Chapter 4Research Designs: Exploratory and Qualitative Research 674. Do not expect focus group participants to be just like you are—or to be totally dif-ferent either.5. People are not always consistent in what they say. That does not mean they are liars or hypocrites—just human.
6. Your moderator is a good resource to put the study in a context with other research
he or she has done. Are the responses more or less positive than he or she has seen in other focus groups?7. If your screening process was effective, you are looking at real customers—whether you like what you see or not.8. Be honest about what you expected to see. We all have preconceptions, just ask whether yours are based on research or prejudice.Reinforcing Beliefs. Judith Langer recounted an experience by The Gillette Company which illustrated the ability of focus groups to convey a message much more powerfully to employees than repeat admonitions by management:A focus group with women showed that consumers are more demanding and “edu-cated” about quality than in the past. This comment was typical:“I think as consumers we’re becoming more aware of what goes into a product. For myself, I have become more aware of the ingredients—food or clothing or whatever. I feel that I’m not the same shopper I was perhaps six years ago. That was just fad buying. Now I look at something.”Business, business research, and research and development people observe the group; the videotape of the session has since been shown to others in the company. Hans Locater, Gillette’s research director, says that the focus group made what top manage-ment has been saying more tangible and believableEarly Barometer. Focus groups may provide an early warning system of shifts in the market. Probing consumers on lifestyle changes, consumption patterns, opinions of new competitive entries, and the like may reveal threats and opportunities entering the market long before they might be revealed in a large-scale survey. Keeping an open mind and maintaining an active curiosity allow for researchers to see the far-reaching significance of seemingly innocuous observations made by focus group participants.Focus Group CompositionConventional industry wisdom suggests that focus groups should consist of eight to twelve people selected to be homogeneous along some characteristic important to the researcher (e.g., do a lot of baking, own foreign luxury cars, manage their own retire-ment account with more than $100,000 invested). Usually recruitment of focus group participants strives to find people who fit the desired profile but who do not know each other—thus reducing the inhibitions of group members to describe their actual feelings or behaviors. Typically, group sessions last from one and a half to two hours. Going against