Focus Group Objectives
The Mall of Atlanta focus groups were conducted to understand shopping mall expectations of the youth segment, to determine this group’s perceptions of the recent weekend visit, and to analyze the perceived brand identity of the malt based on the individual’s experience
Method and Procedures
Reactions were solicited for the Mall of Atlanta experience from 60 youth visitors (30 males and 30 females) who attended the mallon’ the weekend prior to the group discussion (i.e., Labor Day Weekend). Six focus groups were conducted, each with 10 respondents. TIle current focus groups were conducted at a local focus group facility on September 16,2008. The youth were given $30 and instructed to visit the mall during September 5-7; however, no other Instructions-or-explanations were given to the youth. They were not aware that they would be participating in a discussion group when they visited the mall.
Summary of Findings Mall Visit Experience
• For entertainment, participants typically enifge in movies (theater and rental), sports (spectator and participatory), drinks, or just “hanging out” with friends. They typically need only three or four hours to experience the mall, and try to hold costs to under $30, except for a special occasion.
• Examples of special occasions include dinner, concerts, theater, museums, and theme malls. Most often, the theme mall is a destination like Mall of Georgia, Universal or Sea World. However, many have visited Mall of Atlanta more than once, and a few have been Mall of Atlanta “Crown Customers” who shop at the Mall of Atlanta loyally.
• Visitors were pleasantly surprised and delighted with the mall’s entertainment, the surprisingly short lines in the children’s area, the first-class magic show, and winning a large .
• When asked to describe feelings surrounding the experience, most were very positive- “excited to go,” “feel like a kid again,” like I should have to go to work tomorrow” and “friendly, fun to share (he experience with others in attendance.” The only negatives were “tired;” “hot,” and “yucky.”
• On the other hand, visitors were frustrated to find a lack of signage and maps, a “deserted” feeling resulting from the lack of hosts or guides, and the dry, dirty look of some areas in the mall.
• Visitors were asked to suggest necessary changes in the mall:
• Crowds. They can be daunting, and there must be a way to make them more palatable, such as drinking fountains, benches, misters, ceiling fans that work, or entertainment. Made comparisons to Mall of Georgia, which respondents said had more space and better groomed-patrons.
• Dress code. Complaints.that many people were showing a lot of skin, but hardly anyone looked like Britney Spears or Ricky Martin. Who wants the bowling alley crowd to dress this way? Several agreed there should be a “no shin, no shoes, no service” policy.
• Information. Booths placed in visible spots throughout the mall would be helpful. Visitors agreed that maps were very hard to find, and that perhaps handing them out in line at the entrance of the mall would help.
Brand Identity Versus Mall of Georgia PERSONALTY
• Mall of Atlanta. Definitely male, but surprisingly, not a teen. Middle-aged or older, a little tired, moody. Blue-collar worker, not very smart, wearing “gimme” T-shirt and cap. Drives a big old American car, may have money problems. A follower rather than a leader.
• Mall of Georgia. Both female and male, perhaps that loving, indulgent aunt and uncle who shower you with experiences you don’t get at home. Dressed classically in khakis and a polo shirt. Nurturing, approachable, well-rounded, and affluent. Like this person better than the Mall of Atlanta personality because it’s more fun.
BRAND VALUE To many, Mall of Atlanta was described as “just a bunch of shops »nd rides.” Other malls like Mall of Georgia encompass a complete entertainment experience. Several “long-timers” remember a time when Mall of Atlanta included the experience of regional history and of other cultures. What made it unique in the past is gone now. as the specific areas have become less distinct and not associated with as much meaning. As a result, there was a general feeling that the value had declined .
In general, the results of this latest in the series of focus groups, focusing on youth perceptions, are similar to those from previous focus groups with non youth. Respondents view the Mall of Atlanta as more of a “working person’s” mall. However. the young respondents’ perceptions of the Mall of Atlanta were markedly more negative when compared to the Mall of Georgia than any other segment of customers included in this ‘series of quarterly focus groups begun two years ago. Perhaps Mall of Georgia’s remodeling,
which was completed last year, has become more salient in the minds of Mall of Atlanta’s young customers because of the youths’ higher use of informal “buzz” (word-of-mouth). More research on this topic using a large sample survey is needed .•
Making Kool-Aid Cooll
Kool-Aid is a well-known product among moms and kids and is used in many households throughout America. Despite this, Kool-Aid sales had begun to decline. Kraft Foods ~anted to find out why heavy users had slowed down their consumption of the product and how they could get Kool-Aid back into people’s lifestyles.
