Focus Groups

M&M’s—The Unofficial/Official Food of the Focus Group

M&M’s—The Unofficial/Official Food of the Focus Group

If you’ve ever been an observer of a focus group you may already know that M&M’s are the unofficial snack food for the two-hour session. No one really knows how the tradition started, but the multi-colored candy treat has an uncanny ability to keep everyone on task as they listen to the conversation being held with their current or prospective customers. In addition to “plain or peanut?” Power Marketing Research has often had clients ask us what they should be looking and listening for during a focus group. As a client/observer here are some key things to watch for:  

Focus on Focus Groups

Focus on Focus Groups

Recently we have been hearing the term “focus group” used to describe many different types of interactions—everything from a telephone call with a single customer to a 30-minute staff meeting over coffee. In the world of marketing research, a focus group is a defined as a qualitative tool to reach out to customers or potential customers. Let’s delve a little more deeply into how focus groups works and how they might be used to gather data for your needs.

Picking the Right Research Method

One of the most important choices in any research project is the methodology used to collect data. Every method has its strengths and weaknesses, and they are sometimes used together in a project.

Let's look at two of the most popular choices, surveys and focus groups. Surveys are composed of a series of questions used to gather opinions, thoughts, and feelings from a sample of the population. They are conducted over the phone, via email, and online. Focus groups are a gathering of 10-12 people who are asked about their perceptions and opinions during a session led by a trained moderator.


  • Quantitative—data is gathered using a quantitative (numerical) process.
  • Gathered from a statistically valid sample of your target market/population.
  • Help you identify trends, measure awareness, gauge satisfaction, and overall interest.
  • Are often used for benchmarking.
  • Can be conducted in-person, online, over the phone and by mail.


  • Qualitative—data is gathered using qualities or characteristics.
  • Good for in-depth questions.
  • Help you obtain information about motivations, perceptions, thoughts and ideas.
  • Allow you to easily test images, concepts, and campaigns.
  • Are most often conducted in-person.

Some projects require a mix of both quantitative and qualitative data in order to comprehensively meet your goals. Choosing the right method can mean success or failure, so choose wisely.

How To: Select a Focus Group Moderator

A marketing research project can be filled with many important decisions. Focus groups are complicated by the fact that there are decisions to be made about the location, recruiting participants, incentives, and much more.  Before you start any focus group project you should be thinking about one of the most important decision you will make—who will moderate the focus groups? The moderator is the leader of the focus groups and ensuring that you have the right moderator will lead to a great project. Here's what you should be asking: