The focus group, beloved of Tony Blair and New Labour, has become an invaluable tool of research. Whenever a car company wants to re-name its family saloon, or when a confectionery firm would like to launch a new chocolate bar, or – more pertinently – when a newspaper seeks to make itself even more attractive to potential readers, it is to the focus group they turn.
In essence, 10 people who are target purchasers are recruited, given a bag of crisps and a fizzy drink each, and invited to join a discussion about the product in question. Often, they are observed secretly behind a two-way mirror, which is why I found myself last night listening to some i readers talking in an unguarded manner. It’s quite an uncomfortable experience, I can tell you.
As part of the process, each group member was asked to imagine being at a party, and that each quality newspaper was a person. What would they be like? Suffice to say that three people said that the person who represented i would be lively and friendly, but possibly as a result of drinking too much! Can you believe it?
Anyway, we’re ready with our next marketing idea: Read i, the only newspaper with a drink problem! Talking of drink problems, you’ll see a picture of our darling production editor Linda Taylor at the foot of this column. She’s receiving the platinum award at the 2011 Newspaper Awards on Tuesday night. It’s an impressive accolade: the judges called i a “vibrant, witty, colourful and energetic read” and who are we to disagree? We were also highly commended in the newspaper of the year category so, all in all, a pretty good night. And something to raise a glass to! Cheers!