Market research is a vital part of marketing. Understanding the consumer is the foundation of every meaningful brand.
Yet market research can go overboard. Focus groups are frequently called as a knee-jerk response to just about everything. Not every question needs to be validated with a focus group. And not every focus group needs to run the same way.
I’m working on a project with a client this week that includes discussion groups. But rather than host them in the typical drab conference room with a one-way mirror, we decided to treat the groups as a VIP event, held in the company’s hip offices at night over drinks. The format will be more conversational than observational. If the groups go well, they may make it a monthly event, giving a regular opportunity to bring consumers into the brand in a casual way.
I really liked the scrappy market research approach taken by design studio Upwell. Upwell designed a new product called Walhub, an electrical switch cover that doubles as storage for keys, mail, etc. They wanted to test how marketable their idea was before they scaled Walhub to full production. So instead of a focus group or BASES concept test, they hijacked space at a local IKEA. They dressed up in an IKEA uniform with samples packaged to look like they belonged in the store (complete with an umlaut in the product name). Then they watched and recorded how people actually interacted with the products.
Focus groups are only one tool in a market research toolkit. There are many ways to gather consumer insights. The art of market research is finding the best method for the question at hand.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)