Words of Wisdom From the Man in the Street
Focus groups. Some agencies like them. Some agencies dislike them. I dislike them. Partly because I think relying on the opinions of people who know nothing about marketing makes a mockery of our status as experts and professionals. Partly because you have to ask yourself exactly what kind of people would agree to take part in a focus group for a tenner and a bowl of crisps. And partly because these sessions usually take place in completely false environments where the participants are encouraged to say something – anything – about what’s put in front of them. Which usually means that you get a room full of twitchy people desperately trying to come across as informed, intelligent and insightful about something that, truthfully, they couldn’t care less about.
I think agencies only agree to use focus groups when they’ve either no confidence in their own abilities or a client they need to constantly cover their backs with: “Well, the focus groups you wanted told us that was the way to go so it’s not our fault that the campaign failed.” Whatever the reason, it often leads to safe, predictable work that adds nothing to the brand and does nothing to distinguish the product or service from its competitors. And it makes an agency’s creative department a very dull place indeed.
Agencies should more forcefully present themselves to their clients as the experts they are: “This is what we do and we’re bloody good at it. And no, it’s not just a matter of opinion – because our opinion is much more important and valid than the opinion of some bod in the street. Or the girl who does your photocopying. We know a thing or two. Trust us.”
Alternatively, they could flag up the following quote from Henry Ford, a man who had no problem being confident about his own abilities:
“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, I’d have built a faster horse.”