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March 23, 2004



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Billy McCormac

One can only hope that companies will choose to embrace, er, "organic" communication -- i.e., genuine dialog -- in their efforts to form long-lasting relationships with customers and stakeholders. BTW, Lawler has posted a link to a frightening company called Neurosense ( on the Beyond Branding Blog. Check it out...and be afraid.


Great post...

I think the problem is that focus groups have become so much a QADR (quick and dirty research) tool that they have lost credibility.... in India, we have clients who call and ask not for market research or even qualitative research services, but for focus groups!

Like you say, lack of understanding of customer needs at an early stage in the marketing process is a huge mistake that companies always make.... add to that the fact that major marketing decisions are made based on the result of a few focus groups (and in many cases, the 'outcome' of the focus groups are predecided too).... sure shot recipe for diaster...

I shudder to think of how such technology as neurosciene can be abused by marketing agencies...

David St Lawrence

I think Jennifer has put her finger on the problem, as usual.

Lack of early customer involvement wastes an incredible amount of money in the latter phases of the marketing cycle.

I was part of two focus groups and in both, it was obvious which choices were preferred by the sponsoring company. We were being asked to choose between undesirable alternatives and they weren't happy about our unsolicited suggestions.

One of these focus groups dealt with features needed to improve acceptance of OS2. Needless to say, they had no place to put our suggestions. They already knew what the answers had to be and they were frustrated that we didn't agree.

I understood for the first time how the design consultants on the Edsel must have felt.


GUTS? Does that stand for Gotta Understand The Story?

If so I like it. Intuition mated with courage and ambition. Sounds like leadership to me. Where do I sign up?

Tom Asacker

Are you all familiar with Zaltman's (How Customers Think) Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET)? I did some work with his group last year and spent one morning "doing" a ZMET.

In essence, the ZMET process involves choosing images that represent one's feelings about a subject. This is done because most social communication is nonverbal. Thoughts occur as images. After the images are selected, the participant (me, in this case) is engaged in a one-on-one, face-to-face interview that takes approximately two hours. It involves several steps carefully designed to engage different aspects of a customer's thought process and allows deep, often hidden ideas to emerge. It felt a lot like psychotherapy to me. ;-)

My point in describing this proprietary method? If one is NOT an introspective person, this method will definitely uncover important ideas that are quite salient. But to me, it was self-evident and no big deal. I don't believe that lack of consumer insights is the problem. I think it's all about GUTS! Having the GUTS to implement or change strategic direction without a bunch of pseudoscience to defend one's position. And having the GUTS to stay the course and passionately guide one's employees and shareholders through a stress-filled process of change.

John Moore

Spot on, Jennifer. The whole things sounds pitifully reductionist and what most organisations need to do is have better conversations.

Jon Strande - Business Evolutionist


>>"When people misuse low-tech options"

That makes perfect sense. Great point!

My guess is that YOU don't misuse low-tech options... from everything I've read here. Your post about the conference being cancelled just surprised me.

BTW: If Rob is going to continue to try to convince you, can I come along for the ride? I think that should be some great blogging.



Nice post. I'll have to think about that some, but sooner or later I'll make you a believer ;-)

Clynton Taylor

You're absolutely right. It's the error of a deductive approach before an inductive one. As a marketer one has to first seek to see the whole picture that people see--their world through their eyes. Once you can see and understand this picture of reality, you can start to create or match your branding, messaging, products, etc. to it.

I find the holistic approach of ethnography to be excellent to help in this regard. Focus groups, in their traditional sense, do often lead decision-makers down the wrong path, especially when used in isolation. Ethnography seeks to find and use the data from as many different methods as possible. It's called triangulation and is a way to ensure that the story you're picking up through your research is an accurate one.

Thanks for the post of your thoughts.

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