Focus groups, the unconscious and the future of communication

Play

Should 12 or so everyday people brought together for a few hours have much impact on how companies and governments make decisions?

Few tattoos are so well researched.

The fact is that focus groups do play an influential role in business and politics, bringing detractors like Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational fame. But David Van Nuys stands up for the speed and subtlety of information provided in focus groups. He draws on his own market research experience in the tech industry to show how quantitative and qualitative research are complementary ways of knowing. And our conversation reaches into broader questions, such as the ethics of manipulating people’s unconscious desires. He notes, “You may quarrel with the ethics of probing into people’s ‘unconsciousness,’ but believe me, major corporations do that. And believe me, they would not spend billions and billions of dollars on advertising if it was not effective.” He also lays out a stark prediction based on his research: “Email is certainly going to decline and may go away forever…If that happens, you should boost your confidence in qualitative research.” Time will tell, but in the meantime, listen in!