Planner’s Guide to Visual Thinking #10: How to re-adjust the focus on focus groups


Written By: Emily Gillingham

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We’ve all been there. Focus groups with the person who talks too much. The group with person who has the most interesting insight, yet talks too little. The person who only comes to eat the snacks, or those who just want to leave.

In just a short session, a creative idea can be won or lost by the strongest opinions of this forced micro-cosmos of people; all striving to find their voice and place in the group environment.

Insofar as we continue to conduct qualitative research in the way of the traditional focus group, we’ll continue to fall into the same traps; exposing ideas in lab-like environments with a heavily structured and controlled sequence of moderation and listening to voices of people who influence and manipulate one another.

With so much hard work at stake, we’ve got to question if this is the closest to reality we can get when evaluating concepts and creative work.

BAMM bringing focus groups to the new Millennium

At BAMM, you know we like do things a little differently. In our methods, we cut the ‘laboratory-bias’ and get closer to reality; in the case of concept testing, we finally brought the age old focus group to the new Millennium. We create an environment which more closely simulates the impact that we now know communications have on people in the real world.

We find the logic as well as the magic of your idea. We look at the implicit. We hunt for salience. We look into its social impact.

We call this unique methodology Gallery Groups.

In our approach, the moderator doesn’t call the shots. The visual executions are spread around a gallery space, in no specific order. Participants wander, with autonomy, deciding what they are drawn to first, and how long they spend engaging in each idea. We monitor this behaviour, including the natural conversations emerging across the group.

Our guests can then reveal to us the ‘stickability’ of your concept.

You consumers call the shots on the stickability of your idea

Using emoji-coding stickers, our participants use emotions to reveal their non-verbal reactions to your idea. This avoids any post-rationalisation and give us a visual heat map of the strengths and weaknesses of the idea. As the moderator begins to interact with them, the stickers work as a guide for the flow of the conversation. Only then we get to the conversations about the understanding and likability of your idea, like a conventional focus group – only now everyone has their unabridged opinion already set.

The ‘sticky’ findings are then evaluated by our brand experts. We deconstruct the feedback to the idea, first separating the ‘stimulus noise’ from deeper, more authentic reactions. Only then can we offer clear guidance on people’s reactions towards the ideas on a conceptual level, decoupled from the influence that each executional element brings.

The power of visuals to capture non-verbal feelings towards your idea

As strategists, it is routine to face qualitative research testing as gateway to get the work on the road. However, they are frequently seen as a hinderance to your idea. So rather than accepting it as a necessary evil, next time you or our Client are considering getting to concept testing stage, drop us a line and invite us to tell you a little bit more about how to think outside the traditional methods.

By re-focusing the very way we interact and discuss the ads in qualitative testing, we open up a whole new window of magic beyond the logic, ultimately aiding you to fast track your campaign to production stage, or ensure better chances for successful quantitative testing.

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