Magazine article Marketing

Sharp Focus Gets Results

Magazine article Marketing

Sharp Focus Gets Results

Article excerpt

Focus groups are one of market research's basic building blocks, but, says Beverly Cramp, they have their limitations

Discussion groups, also known as focus groups, are one of the basic building blocks of qualitative market research.

Consisting of people representing targeted consumer groups who discuss their views on specific marketing issues, they can pursue areas of query that are not pre-determined. This, combined with their use of group interaction, produces data that has depth and richness of context.

It also means focus groups can provide marketers with greater potential for new insights and perspectives than other forms of market research.

There can be many pitfalls in the collection and interpretation of such data, however. Discussion groups do not provide a large enough sample to extrapolate the results to the population as a whole. Clients who commission focus groups often take the results as gospel without doing further research to ensure the findings are representative of their whole market.

Clients may also be influenced by watching only one or two focus groups and making their own conclusions based on these limited observations. "The message here is that clients really should wait for the debrief, by which time the researcher has completed all the groups and fully analysed the data," advises Simon Patterson, director of Cram International.

Groups are only as good as the respondents who take part. Careful thought must be given to recruitment. For example, heavy users versus light users of a brand can dramatise differences between the two groups. …

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