Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

When would you use the In-Home Group Discussion technique?

Recently while giving a talk on Unique Protocols in consumer research, I was asked for an example of when I would recommend an In-Home Group Discussion.  Since the technique was developed to take the place of Focus Group Discussions, I guess the answer to the question would be "anytime I thought a Focus Group Discussion was appropriate."  However, as the In-Home Discussion technique became more of the norm, the utility of the protocol became broader.  Actually it became the norm for any time we wanted to talk with consumers in an unstructured environment.

For those who do not know what an In-Home Group Discussion is, it is basically a Focus Group Discussion that takes place in one of the participant's homes and among friends as opposed to strangers.  The technique was originally developed to reduce research costs.  At the time a Focus Group would cost about $3,000 (today it is more like $5,000) while an In-Home Group would cost less than $200.  After some experience, we found that because the group was made up of people who knew one another, there was far less role playing among the respondents.  We also found the environment lent itself to very flexible sessions.  Since most of the products we would be discussing would be products used in a typical home, we had the home environment available to be used as a stimulus in the discussion.

The following are some examples of advertisements that would have never made it to National Distribution had the companies utilized the In-Home Group Discussion to screen the commercial.

First consider the original Quilted Northern Toilet Tissue commercial where it featured two older women and a young woman sitting around a quilting frame and quilting with knitting needles.  Yes, knitting needles, and oh, so obviously.  It cost them a bundle to remove and rework a commercial that should have never made it to the market in that form.

Two currently running commercials contain a similar type of mistake.  Consider the commercials for Minute Maid Orange Juice and Kellogg's Crispix.  Both commercials feature the same scenario.  In the Minute Maid commercial, a young boy is drinking his orange juice at breakfast and his grandmother asks him if his twin brother would like orange juice also.  The first twin leaves the room.  The next shot shows the second twin in his room from which he cannot get out because the first twin placed a chair outside the room propped under the door knob.  The first twin goes back to the kitchen posing as the second twin and drinks the second glass of orange juice.

In the Kellogg's Crispix commercial, two children are wrestling with dad in their bedroom.  Mother uses the same barricade method used in the Minute Maid commercial and goes down and eats the Kellogg's Crispix.

What's wrong with the two commercials?  Anyone who has ever lived in fraternity house knows that the doors open into the rooms, thereby making it impossible to keep a door closed by putting a chair under the doorknob on the outside.    We know that a broom stick across the door and tied to the knob works real well though.

Obvious errors in a commercial can detract from the delivery of the intended message.  (Some may say that the errors make the commercial memorable, but I don't buy it.)  A little screening could save an embarrassing result.  All three problems could have been avoided with less than $1,000 worth of screening.  Whatever happened to Demonstrating & Quality in the workplace?  I think it went out the window with the double digit corporate profits.

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The In-Store Research Company

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