If you had a chance would you have tested the Obama idea in a focus group?

While we all hold our breath until someone will tell us why on earth qualitative research still exists, let’s take a look at some really funny clips about qualitative research (focus groups actually) and idea testing (may it be communication or product). The first is a parody of a prehistorically focus group on a “new idea”: fire. You must know it.

The second one is something I accidently came across here. The context is this: in 1984 Apple releases this spot:

It becomes iconic shortly after. 23 years later some clever advertiser does this clip in order to promote some advertising industry event. He makes storyboards with VO after the Apple ad and tests it in a focus group. The results are disastrous as you can see bellow.

Let’s set aside the fact that he was testing the ad with consumers from another generation so there was no chance to decode the ad as someone 25 years ago would do or for that matter let’s also ignore the fact that focus groups were not around 10 thousand years ago. Basically, both of them are saying the same thing: focus groups are not the indicated tools for testing innovative ideas or products. This idea is widely spread especially in advertising agencies. And I totally agree with it. You cannot test in a focus group too innovative stuff. It is only human for respondents to reject novelty because they get scared. Remember Galileo Galilei and the way that focus group ended. Still, how many of the commercials, products and ideas out there are that innovative? Not too many. And here’s a thought: was the Obama idea tested in groups? If so, with what results?


8 Responses to “If you had a chance would you have tested the Obama idea in a focus group?”

  1. r u talking about reinventing the wheel?

  2. What do you mean by “Obama idea”?

  3. Brilliant videos. I cringed throughout the whole Apple one.

  4. Nice videos. You cannot “test” ideas in focus groups. You can however get insights to develop ideas.

    Asking consumers “how to improve” marketing, advertising communication etc. is the worst sin in research in my book.

  5. hilarious and priceless but ultimately misleading. It is true that you need tools like hammers and screwdrivers to assemble furniture. But it is also true that you can use the same tools to damage and destroy the very think you’re building. The key questions for the Apple 1984 campaign were not whether respondents like it but whether they could make sense of it.

    The shock value of the 1984 ad is based around multiple references – Reagan and the evil empire, IBM FUD factor, and Orwells 1984 (Microsoft was just a tiny OS company at ths point). I wouldn’t expect any focus group to be conscoiusly aware of all 3 but all are part of the reference framework of this commecial. If you’re scare of the russians mid 80s, if you dislike IBM then you will be able to start to make some sens of the narrative and the Apple logo becomes a stunning payoff at end frame. It would be more instructive to ask them which of the presidential candidates in the last US election was closest to the central figure in the ad. And why. You can’t take qual research out of context – it is ALL about context – not asking the public what they think.

  6. Ana Placinta Says:

    hi…nice blog you have here 🙂

    related to the 3rd video posted, i believe that decoding the ad with the 25 years consumers is the key. From this p.o.v. this focus group is not saying anything. It’s just a forced tool to sustain their conclusion. However, I really don’t think that pre-testing ads will really help you, making things better. The consumer really doesn’t know what they want, what they can tell us is how they are and act daily…and basedd on this we can drop some conclusions… At least from my point of view 🙂

  7. Daniel Nava Says:

    Hello, this blog is very nice

    That true, in a focus group you can get some Insights, benefits…and after that you can make some ideas to improve.

    Tell me more about your what do you mean by “OBAMA IDEA”!!!!!!!!!!!! i think i can help you-

    See ya

  8. By the Obama idea I meant the whole idea of having an afro-american running for presidency. Which in my book is a very innovative one. Thus I would expect for people in focus groups to reject it. Still, he won.

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