Getting Insight Into Focus

A report in 2014 by Nielsen revealed that over 3 in 4 FMCG launches fail within a year (76%). In 2017, this figure is unlikely to have changed much. Back in 2014, Nielsen attributed ‘breakthrough new product innovation success’ to four rules: Choice – getting the right choice of innovation by walking in the shoes of the consumer to uncover key insights; Process – getting the actual innovation right, with the correct framework and processes; Marketing – getting the activation strategy right; and togetherness – getting everyone behind the strategy.

For many, choice is the real ‘sticky bit’ here. Process and togetherness aren’t usually as difficult – especially in established brands, but incorrect choices mean incorrect development, positioning and marketing. Since the birth of marketing itself, the consumer has been at the centre of the very concept – and in today’s fast paced world, the consumer is constantly evolving. It’s an irony – behind brands there are people, and those people are consumers – yet it can still be tricky to understand the true motives, needs, wants and pain points of a consumer as yet unaffiliated with a product.

Particularly for those deeply involved in product development or marketing, it’s often doubly difficult to understand the reception a product, concept or service might receive. Looking at the reception of similar products can work to some degree, but it might be that competitors don’t want or need an alternative version. They might want or need features in an alternative version not immediately obvious to the professional – however skilled brands, consultants and professionals are, true consumer understanding doesn’t often come down to this.

Focus groups, groups of consumers hired to discuss a topic, brand, product, concept or design in depth, have been around for decades. Used in all industries from automobiles to apple juice, they aren’t just a thing of the commercial world – psychologists and political researchers have also relied on them for as long. In terms of FMCG, focus groups are about as in-depth as its possible to get when it comes to understanding who the consumer is, what they need, and what they are looking for.

Although all forms of market research are useful, nothing gets under the skin of the consumer quite like a focus group – nothing can reach specific opinions so well. In FMCG, these consumer groups are perfect for looking at branding; ranging; store merchandising; product development; category and range turnarounds; struggling products and many other issues often faced by FMCG professionals. At HRA, we have significant expertise in focus groups, and we have never found them to be unsuccessful. They allow consumers to be questioned from all walks of life, all over the country and beyond to ensure no stone is left unturned in terms of gaining consumer insight. Many highly successful brands see the groups as crucial to their ongoing success.

True, in depth consumer research isn’t fault-proof, like nothing is. Take Crystal Pepsi for example – it was trialled and widely approved – and experienced a storming first year due to curiosity sales from those who couldn’t get their heads around clear Pepsi. These sales however were to drop off a cliff a year later when curiosity dried up. Consumer groups couldn’t, however, have foreseen this – any groups carried out would have likely produced intrigued consumers in support of the concept.

Despite no form of research being infallible, the list of those who’ve benefitted from research is seemingly endless. At HRA, we are specialists in Market Research and Consumer Insight, and have extensive experience in focus groups having used them for many successful branding, launching and ranging turnaround projects. Contact us on +44 (0)1803 203387 for more information, or email

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