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Evolving Focus Groups

Evolving Focus Groups
Building our newest focus group facility this year, we spent some time studying the evolution of the focus group. We did this so we can extrapolate the appeal of this methodology at it’s infancy and how it’s evolved.
 
Following World War 2, pioneer Robert Merton encouraged and mentored marketers to began using focus groups or “group interviews” at respondent homes. Typically, this group setting involved six respondents moderated/ethnographically discussing a topic in a guided/unguided forum.  
 
In the 80’s groups were re-discovered. Organizations began investing heavily in focus group rooms and hotel setups and it became a defacto methodology for testing effects of film/television/radio programming, product consumption, health issues and respondent motivation.  
 
Bill Clinton heavily leveraged focus groups for his Presidential bid in the 1990’s.  
 
As the concept has grown and matured, the technological advances have been tremendous, yet some very engaging elements lost in the process. We wanted the Studios Ultra Lounge to offer a cross generational marriage of best practices with a strong focus on bleeding edge.  
 
Here’s how we did it:
 
  1. We built a facility that was mouldable to the needs of our clients. Whether they required a conventional, corporate meeting room style group, living room, restaurant style or training/classroom setting, our infrastructure and modular design can accomodate nearly any request.  

  2. Respondent lounge - We surveyed nearly 1000 respondents that had previously participated in groups across North America. We wanted to understand how we could make their experience comfortable and authentic by asking them to list features that had stood out for them.  Through this exercise, we build a living room waiting area with a bar, flat screen television, sofas and gourmet catering. The room is set up to control the flow of incoming and outgoing traffic so that respondents completing their session are directed into reception and respondents starting their session access the boardroom through an alternate exit.  

  3. We built an onsite test kitchen, we have access to an restaurant onsite and a state of the art classroom style testing facility designed specifically for usability sessions and idea labs.  
 
 
Colm Carey articulated this well:
 

"Facilities typically used a boardroom table layout, with bright lights and hard chairs, modelling a conventional corporate meeting room. Now, they are looking to recreate a more domestic environment designed to put the consumer’s comfort back at the centre of the process, on the basis that a better physical environment elicits richer insight. The move is not motivated simply by concern for the consumer; it is a response to a pendulum swing that has seen researchers and clients looking for ways to get back into the consumer’s world rather than have the consumer come to their world.

 

Inspired by: 

http://mria-arim-resources.ca/Archive/PDF/1013Carey.pdf

http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/39360_978_1_84787_909_7.pdf


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The facilities at eStyle are on another level. With their excellent technology and friendly, efficient staff, I never have to think twice about where to host my next group.

Eric L.

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