Focus group memories

So, this CEO is sitting in on a focus group session in this dark, kinda crummy-looking focus group facility in mid-town Manhattan. We’re conducting the groups to better understand what’s important when the participants are involved in making a decision for their company to purchase the products and services the CEO’s company offers.

The moderator is asking questions to determine which brands come to mind when they think about these kinds of products and services and what their perceptions are of the brands that they mention.

The CEO, I notice, seems to be quite engaged in this session. It happens to be a group of customers (though the participants do not know it is the CEO’s company that is sponsoring the research.) He’s listening intently, taking notes, positive head nods, guffawing when they participants talk about his competitors, popping M&M’s like they were candy. (Oh yeah they are candy.)

Then the customers start discussing their perceptions of his brand, their products and services. He starts to nervously tap his right foot and drumming his notepad with his pen. He bites his pinky. He becomes noticeably more silent, seemingly agitated and actually gets red under the collar. Oh, Oh. He doesn’t seem to like what he is hearing from his customers. I don’t know if he’s angry because these people are expressing some negative perceptions of his brand or if he’s thinking his employees are doing a piss-poor job of delivering the brand or if he’s angry with us for inviting him here to sit through this negative rap session.

Finally the session ends and we re-group with the moderator to discuss what went on. The moderator gives her feedback and we all give ours, including the marketing director for the client. Then the CEO says, “Well, I’ll be god-damned if I let some customer tell me how to run my business!”

The CEO was true to his word and continued to do things his way versus listening to his customers and his marketing staff. Sales continued to tank and the perceptions of the brand continued to remain low. He was eventually sent packing by the Board of Directors and the marketing director was appointed CMO. Programs were implemented that were based on listening to the needs and perceptions of the customer. Today, the company is #2 in its category and has extremely high perceptual ratings in the marketplace.

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