Kool-Aid conducted focus groups, classifying the groups by product usage ranging from users to light users. They found out a great deal about the different users. The heavy users like to drink Kool-Aid allyear round and all family members drink it, not just the children. The heavy users also add more than just water to the mix; they add ingredients such as fruits, fruit juice, and club soda and drink Kool-Aid at home. On the other hand, the light users perceive Kool-Aid as a summer drink for kids. They are also more likely to head out of the house for socializing, and since Kool-Aid is not ready made and portable, they do not use it often. Hence the following hypotheses were formulated:
HI: The heavy users like and drink Keel-Aid all year round.
H2: Among the heavy users, all members of the family drink Kool-Aid.
H3: The heavy users regularly drink Kool-Aid at horne.
H4: Among the light users, the kids are primary users of Kool-Aid.
H5: ‘I’M light users drink Keel-Aid primarily away from home
A follow-up quantitative survey using telephone interviews supported these by potheses. Therefore, Keel-Aid developed and tested different advertising executions for the heavy and light users. The heavy users were targeted with an execution showing people of all ages drinking Kool-Aid together in a home or a backyard. This is where the “How do you like your Kool-Aid” slogan came from, showing family and friends talking about the different ways they drink their Kool-Aid. The light users were targeted with advertising showing children and adults at a community dog wash enjoying summer fun and drinking Kool-Aid out of thermoses. This campaign was very successful in arresting the loss of Kool-Aid sales. As of 2009, more than 575 million gallons of Kool-Aid are consumed in a year, including 225 million gallons during the summer season.’?
Other Variations in Focus Groups
Focus groups can use several variations of the standard procedure. One variation was illustrated in the opening example where participants were asked to bring in three or four items that represent
their ideal environment in order to encourage them to reveal their underlying beliefs and attitudes. Other variations include:
1.vo-way focus group. This allows one target group to listen to and learn from a related group. In one application, physicians viewed a focus group of arthritis patients discussing the treatment they desired. A focus group of these physicians was then held to determine their reactions.
Dual-moderator group this is a focus group interview conducted by two moderators. One moderator is responsible for the smooth flow of the session, and the other ensures that specific issues are discussed. Dueling-moderator group. Here there are also two moderators, but they deliberately take opposite positions on the issues to be discussed. This allows the researcher to explore both
sides of controversial issues.
Respondent-moderator group. In this type of focus group, the moderator asks selected participants to play the role of moderator temporarily to improve group dynamics. Client-participant groups. Client personnel are identified and made part of the discussion group. Their primary role is to offer clarifications that wilt make the group process more effective. .
Mini-groups. These groups consist of a moderator and only 4 or 5 respondents. They are used when the issues of interest require more extensive probing than is possible in the standard group of 8 to 12.
Telesession groups. Telessessions are focus group sessions that are conducted by phone, using the conference call technique. Electronic group interviewing (EGI). Keypads and other electronic devices are used to gauge group opinion. When the moderator wants to poll the focus group participants on a certain issue, respondents express their opinions using the keypad on a scale of 0 to 10 or 0 to 100, and the results are instantly displayed on a large video screen.
Online focus groups are emerging as an important form of focus groups ana ~ discussed in detail in the following section. We conclude our section on focus groups with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages .
Advantages of Focus Groups
1. Synergism: Putting a group of people together will produce a wider range of information, insight, and ideas than will individual responses secured privately.
2. Snowballing: A bandwagon effect often operates in a group interview, in that one person’s comment triggers a chain reaction from the other participants.
3. Stimulation: Usually after a brief introductory period, the respondents want to express their ideas and expose their feelings as the general level of excitement over the topic increases in the group.
4. Security: Because the participants’ feelings are similar tc those of other group members, they feel comfortable and are therefore willing to express their ideas and feelings.
5. Spontaneity: Since participants are not required to answer specific questions, their responses can be spontaneous and unconventional and should therefore provide an accurate idea of heir views.
6. Serendipity: Ideas are more likely to arise out of the blue in a group than in an individual interview.
7. Specialization: Because a number of participants are involved simultaneously, use of a highly trained, but expensive, interviewer is justified.
8. Scientific scrutiny: The group interview allows close scrutiny of the data-collection process, in that observers can witness the session and it can be recorded for later analysis.
9. Structure: The group interview allows for flexibility in the topics covered and the depth with which they are treated.
10. Speed: Since a number of individuals are being interviewed at the same time, data collection and analysis proceed relatively quickly.