What are Focus Groups?
Focus groups are brought together to test a concept and see how it plays with various demographics. Focus groups are used by people developing advertising campaigns to make sure their message, whether print ad or television commercial, says what they want it to say. They are also increasingly used by politicians to hone their own advertising, either to get elected or to sell their policies to their constituents.
Focus groups are the work of market researchers. People are recruited to serve on a focus group and are typically paid a small fee for their time. They fill out questionnaires that rigorously identify their demographic group. Age, lifestyle, income, attitudes, political leanings and so on are all used to categorize focus group members into a particular segment of society.
The focus groups are shown an ad or a commercial and are questioned on their reaction to it. Does it appeal to their demographic, or does it 'skew older'? Market researchers have specific ideas of what demographic their particular product will appeal to the most, and it is very important that their ads appeal to that demographic the most as well, if they want to maximize sales. A particular ad might appeal to a teen demographic, for instance, but if the product is a luxury car, very few teens are going to be in the position to purchase one, and teens rarely have input into their parents' car-buying decisions.
One interesting recent example of the use of focus groups was in the attempt to sell the US public on a massive reform of the Social Security system. Those speaking in favor of the reform started by talking about privatization and private retirement accounts; the intent was to make the listener feel ownership in his or her personal retirement fund. But researchers discovered that the words 'privatization' and 'private' didn't 'test well' - that is, focus groups responded negatively to them. So they dropped the word 'privatization' altogether and started talking about 'personal retirement accounts', since this phrase tested much more positively.
Of course, tinkering with one's message by using focus groups can only go so far; the product you are selling has to live up to the advertising, or the best message-management in the world can't sell it for you.
Focus groups often have a wide range of people - depending on what your focus study is about. They usually interested in opinions from people in all walks of life.
I have always found it to be very interesting work, and wish I could do them more often. It seems like I only get called every few months, and then can only participate if I meet all the qualifications.
Focus groups and market research groups often play a vital role in companies advertising campaigns. They consider the input they get from these kind of research groups very seriously.
One of the most interesting type of focus groups I was involved in was a mock trial. There were many screening questions that were involved ahead of time to participate in this group.
You were presented with the facts of a situation from both a defendant and prosecuting attorney's side. The purpose of our group was to see if this case actually went to trial, how it may look to a jury.
We were asked many different focus group questions throughout the day, and keeping the information confidential was very important.
I have taken part in a few focus group studies. I did an online search to find focus groups in my local area. There were a couple different focus group companies that I signed up with.
The most recent one involved listening to different television commercials and stating our opinions on them. There were about the same amount of males and females in the group, but we were made a group of many different ages and backgrounds.
It was very interesting to see the different opinions that were expressed from each person and the experiences that helped shape those opinions.
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