Marketing professor and columnist Mark Ritson wrote an article in Marketing Week titled Ethnography beats focus groups hands-down, but they still serve a purpose. The article recaps an argument on Twitter between marketing professor and author Byron Sharp and practitioners Everard Hunder and Doug Garnett.

«CMO Everard Hunder took to Twitter to profess his love for the good old fashioned focus group. Hunder waxed lyrical about the “free flowing conversations”, “changes of conversational direction” and “unscripted questions” that all generate marketing gold.»

«Not a minute had passed before Doug “Atomic Ad Man” Garnett entered the ring… Hunder’s comments were “incredibly true”, tweeted Garnett, who went on to postulate that focus groups were out of favour because companies misunderstood their role in exploring rather than testing for the truth.»

«Professor Byron Sharp, had been summoned from the depths… “Do in-depth interviews instead,” he boomed. “Get out of your offices and go into shops/homes… In a group you get a few minutes’ talk per person cf. hours in-home. It’s an artificial environment. And weird sample… Ignoring these biases reminds me of how people like astrology, i.e. cos it feels good/right/insightful.”»

«I’m biased, of course, I did my marketing PhD using ethnography… Anthropologists espouse a lot of complex bollocks about emic and etic perspectives and the Lebenswelt. In truth… it mostly just means get your ass out the office and hang out with consumers.»

«Ethnography, the use of observation and in-situ long interviews are an amazing approach for all marketers. But I also think focus groups have their place and aren’t as astrologically bad as Sharp suggests.»

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