In the past few years, focus groups have shifted from not only a marketing research methodology, but also an actual marketing tool. We’ve seen the Chevy “Real people. Not actors” ads; one, for example, parodying a focus group of millennials discussing what they want out of a new car, and the stereotyped results that follow. Just recently, Athleta released its “Up For Anything” ads, which show women who believed they were participating in focus groups being challenged to do things they never thought they could do. Ads like these experiment with the focus group format while also playing with what we ask participants to do and the kinds of results we might get from them.
So what do we really get out of focus groups? How did they evolve into what they are and how we use them today? Coming out in February of this year, “Divining Desire: Focus Groups and the Culture of Consultation” by Liza Featherstone should give us a thorough and interesting account of the role focus groups play in American consumerism, market research, politics and more.
According to the book description, “Divining Desire” will cover a history of focus groups in the United States. This includes their origins in gaining a better understanding of political discourse, to their shift to market research and consumer insights. The author also discusses how focus groups play into people’s distrust of “out-of-touch” CEOs and politicians, questioning whether focus groups are a good way to deal with these issues. The book promises a critique of the pitfalls of focus groups, and what true benefits they have. Ultimately, the text may be asking us “are focus groups really about democracy?” Are focus groups about giving people a voice, or are they about making people FEEL like they have a voice?
So what is the future of focus groups? Featherstone’s book may give us a hint, but for now, it’s up to us in the industry to make our own innovations and decide where we want to go.
It’s that time again! Don’t act surprised, we do this every year. For those with small humans in their lives, the holidays can be a time for anxiety, stress, and heighten blood pressure as store stock up and sell out of the items that are sure to make your little folks’ hearts skip a beat with excitement. We all put our parents through this nightmarish wild goose chase for plastic, stuffed, or video things, mostly before the advent of Amazon and eBay. I think my father is still indebted to the mob for the – not one, but three Power Ranger figures I received when I was seven-years-old.
So in the spirit of the holidays, I went around the W5 office to see what quests we put our loved ones through to obtain our favorite holiday trophies.
Ian McDiarmid | Practice Consultant
“For Christmas when I was 13, I really wanted an Xbox, which came out that November. I told my mom I wanted it, but that I didn’t expect to get it since it would be sold out everywhere. On Christmas, I was so surprised when I opened up a brand-new Xbox. I was even more surprised to find out that my mom waited in line at a Best Buy starting at 4am to get it.”
Robin Morey | Practice Consultant
“Ok, so there was a time that I was super into dinosaurs and I asked my mom for a dinosaur bone. I was young enough that this didn’t really seem unreasonable, but I still knew it was going to be hard to find. She went through a bunch of holiday catalogs from museums and places like that and actually got me a cast replica of a t-rex tooth. I was super excited! And I still have it.”
Allison Savicz | Practice Consultant
“Well for me at age 6-8 it had to be the Crissy Doll with the pull down hair which was later updated to include the Talky Crissy in the early 70’s tho I was already too old for her by then!” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crissy
Ryan Delaune | Practice Consultant
“My parents weren’t big holiday shoppers, so if we wanted something particularly hard to find, they would always give us the cash value and told us that if we could manage to save it, we could buy it ourselves when it was available. We rarely succeeded.”
Grace Brown | Client Relations Consultant
“One present that really stands out in my mind was the year I got a Samantha American Girl doll. I mentioned wanting one to my mom several times, but thought it was a long-shot present. However come Christmas morning there she was with several outfits (the figure skater outfit and matching skates my hands down favorite) and books to go along with her. I still have my Samantha and plan to pass it down to my child someday.”
Amy Castelda | Senior Client Relations Consultant
“As a kid I remember one year I really wanted a Tamagotchi. My older sister had one so of course I needed one. I wrote Santa to ask for it for Christmas. I’m not sure the trouble my parents went through to get it for me. It was a “Santa” gift meaning technically they couldn’t complain about it or else the truth would come out…”
Martin Molloy | Partner
“I remember begging for what seemed like 20 years for an Intellivision system. When I finally got it I sunk into the black hole of video games”
Tom Daly | Senior Partner
“First off, I’m older than most readers to this blog – I was a kid in the golden area of Saturday morning cartoons TV (’67-’77) heavily reinforced with pre-sweetened cereals; our parents could have cared less.
As an OC (only child) I religiously sat glued to Saturday morning cartoons until nearly noontime came and my mother screamed at me to ‘get dressed and get out of here!’ so she could follow her weekly routine of doing the wash and vacuuming (while smoking her Parliament 100s). One year, nearly every third commercial it seemed, was for Major Matt Mason. This was the era of Apollo and my dad actually knew some NASA engineers and military, so Major Matt was my guy. The best part of Major Matt Mason’s world was the Space Station – highly detailed and well built. It put me in another world.
I would literally beg, on my knees, every night at the dinner table, for a Space Station et. al. ‘Please, please, please, it’s all I’ll EVER want!’ I would whimper on the floor under the roast beef in a proselytized state. My father would tell me to get off the floor and the dog would growl, thinking I was there for his Milk Bones. This literally went on for months. In the meantime, I dutifully sat glued to the television, seated but a foot from the screen, waiting for the ad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R99hAG0tgkg), letting myself be drawn into Major Matt’s mission on the moon. I wished so badly to be there.
At Christmas, my aunt and uncle came over and dropped over a very large wrapped box. It was a Space Station with all the trimmings. I was ecstatic. It still probably ranks as one of the most emotional moments of my life; my greatest desire was fulfilled (probably the last time, actually). I guess my parents thought they would have appeared to have given in if they acquiesced to my pleas – easier instead for my mother to have her brother pick it up and deliver it late Christmas Day. A win-win-win all around: I was sated, my parents were off the hook, and my aunt and uncle came out of the blue to achieve hero status. I didn’t even see the connection until years later, and I couldn’t have cared less.
