An excellent observational post over at  Customer Listening.  The writer draws an analogy between taking his son to an aquarium and a marketer observing what he thinks is a real life focus group behind a one-way mirror.  The aquarium may have real fish, but the environment is artificial.  Life is sustained by scientists, students, diets regulated and very little “Law of Nature” is experienced in the aquarium.

In the same right, a focus group is made up of consumers in an artificial environment.  Customers that are not being asked to make a split decision between products in a store isle, but being led in a discussion with a “handler.”  The writer makes the claim that marketers need to be in the actual environment, talking with the customers, getting to know them and their tendencies.

This reminds me of a great book that I read a few months ago, Paco Underhill’s Why we Buy: The Science of Shopping.  Underhill takes the science of observing the customer in their natural environment to new heights, giving amazing insight to marketing practices and simple things that can enable better sales.  Amazingly, I learned a lot that applies to online marketing from this book that focused mostly on the shopping experience.