Focus Group Research Issues

There are Focus Group Research Issues. Focus Groups are a tool used in the past, present and likely, the future by the market research industry. They are basically organized by marketing companies in order to research what kind of an effect a certain product has on the market, how people react to it, whether they like it or not, etc.

History of focus group research

Focus Groups were first used, over 70 years ago by the US government. They hired a group of sociologists to investigate how effective a certain military information movie would be in influencing society. Focus groups quickly caught on as a trend. Other industry sectors started to use them.

Numerous advertising agencies hired researchers to find out the reason why people liked certain types of products and why they refused to use others. They wanted to find out the thought process behind liking and not liking a certain product in the market. This provided them with some basic knowledge which they could use to frame the next lines of products.

Focus Group Research Issues

However there are a number of issues with focus groups:

  • Expensive

  • Reliability increases when highly skilled moderators are used

  • Each focus group is different

  • Requires careful management to avoid cross-participant influence

  • Participants do not necessarily reflect the entire (relevant) population; i.e. busy people are not likely to participate

  • Individuals may influence other participants; i.e. by noting details that others might not notice

  • The specialized setting may elicit non-typical responses; i.e, how often do you make purchase decisions while sitting in a group of strangers

  • Recruiting participants can be time consuming and difficult

  • Participants sometimes try to please the client; others try to be liked by the group by agreeing to a consensus

  • Participants may not understand their own motivations

  • Lack of confidentiality

  • Should participants be paid? If so, how much? Will the payment influence their contributions?


Results from Focus Group research should not be applied to the population as a whole (or as a sector); without further research.

The effectiveness of these group researches was without a doubt something to behold. Such a group encouraged people to explain why they did not like some products and why they chose a certain item over another one. Politicians found a way to take advantage of this and used them as instruments for setting their policies up. Even in the field of academic research, they found a comfort zone for themselves.

The problem arises when the whole thing kicks off as a wholesale business. People spend their hard earned cash and pay around a hundred dollars just to get some professional advice on the types of product they should buy or sell? That is ludicrous to say the least. What is worse is the fact that these focus groups are here to stay in the long run.


Please see the Wikipedia article on Focus Groups. It notes “the disastrous introduction of New Coke (Coca Cola) in the 1980s as a vivid example of focus group analysis gone bad.”

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One Response to Focus Group Research Issues

  1. I had no idea that focus groups began with the government, but this makes a ton of sense to me now. I have one advisor who keeps suggesting we go this way and I have been resisting it. I have maintained all along that the results are skewed and not as useful as people think. I’ll definitely be sending him the link to this page so he can read it for himself.

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