When my uncle was dying of cancer, years later, I thanked him for the Christmas present. He told me ‘they wouldn’t buy it for you.’ I never knew if he was telling the truth or he was still keeping the story alive, he was an old-school guy and perhaps thought it best for me to parse it out. I knew not to ask further. Regardless, we both smiled and left it at that.
Of note, I hear that off-and-on Tom Hanks has attempted to get a Major Matt Mason movie funded in Hollywood along with Roger Zemeckis, a $100-million plus epic based on Tom’s love of Major Matt’s world. Well, he can count on this Tom chipping in and getting lost for a few more hours should Mr. Hank’s actually build that Space Station.”
Last month the annual Insights Association Corporate Researchers Conference, CRC, was held in the Windy City. Amid the buzz of a Cubs Playoffs Series corporate researchers, vendors, CEOs, a Forbes 30 under 30, a Yale University professor, an Atlantic Editor, and experts from General Mills, Airbnb, Anheuser-Bush, and Oath came together to discuss everything from case studies concept testing to how to make dynamic info-graphics.
While each keynote, session, and workshop addressed specific concerns and topics facing MR certain themes emerged again and again – primarily the question of how can brands stay relevant in consumers’ mind on a global stage?
In Derek Thompson’s keynote ‘The Science of Attention, The Myth of Virality, and the Stories of Hits,’ he discussed the modern notion and science of popularity saying that, in fact, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make a hit. Thompson went on to explain that, “people gravitate toward products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable–MAYA.” Thompson also addressed that technology and the connectedness of today are not to be discredited predicting that, “cultural products will spread faster and wider when everybody can see what everybody else is doing. It suggests that the future of many hit-making markets will be fully open, radically transparent, and very, very unequal.”
What would a group of researchers say is the best way to achieve these points? Conducting good research of course! But what is “good” research?
Keynote speaker Judd Antin of Airbnb said the key to good research is assembling a ‘full stack’ team of researchers. Antin clarified that his ‘full stack’ isn’t the technology but instead researches who utilize all methodological approaches from statistical analysis, to ethnographic immersions, and quality survey design. Antin went on to say that good ideas and foundational learnings aren’t the only key to success, but that organizations and researchers must branch out of their own views and biases and include other voices in study design. Inclusion and representation was also highlight of Jodi Harris’ keynote in which she discussed how Anheuser-Bush utilized their brand and Super Bowl ad as a political statement allowing the American staple to gain a new following through a message of inclusion and opportunity.
It wouldn’t be a conference if the M word (millennials) wasn’t discussed, dissected, and analyzed. Ran Zilca of Happify explained in his keynote how the company utilizes it database to understand what millennials look for in a happy work environment. As Zilca listed key wants of working millennials I found it ironic that while again and again there was a desire and want to understand millennials, speakers often joked about “getting interns to do the work” and boasted of being in the industry longer than most millennials have been alive. In order for researchers and corporations to ‘understand’ millennial consumers they must first realize that millennials are not only their customers but their peers and employees as well and incorporate this into research initiatives. In his book Derek Thomas summarizes this perfectly in saying that, “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
Of course, the font you choose matters. The font is the visual representation of your message. A font should not only convey your voice, but be easy to understand and indicative of your tone. When choosing the best font style, be weary of over used styles, they may invoke a public exhaustion. The general populace has just about turned its back on fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus due to an overabundance of inappropriate and cliché use in the 80’s and 90’s. Then, there are classic long format fonts that may stay forever strong like Helvetica, which is the subject of the documentary of the same name. However, every font has the potential to fall like the Roman Gothic Empire.
What makes a good font go bad? To answer that question and learn more about our culture in type, check out this article “We Talk About Fonts All Wrong. Here’s a Better Way” from Claire Fallon of Huffington Post on a discussion with Douglas Thomas, author of “Never Use Futura”. Thomas makes strong points about the relationship between fonts and the people who use them. This was a fun and insightful interview, and “Never Use Futura” seems like a fascinating read, but in the words of Mr. LeVar Burton “You don’t have to take my word for it.”
Halloween is just around the corner, and many trick-or-treaters already have their well-planned costumes ready to go. According to Costume SuperCenter, Pennywise, from the movie IT, is expected to be a top seller this year, as pop culture characters greatly influence Halloween costume trends.
Other characters you should look out for this year include Eleven (Stranger Things), Wonder Woman, Uma (Descendants 2), and Jon Snow (Game of Thrones).
To see these popular costume choices for 2017, as well as others dating back to 2007, check out the Costume SuperCenter infographic below:
It helps to have a cause. As consumer activism continues to spread, organizations have found social advocacy to be an effective means of strengthening the relationships between consumers and their preferred brands. Consumers are more loyal to brands they feel align with similar values.
However, according to Adweek, mere philanthropic gestures soon might not be enough. In a study surveying 1,000 U.S. consumers, Toluna found that, though consumers are more likely to purchase from brands aligned with their beliefs, younger consumers are more likely to be skeptical of the brand’s motivations. If a brand’s support for a charitable cause does not feel sincere, brands run the risk of distancing their younger audiences.
When promoting corporate social responsibility, brands must make the effort to not just support a cause, but to ensure it uses the cause to create a strong bond with its constituents throughout the cause-marketing process.
For all of the major insights from the study, check out the info graphic here.
Alltop – Market Research
Designing for Humans
The Green Book Blog
Harvard Business Review
Herd – Mark Earls
Joel Rubison on Marketing Research
The LoveStats Blog
Pew Research Center
Smart Mobs – Howard Rheingold
The Survey Geek
Vovici Listening Post