01/13/2012 10:48 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Do Focus Groups Tell the Truth?

Flickr: dno1967b

McDonalds is one of the number one advertisers worldwide. You would think that all marketing and advertising would go through a focus group? One wonders if people who are asked to participate in focus groups give honest answers? Most people, are likely to give you the answer they think you want.

I was once asked to be involved in a focus group about cell phones. It was WAY back in the dark ages prior to the advent of the flip phone. Early days. One of the questions centred around my feelings about AT&T. I answered "American". The shocked administrator then probed further to find that as a Canadian, I preferred to deal with Canadian companies. Again, this seemed to shock him like he had never heard this or even considered it. It was not long after that, the WWE (Then called WWF) had one of their most popular story lines of Canada VS. USA. So clearly, many Canadians felt the way I did, but the company came north and clearly others did not voice their opinions. AT&T Canada didn't last long.

So back to the McDonalds example, which came to my door:


A nicely printed, direct mail piece complete with full colour photo's and money saving coupons. One might say a slick look that should get some play with people in January when dollars are a bit tight after Christmas time. The word "crave" is a nice word relating to restaurants and food, descriptive, yet open to interpretation. But one must also consider the impact of the film, "Supersize me" and the healthy eating revolution that has been the theme of media for the last decade. McDonalds themselves have tried to add some healthier options to the menu, at significant cost. Did no one in the focus group, or at the board room table, when considering fonts think about the VERY FIRST impression I got when this came to the door? A little correction tape and 10 seconds later it becomes this:


Did the play on words not come up? or did the yes people decide not to rock the boat? Add to that how quick a photo like this can make it's way around the Internet... in a heartbeat! One must consider all the ways people have access to, to make a joke. Humour on the World Wide Web spreads like wildfire.

The lesson, be careful of your perception, be careful of your slogans and make sure that your words and advertising can not be taken the wrong way. Many businesses have learned this the hard way over the years, especially when translating ads into different languages. A bad decision on wording can cost more than the advertising itself and you may never get back to the level you were before the mistake. Until Next time, I am Larry "The Ad Man" Happy 2012.