Why don’t we just ask them?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
In the testing of advertisements and creative material, I often get asked "Why don’t we just ask the respondents what they want to see in the ad?" I strongly discourage these kinds of questions during focus groups.
I understand why this question seems appealing. If we have the people in the room we want to impact, doesn’t it make sense that they would be in the best position to tell us?
In a word – No. First of all, respondents are not marketing and communication experts. They cannot tell us what will engage and motivate them, they can only tell us what has engaged and motivated them (I know Don Draper would agree with me). It is for that reason that I encourage giving respondents material to react to. The material doesn’t have to be complete or fully developed (and often it is best when the material is clearly still in concept form), but respondents should be given the chance to respond to a few different approaches that utilize different tactics to tackle the advertising objectives.
Respondents also don’t understand the full scope of the advertising objectives – nor should they. They haven’t seen the creative brief and they aren’t fully familiar with the product, concept or issue being discussed. As a result, respondents can get fixated on ideas that we know simply won’t work for the project.
These open “What would you like to see?” questions also take up a lot of time during the focus group – time that can be better spent reacting to specific approaches and providing clear feedback on what engages, communicates and motivates.
This is not to say that respondents cannot provide great insight into new ways to reach and influence them, but if I am doing my job properly, these ideas will come to the surface during the focus group discussion as we explore reactions to presented materials and concepts.
The reality is, we often don’t know what we want until we see it or are exposed to it.
The following video is of Malcolm Gladwell speaking at Ted2004. He talks about this specific challenge as he discusses the evolution of spaghetti sauce…except that he does it in a much more interesting and entertaining way than I can – Buon Appetito!
POSTED BY SANDRA JOHNSTON
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