Tag Archives: qualitative research

Big change ahead

Tomorrow is my last day at The Leading Edge; a place I have worked at for ten years. I’ve decided that I want to stay at home looking after my boy.

Ten years is a long time.  Close to one in every four days of my life has been spent there.

There has been some amazing payouts for that time. The main one for me is the travel. It can be a bitch some of the time, but I will not lie. The travelling was the best part of the job – not just a plane ride to the other side of the world, but sometimes just a cab ride to the other side of the city. You never knew what or who would be there waiting. It’s one of the best aspects of qualitative research – it gets you away from a desk and into places you’d normally not get a chance to venture.

First the travel was local. Then you find your feet and your confidence and then it’s up to Singapore. And before you know it you are sitting in a small flat in Nizhny Novgorod talking to a factory worker about Bony M, the Petshop boys and choosing wallpaper.

Yes, there have  been times at TLE where I have had to sit back and savour the moment. That “hang-on-I-am-sitting-in-the-global-head-office-of-a-bloody-big-brand-about-to-kick-off-a-meeting” feeling. I also get it when you are travelling and you get a weekend off to explore a city. Relaxing on a bench at Central Park watching eccentric dog owners parade past, catching a bus downtown in LA and chatting with the locals, having a nice meal with a client by the canal in Copenhagen, wolfing down caviar at GUM in Red Square, staring out at frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago, having a martini at Chateau Marmont (hello Ellen!). All of these experiences and places and people. None of them would have happened without working for this company.

Those little things kept me going. Hard work, lots of long hours, tough projects. All of that really was OK because I got to do all the other fun stuff too.

And the fun stuff wasn’t limited to the glamour of the global project. It was also the local stuff – the hilarity of the focus group were everyone is on a roll, cracking jokes, coming up with suggestions, telling you about their lives, helping you get to an answer. Being cooked lovely home meals and sharing them with a family; hearing their stories, some of them amazing and moving stories about coming to this country. (I think this should be mandatory for any politician – I think policy around immigration and community would improve tenfold).

And then there has been the opportunity to work with some very sharp minds. Some VERY sharp minds. This was also a big reason for my ten year tenure. I don’t think a smarter, more creative bunch of people exist out there.

So why leave? Well, the answer is Fin. He’s growing so fast. He is laughing and walking, and he is telling us stories. He’s one already and I’m the happiest when I’m with him. In a very short time no doubt he’ll not want to spend as much time with me as he does now – so I want to take advantage if every minute I can.

It seems like the perfect reason and time to depart.



Filed under market research

Don’t bash the Focus Group




I have been reading a lot about the change of  Tropicana packaging in the US and the back flip to the old pack based on the outcry by passionate drinkers of the brand.  There’s a bit of a vibe that this  has been the fault of the focus group.  

I’m sick of focus group bashing. Can we give it a break?  It’s getting intensely boring. 

Can we instead bash these people…

1) bad moderators who are happy to take what people say on face value, and report the most obvious, “he said, then she said” style of presentation that leaves  you wondering ‘what the hell do we do?’ at the end of it.

2) naughty clients who use focus groups to rubber stamp an idea that they have already decided on, and often ignore what people are thinking and feeling if it doesn’t back this up (hmmm, I wonder if the new Tropicana pack was a lighthouse act for a new marketing director? Or a group who thought their brand was a bit tired and needed sexing up to reflect their life values?)

3) People who call for the death of the face to face group and want to move everything to web-trawling, or scanning twitter, or brand communities. They are great tools to employ, but you will only ever get to hear the voice of a particular type of consumer. Trust me – there’s a whole world out there and not all of it is on-line…

So I call on all (good) qualitative researchers to start standing up for ourselves!

To tell the “focus groups are dead” people to go and take a flying leap!

To produce amazing work to blow our clients minds away!

To always be curious about how people live their lives, and never give up asking the ‘why’ stuff!

To embrace the focus group as the good tool it can be, and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to say “I AM A QUALITATIVE RESEARCHER WHO LOVES THE FOCUS GROUP!”


Filed under magazines