Ed Driscoll


ED LEADS THE WAY TO THE KITCHENS OF TOMORROW! I got invited to attend a focus group last week–they actually called for my wife, who’s done a few of these, but she was out, I answered the phone, the friendly fellow on the other end said “well, maybe you’d like to attend”, and I said, sure.

As a result, I spent the past two hours in a room with ten other people and the moderator, and I never saw people argue more passionately over refrigerator designs in my life. Forget the war in Iraq. Forget Israel and the Palestinians. Forget Bush and Kerry. The real burning issue of the day is the placement of the chilled water dispenser!

Or so you would have thought with this group, and I felt more than a little in over my head once I got there. Me? I like having the freezer on the bottom so I don’t have to stoop when getting a Diet Coke out. That’s about the extent of my design preferences when it comes to fridges, so I just sat back and watch the opinions fly.

It didn’t help matters that one of the fellows (there were four guys including myself, the rest were women. Our ages varied from mid-30s to I guess mid-60s) looked like a tougher version of Ted Turner (good shock of white hair; pencil thin moustache) and sounded a little like Broderick Crawford. 35 years ago, I’ll bet this guy was a helluva platoon leader in ‘Nam. Ten years ago, I’ll bet he kept San Jose streets safe as a hardnosed cop. Tonight, he’s busy barking his opinions on every aspect of refrigerator/freezer design. And brother, did he have a lot of opinions! (He blew in, looked at the name cards on the counter and said, “Can I pick who I want to be? I want to be Carol. Can I be Carol?” Carol took a lot ribbing when she next showed up.)

On the other hand, I once dated a woman who was a focus group moderator, and have sat a few times with the ad agency or product manufacturers on the other side of the two-way mirror. So I have a sense of what’s involved in leading one of these things, and then writing a report based on the data collected. And I’ll bet the woman who moderated tonight probably loved this guy egging everyone on and getting them talking about design elements.

There’s a second part of this tomorrow night, at a hotel instead of tonight’s standard-issue focus group room with a two way mirror. It will be interesting to see how they get four hours of discussion out of fridge designs.