|About CIF In The News
GETTING THE GOODS ON GOODS | FEB 24, 2004
Connecticut InFocus brings the world's products to Hartford, then tastes them for New England flavor. Laurie Ledgard
GLASTONBURY- Mary Ann Pacocha has been in market research for twenty two years and has just about seen it all get tested. As the director of Connecticut InFocus LLC, a marketing research facility here, Pacocha has had to slice butter into pats, hunt around Greater Hartford for Teflon-free cookie sheets for a taste test, and rent special freezers for ice cream.
Glastonbury attracts companies from around the country who want to test their products or messages in the New England market, and find Hartford an ideal demographic. Here is one example of what a focus group meeting may look like, and the nearby room where clients can watch and listen to the testing.
Once, she even ran a bathtub and shower test in a hotel. Pacocha laughed as she recalled watching 120 volunteers getting in and out of tubs and shower stalls fully clothed, carrying clipboards. "They took it very seriously, Pacocha says."
Now six years old and a self-sustaining business, Connecticut InFocus offers clients not only comfortable amenities, but a diverse demographic of test subjects from the Hartford area. “If you want the New England flavor, Hartford is a great place to come to,” Pacocha says. “This is considered a good test market.” Sometimes a company will specifically want to test in Hartford because it already has a good sell rate in the region and wants to know why. Connecticut InFocus has been so successful that it broke even the first year, and will see double-digit growth in revenue this year.
Connecticut InFocus is located in a freestanding octagonal shaped office building. The focus group building has separate entrances to keep clients apart from focus group participants, a client office, state-of-the-art video and sound system, and a focus group room that can seat up to 18 comfortably. The focus group is configured so that all participants can be seen from the separate viewing room. The sessions can be videotaped from multiple angles simultaneously so clients not only hear what participants have to say, but can also watch individual expressions.
Additional amenities include a large-screen television and VCR for watching commercials, speeches or concept reels that a client wants to test. A conference room and a fully equipped kitchen is also available for both clients and focus group members. Since many test sessions are conducted in the evening, dinner is provided for the test subjects.
Area firms bring their clients to the InFocus facility from around the country. Locally based companies with products or services they want tested show-up at Pacocha’s door with representatives from out-of-town agencies. The testing the firm conducts varies widely. Connecticut InFocus can conduct mock juries and provide video conferencing for companies that want to meet, but not travel.
The focus groups test almost anything imaginable – literally everything from soup to nuts, cookies, drinks and candy. Children are brought in to play with toys on the floor of the focus group room. Computers are brought in to test hardware or software, or when companies want to know whether consumers can easily navigate a Web site. Once, an insurance company tested a new product by bringing in focus groups of insurance agents, who knew both their clients and the kinds of products they needed, and were able to offer the company the best feedback about what the product lacked. Harford-area radio stations also conduct music testing in order to gauge changing tastes about what kind of songs should go into their rotations. The focus groups might even discuss hot-button political issues, or review drafts of advertising that companies want to test before they buy radio or television time.
"If you're going to go out there with a message, [you have to] test it and make sure you're going to hit it properly," Pacocha says.