My focus group was conducted to define the current demand for hemp from the environmentally conscious consumers in North America. The focus group discussed their insights regarding paper and hemp paper, as well as their opinions of what classified a consumer as being environmentally friendly. This would give me insights on how to conduct my future general consumer survey so that the results gathered from the survey could be as unbiased as possible. Method and Procedures
My focus group consisted of five members: Peter, Jovi, John, Melissa and Mirae. The group members were all either already previously knowledgeable regarding hemp or had basic knowledge of the product. Everyone participating in the group had to be well educated, and capable of providing useful feedback regarding hemp products.
The other requirements of focus group eligibility was that they had to say “yes” to considering themselves as being environmentally friendly, since marketing research problem targets environmentally friendly consumers. The focus group was held in Peter’s and John’s apartment, which was the most convenient and comfortable location for all the participants. Free pizza was used as an incentive to attract the participants to arrive on June 13th, 2013, at 6:00 pm.
Discussion Guide Preamble. (5 minutes) Pizza! Discuss Nature of Focus Group Explain audio recording Explain hemp’s history Introduction. (5 minutes) How often would you say you use any given paper product? In the Office? At home? What do you generally use paper for? How would you describe paper in two words? why? Explore. (5 minutes)
If paper ceased to be available, could we effectively work without it? How we could use paper more effectively/different ways? Knowledge. (5 minutes) Name some reasons why people chose to buy Paper products over other products (the internet). Selection process. (5 minutes) How do you select which paper product you are going to buy? How could paper be improved as a product right now? Environment. (15 min)
On a scale of 1-5, how environmentally conscious would you say you are? 5 being very consciences. What would you consider to be an environmentally friendly consumer? (Than explain Greendex’s definition). What is your current knowledge about Paper and it’s effect on the environment? (Include Production). Hemp? What do you think are the biggest misconceptions regarding hemp and the environment? Selection. (5 minutes) Knowing what you now know regarding Hemp, would that encourage you to buy hemp over other paper products? Why?
Explore. (15 minutes)
How do you see Paper in the future?
Think of a funny/crazy/any marketing technique which would encourage you to buy paper. Group Members John. Transportation Engineer 26 years old Environmentally friendly pros: No car, buys reusable products Jovi. Drug and Alcohol Interventionist 24 years old Environmentally friendly pros: No car, becomes informed regarding a product before purchasing. Melissa. French Teacher / Student 22 years old Environmentally friendly pros: Composts, volunteers for environmentally sustainable projects.
Mirae. Accountant 27 years old Environmentally friendly pros: Provides carpooling services, bikes, short showers Peter. Commercial Mortgage Finance / iPhone application developer 27 years old Environmentally friendly pros: Rarely drives, doesn’t use paper often, turns off lights when not in use.
Summary of Findings Paper Experience. To begin the focus group, I asked members of the group to share their current daily paper usage during a regular work day. Mirae, an accountant, reported using up to 300 sheets of paper in a work day while Jovi reported using about 150 sheets of paper. John and Melissa reported using 50 sheets of paper or less, while Peter reported the least amount of paper usage because the majority of his job is carried out using his computer. As Peter stated, “there is no point to use paper when I can enter the same information into my computer and it will become automatically synced with my iPhone, watch and iPad.”
Interestingly, when the group was asked about how they would describe paper, the group associated paper with negative connotations such as “anger”, “paper cut”, “chaotic”, “dusty” and “prehistoric”. The remaining descriptions of paper were neutral associative words such as “necessary” and “flat”. Ironically, none of the group members could offer relevant solutions regarding how to improve paper as a product other than to resolve printer paper jams and to eliminate paper’s sharp edges.
The focus group members generally agreed that paper products in general will continue to be a popular commodity because many consumers fear change, especially the older generation. Many people also enjoy having something to physically hold and find that paper is easier when making corrections. This is especially true for Melissa’s classes, where the students are not allowed to bring their laptops to class, therefore they have to use paper when taking notes and completing their assignments.
Hemp Experience. Only two members of the group had heard of hemp paper’s North American history, while the remaining three members needed to be briefed on its impact on our economy and governments. No one who participated in the focus group knew of hemp’s environmentally friendly qualities or that there even existed paper alternatives in today’s market. However, all participants proved to be fairly knowledgeable in regular paper’s impact on the environment.
When asked about how each group member would classify themselves on an environmentally consciences scale, everyone rated themselves as being 70-80% environmentally friendly. They rated themselves based on their personal description of an environmentally conscious consumer using natural and reusable resources, being conscious about sustainable alternatives and reducing impact on the environment.
Next, I read Greendex’s (2012) description of a environmentally friendly consumer to the group and asked them to re-evaluate themselves based on the new definition: To “avoid environmentally harmful products, minimize the waste they create, try to save energy and choose environmentally friendly products as often as they can”. Still, everyone pertained their initial self-assessment except for Peter who degraded his self-evaluation by half a point.
The group agreed that they would most likely not be persuaded to buy hemp paper in a store, even if it was more environmentally friendly. John believed that “buying hemp paper wouldn’t really contribute much to sustaining our environment and that he couldn’t justify the price increase”.
The remaining group members interjected that if the quality offered by hemp exceeded that of regular paper, than a small price increase could be warranted. Jovi added that hemp paper could also be a popular commodity amongst businesses who wished to represent themselves as being environmentally friendly, rather than selling hemp paper in stores such as staples. However, the group did agree that hemp paper would be undoubtedly popular amongst the most dedicated environmental conscious consumers.
The misconceptions regarding hemp paper included its stigma from the early 1900s, the difference in its quality, the increased price and the fact that it was not the “normal” paper that consumers are familiar with. Perhaps, because of these misconceptions, the group felt that the best hemp paper product to introduce into the market place would be toiler paper and paper towels because of their continuous demand in the marketplace. Implications
Overall, the findings from this focus group have forecasted a challenge in developing a questionnaire survey. The group’s overall self perception of what is an environmentally friendly consumer varied substantially from the Greendex’s version. The group’s perception of hemp paper seems to be generally unchanged, and no one within the group seemed to leave with the idea that it was a good sustainable paper alternative.
For the future descriptive marketing research problem, I would incorporate more activities to further engage the participants of the focus group. Thus, learning more about their opinions and gaining more insightful feedback. The focus group did not necessarily confirm or deny that hemp would be popular amongst the environmentally conscious consumer. Rather, this study indicated that the product would enter the market and produce marginal sales unless a drastic marketing intervention took place.
Bennett, N. (2013). Catalyst Paper: Beaten to a pulp but still standing. Business Vancouver. Retrieved on April 4th, 2013 from http://www.biv.com/article/20130115/BIV0105/301159949/-1/BIV/catalyst-paper-beaten-to-a-pulp-but-still-standing
Catalyst Paper. (2013). Catalyst Today’s Paper. Retrieved on Month day, 2013 from http://www.catalystpaper.com.
Greendex. (2012). Consumer Choise and the Environment. Retrieved on May 17th, 2013 from http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-content/file GS_NGS_2012GreendexHighlights_10July-cb1341934186.pdf.