Monday, April 26, 2010


Are you really attending a "focus group?"

I never ceased to be amazed by the number of people who think they know what a focus group is and when it is appropriate to use one. Many times, people will call a meeting of a group of people to "brainstorm." It is really nothing more than a meeting to discuss new ideas, yet they feel impelled to call it a "focus group." Researchers are beginning to be annoyed about the term's losing its original meaning which was to formally screen individuals having something in common for the purposes of creating a focused study to determine a specific result or set of results.

Things like getting reactions to ads or websites, marketing promotions and strategies and to explore new approaches are more common uses of focus groups. More importantly, these groups are tightly controlled and modified by professional researchers. The questions are written well in advance of the sessions and go through a formal approval process with the client prior to the actual group. Most of all, the information is private and highly confidential. Here are some occasions when a formal focus group is warranted:

Total confidentiality is afforded our clients since the location, moderator, questionnaire design, taping and screening are all done in-house. There is no opportunity for the group information to "leak" nor is the mere fact that these groups are being conducted known to the outside world.

So, the next time you hear someone calling an ordinary meeting to discuss a single topic called a focus group, be aware that using it in this manner is truly a misnomer.

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