Mrey Kasier, "fifilijfus ani Siui,' Boston OSoUe. JWy 2001 up. Cl-12. Leslie Kaiilman. "fnoOgd Talk Afci«r.aA Auousl 18.1537. pp 48-^9. iindti Tischlcr. 'E'.ien' Mprt ftu Fast Carn&or?. Arii 12£»1. pg 7W5: Alison Stein weiuifit, "Tik: to fcicfite orfotius Gniiufl" America1 BatwQrjptucs (iilardi io03[ 2tKi3: DeofiisRook, ■Out-d-FiKus Gratis." ItfMMtS RH0tA 1S: no. ? (Sunnrief ?003i 11: Oennis w. Rook. "Loss d vain; focui Croi^s Fail to Connect Tiwy. Current Piaciicc." M&xettog Sepleintwr 15,2003, p. ¿0

shopping data show [hat hlfth-income popple do not necessarily buy ilie tnorc expensive brands, contrary ipivjiat they nitjjfit state tJi intervieivs; and nía o y low-incoiue people bti) some exjiensiw brands. t;icaily. American Airlines cttn Jcarn m¡my tiscTul things about it'i piisscn^ers by analyzing Uckei purchase records.

Experimental Research The most scieniificjilly valid research is experimental researcli. I hf purpovc uri'xpcriinciual icseari'li ÍM[»c¡i|)«urec;ui>.f,-;iiul-e(l't,Cl i'elatiotlsllips t>v i'liniiinnint; coinpetiri^i'yplanaiiotKof Jlte observed findings.To therxicnt ih:it die di-si^n it j itl execution of the experiment eliminate a Item ¿it tve hypotheses that ini^lit explain the results, research and marketing manag&s can hive conikleiuv in l^iie conclusions.

n^periineriis call fr»r selecting matched groups of subjects, subjecting litem to dtFfercm treatments, couiroltitis; cKtrinicOus variables, and checking u liether observed response differences ;ire statistically signtrcant. To ttic extent that extraneous faciurs arc elittiiiialed of controlled, the observed effects can be related tu the variations in the treatments. American AirltneS mi^ht introduce itl-fligbt I in erne [ service on one <1 fits regular lli^hls from ("tiicago to Ibkyo, It tnijiht charge S'¿S one wek and chargc titrlv St 5 the tnjitt week. If the ptane tarried approximately the same number of first-das* passengers each week and the particular week:*, made tm difference, any sipnillcam d.iffctincc in the number of calls tnade could be related to the different prices charged I'lie experimental design could be elaborated by trv ing tether prices and [ncktdittgother air routes.

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