by Jeff Wilfahrt
Jul 2, 2014, 9:46 AM

Focus Groups – selling a lie

At face value one might think focus groups are about politics or products.

They are not. They are about you. They are about all of us. We’re the target, the fools on the carnival midway.

“Step right up, it walks, it talks, it crawls on its belly like a reptile!” Sound familiar?

They are in effect an exploitation of the P.T. Barnum principle that there are enough of us to step right up.

We can control it if we’re smart. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers the solution has always been with each of us.

If your TV remote has a mute button use it. In the car turn the volume down or outright off. On the web click the icon for sound.

A focus group is about observation. It is about how the panel reacts to words, phrasing and more generally the question of how to spin a thing.

Panels are not a cross section. They are selected based on leanings. They are anything but a random sample of the public at large. In a sense they are guinea pigs in an experiment with psychological underpinnings.

Some years ago there was an advertisement on drug usage, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste!” No doubt that was the product of a focus group.

But they did have a point beyond drug usage. Are you letting someone else form your opinions with contorted language? Your brain is being fried via the focus group saute pan. The particular issue, be it product or politic, is naught but the grease your brain is sizzling in.

For all the complaint and polarization going on in society one need look no further than our addiction to media where the focus group methodology can have its effect.

Focus groups have become so endemic in politics we no longer vote for politicians as people, we are voting for subliminal messaging. The political candidate is not but the shill crying “Step right up…”.

Use the mute button, start thinking for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. Things will become clearer in your own mind.

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