Debra Swersky
Alixandra Martin - Untitled.png


Opt-in for weekly journal, not blog, posts.

Focus Group Of One

It’s a famous story that gets told over dinner when we’re out with friends, hanging out with family, or just sassing each other. The story is about the time that the love of my life and I purchased our first joint package of dental floss. I was in Boston, at a CVS, and had dental floss on my list of other household items to purchase. Since this was likely early on in our “we just moved into together” and “I’m crazy busy with work #traveling” relationship I was probably a) overthinking this purchase b) rushed (or exhausted, it’s unclear) and c) stressed. 

I approached the Oral Care aisle, found the dental floss section, and stopped. There were at least 20 options for me to choose from. I was quintessentially overwhelmed. For the next 10-15 minutes I proceeded to pick-up and read about all of the options that were in front of me. Did we want waxed or unwaxed; mint, cinnamon, or unflavored; and, did we have a brand that we liked already? I mean… really?! As the protagonist in this story, you’re now thinking that I make a decision and proceed with my list. But, you’re wrong. At the end of my 10-15 minute time-suck, I walk out of the aisle. No, I did not purchase dental floss that day. Instead, I came home and proceeded to recount my tale of dental-floss-woe to the love of my life. And he listened to it…

David Ogilvy, “the Father of Advertising” said, “The trouble with market research is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.”

Personally, I disagree with Mr. Ogilvy. I am a focus group of one. I think how I feel. I say what I think. And I do what I say I’m going to do. 

For the 10-15 minutes that I stood there in the Oral Care aisle staring at the dental floss options I was thinking about what it would feel like to use each and every shred of floss. Would we prefer a waxed feel on our fingers or in between our teeth… or would unwaxed suit us better? Would the flavor bother us? Did I like spearmint or peppermint… I couldn’t remember. I came home and talked through all of our options. And then I went back to the store and purchased the floss that best suited us.

According to Adele Revella in Buyer Personas: A person’s thoughts about an impulsive or low-consideration buying decision usually resides in the realm of the unconscious. Conversely, high-consideration buying decisions involve, by definition, considerable conscious thought that can be expressed, evaluated, and analyzed.

I am a focus group of one. It’s a talent. My ability to think and feel and say and do what most people are not conscious of allows me to verbalize the minutiae of my day-to-day-life. It’s what makes me the perfect person to evaluate and analyze companies (#lbdproducers) and tell you how it feels to be a part of them - customer, partner, or employee.

For the rest of the population as it pertains to market research, Mr. Ogilvy is absolutely correct. Most people don’t think about how a product makes them feel. Most people don’t take the time to say what they really think. And an unfortunate number of people don’t do what they say they are going to do. I, however, am a focus group of one… and I am exhausted!

Debra Swersky