Thursday, January 8, 2009

The New Focus Group: The Collective

The New Focus Group: The Collective

There's probably no better time for an organization to ask the question, "What's the return on investment?" Given the economic uncertainty, it's an understandable instinct.

The problem is, traditional ROI, with its focus groups and lab-type settings, is less relevant in a fast-paced digital world. Hyperfocusing on ROI as a key indicator of future success limits the quality of insights that can be obtained when an initiative is launched in a real environment. In the real world, a "mass audience" doesn't really exist (this is especially true on the Web) and brands that deal in niches are rewarded. In the real world, the collective is the focus group.

It's time to focus on another type of ROI, one we like to call Return on Insight. Here are some tips on how brands should think about this new form of ROI.


There are many ways to listen to what's being said about your company, product,brand,service and most importantly, related universe. Services from vendors such as Radian 6, Collective Intellect, Networked Insights, or Nielsen BuzzMetrics uncover and analyze what people are saying both inside communities and on the open Web. For our recently launched Pampers Village community, P&G (PG) partnered with a company called Liveworld (LVWD), which offers such services as building and managing the community. Liveworld helps us listen to and moderate user interactions in the community, which not only helps filter out inappropriate comments so the quality of the community experience is maintained, but also allows the brand to listen to what consumers want to discuss—from parental topics to features they would like to see in the community. Another great technique for listening is using the social network Twitter. Brands can use to monitor what people are saying about them—in the context of actual conversations.

Crucially, brands need to listen at all times, not just at the beginning of a project. Listening through the life of a campaign or initiative yields insights into attitudes and identifies which consumers have influence, as well as the most fertile ground for digital engagement.


If you don't launch, you don't learn. Pilot initiatives can be quickly launched using prototype methodologies. We typically perform "rapid design labs," engaging multiple stakeholders across multidisciplinary teams to flesh out objectives and get into some rough design activity. By the end of a typical rapid design lab, we have the beginnings of something that can be built. Part of the goal is to see what happens so we can analyze findings along the way. When we worked on the redesign, we got the idea of "social bookmarking" content and organizing topics in "tags" from these sessions.

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