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Why Focus Groups Are a Waste of Money for B2B Marketers

by Jennifer Beever on May 11, 2012

neuromarketing brainI’ve never been much of a believer in focus groups for market research. They are expensive and, like some, I believe that focus group dynamics lead to group think, which may not amount to true customer response. Now with research being done in neuroscience and the emerging practice of neuromarketing,  there is more thought that focus groups are not effective.

In a Psychology Today blog post, Mind control: Neuroscience in marketing, Ray Williams cites Natasha Singer’s article in the New York Times, “Making Ads That Whisper to the Brain.” In her article, Singer argues that because most of our brain’s activity is unconscious, neuromarketers believe that traditional surveys and focus groups are inaccurate.

The New York Times article also provides some words of caution – that neuroscience doesn’t have all the answers. According to Dr. Robert T. Knight, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Berkeley, “EEGs can be used to determine whether a person is engaged, but not to decipher the nuances of that engagement…. …That means that neuromarketing may distinguish whether a person’s emotional response is positive or negative, but not whether the positive response is awe or amusement. This is not a mind reader we can only measure whether you are paying attention.”

I believe that primary market research in the form of one-on-one interviews and behavior observation yields more cost-effective results for business-to-business marketers – perhaps for business-to-consumer marketers as well. What do you think? Are you a B2B marketer or researcher who has gotten great results from focus groups?

My firm New Incite offers marketing research and analysis services. Please contact us today for more information on how we can provide “new incite” for your marketing.

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Anita May 16, 2012 at 8:30 am

Good article. I have never felt that focus groups were never the way to go, they were just inaccurate.

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