Marketing Physics: Focus Groups & Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

Man with Focus Group QuestionsMarketing needs to understand Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle if it is to succeed.

Let me just remind you about Heisenberg’s basic premise.  It is that if you examine a given situation, the act of investigation alters the result.

So it is with focus groups.

I’m sure that if done well they have some merits; but the action of pulling a group together and asking questions doesn’t reflect what people do in real life, in fact it will probably influence their answer.  This applies however carefully you structure an event.

When asked if they eat healthy food or junk food most people in a focus group will tell you they have a healthy diet.  The fact you posed the question with the options in that order might influence the outcome.  And let’s face it who admits they eat badly?  Some people don’t even admit it to themselves.

And if you ask people if they snack between meals few people admit it.  Many don’t even consider the odd biscuit or cake between meals as a snack.


The evidence

Ask yourself why do fast food businesses like McDonalds, Burger King, Little Chef etc. do so well and why is obesity on the increase if few people eat junk food or snack between meals.

To really test  if a new course will run you need to do what top restaurants and supermarkets do.  Run a test where you offer the course and measure the results rather than intentions.

For example a restaurant may put a dish on the specials board to see show it goes.

Or if you are really clever and want to check out how successful a course might be, check another college’s offer by getting some hard evidence on numbers and then extrapolate for your situation.

Even using PPC will give you an idea of how interested people are.  If no one clicks then it is unlikely to sell.  If many people do then you have a possible winner .. but you now need to move these people to the next stage before you can judge curiosity against reality.