The Consumer is Boss

I will be off in Kansas City for the next couple of days doing consumer research.  Some Brand Managers love research…others hate it.  Personally I am somewhere in the middle.   When you attend good research, there is nothing better for getting in touch with the people buying your product.  But you can’t just sit behind the glass of a focus group room and hope for magic.  You need to get out there and actually talk with the consumers…understand what makes them tick by really having a conversation.

The exciting part for a Brand Manager is that there are so many ways to do this today. 

First, you can do research every day just by monitoring Social Media around your brand.  Set up a Google Alert around your brand to capture mentions in the media and blogs.  Use Blog Pulse, Technorati and other tools to catch even more blog posts.  Or use Summize to see what is being said on Twitter.  There is a ton of free research out there on the web…it just takes a little time to find it.

Another great type of research are “Shop Alongs.”  In these, you actually go shopping with a person to see how they behave in a store.  We spend so much time on designing our package, trying to get the right placement in-store.  But if you aren’t basing those decisions on how people are really shopping, then the decisions are worthless.  That is why Shop Along are so great.

Finally, my favorite type of focus groups are the ones where you get out from behind the glass and talk directly to the consumers.  These are usually set up much like a traditional focus group with the major difference being that you, the marketer, are actually running the consumers.  You are doing the talking, asking the questions and leading the conversation.  This freaks many people out at first but you will quickly get the hang of it.  And the benefit is well worth the initital nervousness.

So I’ll be pretty quiet the next couple of days when it comes to blogging.  But I will try to keep a running commentary on Twitter if anything interesting happens.  Till next week…

One Response to The Consumer is Boss

  1. Robin says:

    I don’t believe brand managers or marketing people should be watching groups at all. It may be entertaining but is a waste of their time and potentially misleading and disruptive. The insights come from analysis of experienced Qualitative researchers. Watching the groups and trying to get the story is like watching a movie being shot versus watching the completed thing. Youy can try and piece together the story but chances are you’ll get a lot wrong.

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