Drawn Agency

How 'Unfocus Groups' Offer Unique Insights into Audiences

“Unfocus groups” are a primary research tool for us at Drawn. Through these natural group settings, we discover unique, emerging trends, insights, opinions, and perspectives that affect our clients.

We developed unfocus groups in response to the limitations that we observed with traditional focus groups, which often take place in controlled, classroom-like settings. The rigid settings and structures of these groups tend to elicit top-of-mind responses. We wanted a research tool that allowed us to delve below the surface and learn more about what truly makes people tick.

Here’s how our unfocus groups work: We select locations where our participants will feel more relaxed, such as restaurants and wine bars; locations where we might find them gathered with friends on any given night. Participants order appetizers and drinks (there’s a one-drink limit).

We ask a handful of pre-selected questions to generate discussion. Conversational questions, like “What do you nerd out on?”, provoke active participation. We then get out of the way and give participants space to interact with one another. These seeded conversations adopt lives of their own, producing spontaneous feedback that helps us understand people at a more fundamental level.

"Unfocus groups" are a more organic route to audience insights.

Our role during the conversation is really to facilitate interactions. We may ask participants to expand on their responses, pose questions that bring focus to the conversation, or just listen and let the conversation flow.

The most valuable insights often emerge between the questions, not in response to them. Sometimes these insights are clear and unmistakable, but often, they’re nuanced and subtle, like reading lines in a poem. Audio recordings of the groups allow us to go back and piece together trends within and among groups.

We still use traditional focus groups to collect feedback about ideas that already exist, such as a client’s new logo or tagline, but they’re limited in their ability to generate new ideas. They don’t furnish the kind of insights that we discover through unfocus groups.

Over the years, we’ve refined this method and discovered a number of creative ways to learn even more about people. For example, we’ve set up a photo booth and taken pictures of participants holding items that they feel say something unique about them. We then fold these images into our findings from the unfocus group to produce deep, textured portraits of the people our clients seek to serve.

Unfocus groups are a memorable, engaging experience for participants (and for us), and are able to generate the kind of relevant feedback our clients value.

— Andrew Robinson