Tuesday, 21 May 2013

'Traditional Group Discussions' - Discuss

‘Traditional Group Discussions’ – Discuss

In the multi-social-media world in which we live, it’s so easy these days to keep track of one’s competitors.  Indeed some of them make it even easier, updating you as their ‘close connection’ on LinkedIn with their latest company presentation, highlighting their new bell, whistle, flugel horn, vuvuzela et al. 

And it’s through a close connection of a close connection I came across the heading for this particular piece of bloggage. 

Here was a research company announcing the launch of its latest website, and a very fine job the company seems to have done with it as well. 

On closer inspection, however, or after further ‘stalking’, as my teenage daughter might say, I clicked on the qualitative offering for this particular company.  And top of the list was the mouth-watering prospect of ‘traditional group discussions’.

Having been a qualitative researcher for more years than I generally care to advertise these days, I can imagine why this particular heading might have been chosen.  Group discussions have not had a brilliant press for years, not helped in my view by programmes like The Apprentice, which on one level promotes the use of market research, and on another, devalues it completely by showing it done badly on a regular basis.

John Humphrys has not done us too many favours over the years either, often using his most disparaging tone when referring to the use of ‘focus groups’ when testing government policies and the like.

This having been said, however, I still don’t quite see why a company presumably trying to ‘sell’ group discussions would preface this term with the word ‘traditional’.  Is it just me or does this not sound as though these particular groups will be conducted by slightly out of touch researchers, clinging to a method, which the very title of this offering would seem to undermine.

Because ‘traditional’ to me suggests an apology for a method, and not one with which I personally would want to be associated.  My groups might use a ‘traditional’ format at times but these groups sound like they’ll be formulaic in the extreme.  Maybe they’ll have ‘traditional’ respondents thrown in for good measure too, whatever they might look like or act like.

Some might argue that my getting hot under the collar on this topic is my just reward for stalking competitors online.  But my answer to this is as follows:  Just because group discussions have been around for years, this does not mean we should potentially start to devalue them by referring to them as ‘traditional’.  To me this smacks of apologising for the technique, as opposed to celebrating and promoting the same.

So what’s wrong with the term ‘group discussion’, or ‘focus group’ come to that?  Done well and done properly, this method has stood the test of time.  So let’s not start selling it like a quarter of humbugs from a jar, or a loaf of stale bread from Arkwright’s in Open All Hours.

Group discussions work.  It’s official.  Be proud.  Celebrate.