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Focus Groups

A qualitative research methodology where subjective opinions and perceptions of a small targeted group of consumers on a certain topic is elicited.

Focus groups can be used to gather information on the acceptability and usability of new or re-launched products or services, reactions to new advertising campaigns or specific advertisements, or consumer perceptions of a whole product class. They are generally used to elicit depth data such as that related to motivation, branding, and complex attitudinal structures (in comparison to the more shallow but broad data elicited by traditional surveys) and sometimes to assist in developing a more structured survey.

Market Research Focus Groups are usually made up of 6 to 8 targeted consumers (though this varies), a moderator whose role is to ask the required questions, draw out answers, and encourage discussion, and an observation area usually behind one way mirrors, and video and/or audio taping facilities. Usually focus groups run for an hour, the time determined by the concentration limits of participants. Participants are screened according to often fairly rigorous selection and recruitment qualifications, related to demographics, usage, and past consumer behaviour related to the product or service being tested. Most research agencies disqualify participants who have participated in focus groups within a minimum time before, if they or their family and friends have a professional relation to the product/service class being tested or the marketing/advertising/research industry itself. They are paid a cash or gift incentive for their attendance.

Focus group providers usually provide verbatim transcripts of the focus group, translated if necessary, sometimes a short summary, and always the raw data (audio or video tapes). Im most instances clients can watch the procedings live, and simultaneous translation can be provided.

There has been some controversy related to the use of focus groups as a research methodology in Asia, citing a general belief that Asians are less likely to disclose personal feelings in groups. However these detractions are usually based on running standard focus groups without consideration for the culture and make-up of the target group in the first place. Indeed, focus groups have an advantage in that they are congruent with the Asian preference for the spoken word (oral communication). Constructing focus groups with due reference to gender, age groups, ethnic, and class structure, will avoid much of the claimed problems in the use of focus groups.

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