The best part about conducting focus groups


We have one of these fancy two-way mirrors in our offices. There’s nothing more disconcerting than a meeting in the viewed room – someone is always watching…

As a part of my job I sometimes have to conduct focus groups. If you are unsure what focus groups are then think: 6 rowdy/shy people in a room, talking about something specific and likely to be uninteresting to anyone from the outside world.

They are a way for companies to drill down deep into the mindset and behaviours of customers to help answer big questions like: “which baby jumping contraption is the best?” “how should we label our beef mince?” and “we like soap, do you?”

For these focus groups, you often have to buy, or be provided with, stimulus about the product or competitor products. This way it’s much easier for the respondents to understand what you are talking about as they have something tangible in front of them.

Stimulus is very varied: it can be pictures on boards, paper towels, candles, clothing – basically anything which is required to help get a better read.

So recently, when we did a group on chocolate packaging, it was important that we bought a slew of chocolate in order for the respondents to look at the packaging.


If you were unaware how to eat chocolate, then I would recommend this method. It’s amazing how many people are ignorant of this!

This meant we bought about 15 bars and 10 boxes of chocolates to help respondents. I’ve never felt more important than when I was wheeling a suitcase to my groups full of chocolate. I knew that I could immediately be anyone’s friend.

As is the natural course with life, focus groups come to an end and, suddenly, all this stimulus which was so vital, essentially becomes pretty useless. No-one needs it any more and it makes the transition from being an idea-jogger to a product once again.

This is brilliant. No-one needs it and we haven’t paid for it. FREE STUFF!

What we’ve started doing recently is raffling off the stimulus, where everyone puts in a pound or two and you draw a number. Everyone always wins a prize, it may be good or it may be bad, but you’ll always win. It gives that aura of excitement – will I get the good prize? Am I going to end up with some own-brand stuff? Am I allergic to the nuts in this chocolate?

The collected money then goes to a charity we’re closely affiliated with. It’s a win-win situation for all and great fun.

That’s what I’ll be doing later today, raffling off chocolate. I’m going to dress as Willy Wonka. After all, it’s Friday Funday!