Sometimes we don’t only want to know what people think. We need to know why people think that. That’s where focus groups are useful.
Focus groups are discussions with a much smaller group of people than participate in a survey. But that small group allows us to dig much deeper into the thought process of our target group, whether they are voters or lobbyists and congressional staffers. You don’t need a focus group to find out that congressional staffers are cynical. But a focus group is a great tool to understand what breaks down that cynicism to present an effective message.
Focus groups are also a great way to test television ads. You can see reactions live, and find out why participants reacted that way. “This one was right in your face. It was an explosion.” … “I pay enough in taxes already, and I hope I won’t be paying any more.” “I liked that she had a choice, could stand on her own, and still supported him.”
Focus groups also present the opportunity to get responses through dial testing. Dial testing allows us to supplement the give-and-take of a small group with a slightly larger sample of voters (often 30 at a time) registering their reactions second-by-second, allowing clients to see which line in a speech or ad was most — or least — effective. And if there are a number of ideas to test before final production of ads, and the project calls for a large sample to make decisions on what to produce, online ad testing works well for that need.