I’ve noticed that clients like to provide stimulus material that gets as close as they can to what they intend to produce but inevitably it doesn’t actually look like a toy or a game. Whereas adults understand this and compensate in their mind for what is basically a working model, children are disappointed and whatever hopes and expectations they had from the concept, are dashed when they see what you produce from under your cloth.
I’ve experienced crestfallen faces and mumbled ‘it’s ok’ and a frantic look into space or onto the floor in a desperate attempt to be polite about what is patently a poor excuse for the product. Of course as researchers we explain that it is work in progress but this doesn’t cut the mustard. It is pretending to look like a toy and it isn’t one.
Recently I had this very problem with a toy manufacturer who provided toys with wires coming out, eye sockets with no eyes and a working model that didn’t work very well. Children had responded enthusiastically to the concept, describing in the most amazing detail how they expected it to work, what it would look like and how they would play with it. In fact, you could have provided a very detailed brief to the toy manufacturer straight from their words. Instead, they just looked blank and mumbled, they looked down and it felt as if I had taken their sweeties away from them.
In another piece of research earlier in the year I was given pictures of different children and asked to use them to elicit who other children thought would buy their product. Children of 6-8yrs don’t describe other children in terms of what they look like but would be more likely to say ‘someone who watches such and such a programme’ or ‘someone who plays such and such a video game’, ‘someone who has rich parents’. It’s much better left to them to describe the child rather than offering them our ideas.
I feel that in children’s research the more you leave them to do the talking and create their own thoughts and feeling from the little you tell them, the more you learn. Children have fantastic imagination and when we give them the tools, paper, felt pens and ways to express themselves in ways other than just words, we will get far from them than when we constrain them with questions we need answered and stimuli we want them to respond to that go some way to representing the product but do not actually look like a toy.
A great NLP type way of starting a children’s focus group is to say “I want us to ask you about x what is the best example of x you can think of that I should know about?” We need to find the excellence in the market for our idea and then surpass it in some way. We can explore the topics led by them and what they think matters. At the end we can then say “well I have a few questions we don’t seem to have answered, so let’s look at these now”. We need to bear in mind though that this discussion is forced and carries less weight than the discussion earlier. It could be that these are non-issues or issues they think their parents would raise in which case we can ask their parents when they come to collect them. I always allow the last 15 minutes of group time for this.