Ethnography beats focus groups hands-down, but they still serve a purpose
Focus groups are a bone of contention, as a Twitter debate featuring Professor Byron Sharp this week showed, but while they are flawed, they are still a quick and cheap route to useful insights.
It was one of those little moments on Twitter that makes you glad to be a user. A noted marketer produces an apparently innocuous tweet. Another noted marketer smashes it to pieces. And, before you can reach for the eating popcorn GIF, marketer number one is back and packing the heavy artillery. Others join in. The temperature rises and it’s on.
So it was at the start of this week, when CMO Everard Hunder took to Twitter to profess his love for the good old fashioned focus group. Hunder waxed lyrical about the “free flowing conversations”, “changes of conversational direction” and “unscripted questions” that all generate marketing gold. Why are they so out of fashion wondered Hunder when “no other method creates these moments”?
Not a minute had passed before Doug “Atomic Ad Man” Garnett entered the ring to profess his admiration for Hunder and his own similar-sized passion for focus groups. Hunder’s comments were “incredibly true”, tweeted Garnett, who went on to postulate that focus groups were out of favour because companies misunderstood their role in exploring rather than testing for the truth.
Suddenly there was a disturbance in The Force. If you listened carefully the sound of Wagner and the insidious beating of large drums grew louder. The Dark Lord of Penetration, Professor Byron Sharp, had been summoned from the depths and, as usual, he was in no mood for platitudes.
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