The death of the screwdriver

Don’t worry; we’re not talking about the beverage. That’s alive and well. The focus group is a classic tool in the market research toolkit, and has been for decades. Relatively easy to organize and conduct, they allow brands to get insight from actual customers on a wide range of important topics. The methodology and costs are well acknowledged by marketers and researchers across all industries, and it can be a comfortable move when formulating a research plan.

Sure, sometimes groups can feel like the AT&T video at the top…

…and there are also issues with groupthink, facility/travel costs and realism of feedback. However, a skilled moderator goes a long way towards reducing the effect those factors have on responses; no need to fix something that isn’t broken, right?

The same question can be asked before assembling something that requires more than about 10 screws. Would a screwdriver get the job done? Absolutely. Will it take 10 times longer, result in burning forearms and be way less fun than using a variable speed power drill? Once again: absolutely.

Nearly every computer and phone that is manufactured today comes with at least one camera, usually capable of recording video. People are connected to social media at all hours of the day. Marketers have unprecedented access to customers for research; why make people come to a sterile facility with one-way glass and a bowl of peanut M&Ms when you can get their responses from the comfort of their own home, on their own schedule?

Here at Sol, we’ve utilized video ethnographies that give us the same type of qualitative feedback we used to get from focus groups, but also allow us to cut video highlight reels that really give our client a feel for their customers. Other techniques such as group chats and discussion boards allow us to maintain communities for projects where feedback is needed over a longer period of time.

Just as there are times when a screwdriver is the appropriate tool for the job, there a certainly plenty of situations that are well suited to in-person focus groups. It just needs to be recognized as one tool among many. With the proliferation of technology solutions that provide the same type of feedback as a focus group, it’s time to ask ourselves why we’re still using a method that was developed nearly 80 years ago.


Still a sold-out believer in focus groups? Or a recent convert to a new technology? Let us know in the comments.

TrendsDeb GaborComment