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Six Things Focus Groups Won’t Tell You

If you’re a fan, you may remember the scene in Mad Men where Peggy—fairly new to the job, joins the other girls from the typing pool in a lipstick testing experiment. All the while the ad executives are secretly looking on and taking notes from behind a two way mirror.

The ad guys were smart enough to know that if they showed the lipstick to the girls and asked them a bunch of questions they wouldn’t necessarily get to the truth. Far better to allow them to experience the product, watch what they did and how they reacted.

Mostly when we don’t know what our customers want we ask them.

If you ask the woman who chooses the bright pink lipstick why she liked it she will try to find some rational, fact based explanation to explain her decision. The truth is she may not know why she chose it other than ‘it felt right’ (or maybe it matched her hair), and it probably messes up the spreadsheet. We’re looking for proof and as Rory Sutherland would say, “Numbers however rubbish they are have the appearance of objectivity.”

Photo by Scott Moore.

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