It’s a window into the mind of the consumer, revealing his or her feelings about a product or service. It’s the focus group, a valuable research tool that can lead companies to greenlight certain projects, abandon others, tweak flavors, redesign packaging, even reshape political campaigns.
Focus groups are held in a controlled and relaxed environment led by a trained facilitator. Members might be selected according to age, location, gender, profession, socioeconomic status or some other predetermined criteria. With a goal of simply sharing their opinions, focus groups have been instrumental in the success of some of the world’s best known “brands.”
When Barack Obama ran for president in 2007, focus groups helped shape his campaign strategy. Participants routinely commented on and connected with his voice in a positive way, so advertisers made sure to include audio of Obama in subsequent promotions, allowing his message to literally resonate with voters.
Using focus groups, the founders of Twitter learned that Facebook users disliked the cluttered newsfeed filled with photos, and found it hard to keep up. So they streamlined their new platform, allowing users to share mainly opinions and comments.
Focus groups have contributed to the development (or tweaking) of everything from the Barbie doll to the food industry to the Disney experience.
Most of these steps you can do on your own, but if you need help, there are services, branding agencies, and software that can help you improve your opportunities to shine online.