Tag Archives: Focus Groups

Simplifiers and Complicators

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a focus group for a frozen food manufacturer that we are currently working on. Plethora of velour aside, it was an incredibly insightful experience. It really does demonstrate how we as agencies can so frequently work in silos, preaching an approach whereby the consumer is at the heart of everything without practising it.

So…we as an agency had meticulously planned a communications strategy for this brand, isolating a fertile territory based on a detailed competitor review, product benefits and what we considered some fairly decent consumer insights. Out of which came a proposition that really resonated with the client. Job done. Happy days. Cue much back slapping/tweets of delight. The reality last night was that the ‘mums’ in the focus group didn’t care about half the stuff we thought they did. The majority of their thoughts were gut instincts and not rational decisions – they thought the way they did because of who they were and the experiences that they have enjoyed and endured as a mother’.

So do we as agencies as a whole need to reflect on the methods that we use to develop solutions. If our audiences decision making processes are frequently irrational, then how can we expect to develop ideas rationally or ‘structurally’ . Frequently the best ideas are based on a gut reaction, i.e. an emotional spark rather than the outcome of a rational process. So why do we tend to rely on rational processes. I guess the answer is that we charge for our work so we need to justify what we do. As well as this, our ‘ideas’ frequently circulate around a client company without the benefit of being presented personally, and as such an insight needs to be heavily supported within a structure. Whilst such structures are important, I think we could sometimes deliver better results if we stripped away the processes, looked at business problems in isolation and went with our instinct.

Lets look at ‘The Apprentice’ last week. The teams were asked to develop an advertising campaign for a breakfast cereal and whilst one team came up with a terrible concept of a superhero who wears his pants outside his trousers – ‘Pantsman’ , the other team developed a cracking concept of ‘treasureflakes’. The insight was so so simple. The cereal looks like bits of treasure – berries are rubies, dried banana bits are coins etc. When I first heard it – I thought it was useless and overly simplistic. You surely can’t build a campaign based on something so innocuous…or can you? The more I thought about it though, the more I realised how clever it was. Now, this was the concept devised by the group with no marketing experience whilst the experienced marketing consultant got her knickers in a twist trying to apply what she knew were sound marketing principles…

Simple yet effective

So what am I getting at? I think simplicity is everything. Don’t think of a previous solution that answered a similar problem, appreciate that nothing is too ‘basic’ or ‘obvious’ and get people who have nothing to do with communications to act as a sounding board…because sometimes in an attempt to justify what we do…we just end up overcomplicating things…

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