The focus group itself was not nearly as exciting or interesting as I thought it would be. I was not the most fashionable person there (that would be Michael, the “retired ballet dancer”) nor did I have the coolest job (Ryan, the baby toy designer), nor did I talk the most (Laurie the “substitute teacher but I really want to work in coding and billing someday*”). Demographically, we were pretty diverse (three men, five women, nice racial mix but nobody over 50). The person running the group did a nice job explaining that yes, we were being watched from behind the mirrors and yes, those were microphones in the ceiling and yes, all of our notes would be taken from us after the session. None of this was a surprise, but I thought it was nice they were up front about it right off the bat.
The point of the group was to discuss credit card statements. Not as sexy as a conversation about rewards programs or about why they took away my Visa and replaced it with a stupid old MasterCard 5 years ago, but they had a demo of what a new sample “might look like”. I had no idea that people could get so worked up over whether the statement was printed in portrait or landscape. But two of them did.
While I considered purposefully skewing the results, I ended up just going along with the conversation and talking when I had something to say. Like Spice, the social scientist and marketing research background I have from school wouldn’t allow me to compromise my ethics. Even if the cookies they served were crap and about a week old**.
In the end, I think I probably came off looking like a cross between a paranoid technophobe (“I always get my paper statement because I worry they will eventually charge me for old statements”) and a complete brand-whore (I complained about them switching my Visa to a Mastercard). No doubt after the first five minutes, the people behind the glass looked at each other and said “Yeah, let’s just ignore whatever that crazy guy says from here on out, okay?”. Not that I mind, I still got my cash.
* Apparently working with kids is a pain in the ass. No, I have no idea what coding and billing is, but apparently it’s more lucrative than babysitting a classroom full of 9 year olds.
** Oh, and what is the deal with not having anything to drink other than coffee and pop? Just because I live in America they assume I’m an over-caffeinated sugar-fiend? Clearly they don’t understand me as well as they do my demographic.