Everyone in marketing (and also now politics) is familiar with the focus group. This is technique where you have a structured conversation with a very small group of people selected to be representative of your whole target audience. Focus groups work because sufficiently skilled practitioners can draw conclusions and insights from that very small group that are relevant to the larger group. Their most common usage in marketing to understand how people will react to new products, but mostly how they will react to new ads. (As an aside, I have always found it amazing how many brands come to understand what consumers think of their products or services only through the lens of how they understand their advertising).
The relationship a brand, or the researcher representing it, establishes with the people in a focus group is quite a strange one. Quite often, the brand may not even reveal itself, but the participants are frequently encouraged to disclose highly personal information about themselves, which they do both because they are paid a small sum but mostly because they feel flattered to believe that their opinion counts for something. After the session ends, the relationship finishes. It is very rare to return, or even report back, to the participants unless they have been recruited as part of a panel designed to see how thoughts and opinions shift rather than define what those opinions are. Certainly the brands concerned don’t believe there is any advantage in preserving a relationship with attendees at focus groups or even encouraging the participants to buy their product or service: you don’t sell to the focus group, you get insights from the focus group in order to then sell to the much larger group of consumers or customers.
Facebook, as far as a brand manager is concerned, is basically a focus group Continue reading