Focus Groups Suck!

21 02 2010

Source: Wall Street Journal via Good: Campbell's Soup redesigns a label using "neuromarketing" techniques.

Here’s Campbell’s new packaging…its apparently designed using biometrics.

Let me guess, this was tested through a focus group…maybe a bunch of them over a span of 2 to 8 weeks. While I’m not refuting any of the concepts or the science behind the design of this package, I do strongly feel that many marketing organizations don’t always get it.

If Campbell’s invests the same amount of money in reaching out to their consumers through online communities, they might actually see a much higher ROI and maybe even grab some new customers along the way.

Yes, it is about creating an emotional connection with consumers and yes, packaging is important. However, it’s important only to the extent that it properly conveys the brand’s position and is easily identifyable on the shelf. Beyond that, brand’s are just wasting their time and money.




6 responses

22 02 2010
Jeff Hirsch (@jeffreyhirsch)

I agree that Campbell’s and other companies would fare much better spending a larger percentage of their marketing budgets to reach out to their customers and potential targets online. Social media continues to be a bigger and bigger part of my business. However, as a focus group practitioner and big fan of the method, I can tell you that well executed focus groups – where honest exploration and real listening occur – provide insight from live, spontaneous, real time interactions that are difficult to achieve online.

What you refer to here – biometrics – is not to be confused with focus groups. This technique may be useful, but I tend to feel that it’s part of the frequent MBA syndrome (that’s not targeted at you!) of understanding how the watch works but no being able to tell time.

2 03 2010
Ujwal Arkalgud

Hi Jeff, thanks for your comment. I think the most important point I was trying to make here is that when it comes to designing packaging or anything for that matter, people go to great lengths to find that emotional connection with consumers. However, a true emotional connection is really spawned out of what the brand stands for and how it makes people who consume it feel – even if its just soup. While packaging in important, I tend to disagree on the need to invest excessively in techniques that would supposedly produce packaging that makes people want to buy.

With regards to focus groups, I speak not from an MBA perspective but from the perspective of someone who’s spent several weeks conducting ethnographic research only to realize that our focus group results were way out of wack. IMHO, a small representative quantitative survey combined with ethnographic research works as an ideal combination to determine the culture, wants and needs of target buyers.

Your thoughts?

2 03 2010
Jeff Hirsch (@jeffreyhirsch)

If your ethno as way out of whack, it’s likely that something was wrong with the design. It’s very easy to misuse, abuse or just do qualitative poorly. I can’t make a judgement on what you did, but I can say that it’s truly an art more than a science and you need to make sure to be open minded and highly observant, not just about what people say, but how they say it and in what context.

23 02 2010
Neuromarketing: From Soup to Nuts | Neuromarketing

[…] to Retire Iconic Soup Labels in Favor of “Neuromarketing” – Hit the BuzzerFocus Groups Suck! – An Interpretivist’s ClogM’m, m’m good – In Good TasteWaiter, There’s […]

1 03 2010
Anthony Sanzio

I work at Campbell and am very familiar with the WSJ article and the research work that went into our plans for condensed soup. I thought I would offer some commentary. At Campbell, we use a variety of research methods – from traditional focus groups and ethnographic interview techniques to biometric research. In our view, all of these research techniques have a role to play in gathering consumer and shopper insights. IT is about picking the right tool for the job and also using tools in combination. In the end, nothing can replace talking and listening to the people who buy your products, that is why we talk to about 50,000 consumers per year, using online communities, focus groups, shopping trips, ethnographic interviews, dinner parties, etc. Thanks for sharing your opinion on the article and our efforts. Thanks,

Anthony Sanzio

3 03 2010

As someone in the art & marketing worlds, I want to add that packaging design is actually pretty important in generating emotion – things that may seem trivial are actually pretty powerful. Also, think the blog post positions this as an either/or situation – I think marketeers should be spending money/effort on both developing the product (which includes packaging) and engaging the consumer.

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